Choosing to Focus on Community Engagement

Submitted by Volunteer Hamilton on August 21, 2013 - 8:17am
A community conversation with a group of leaders in Hamilton


Between forty and fifty people gathered for Volunteer Hamilton's (VH) anual general meeting. Recently, VH has undergone a major shift in focus; the idea of volunteerism has been replaced by the ideology of community engagement. Their vision statement used to read: All Lives Enriched Through Volunteerism and now reads: All Lives Enriched Through Community Engagement.

They define community engagement as "the process by which public benefit entities, individuals, and cross sector organizations build ongoing, permanent relationshiops for the purpose of applying a collective vision for the benefit of a community." This new vision hopes to inspire and deepen accountability, collaboration, gratitude, inclusion, innovation and stewardship in the Hamilton community.Members who attended the meeting felt that this new shift and the strategic plan that will support its implementation is in line with their values and are energized by this shift. When they discussed the possibility of changing their name (moving away from Volunteer Hamilton), the group seemed reluctant, saying they had gained a positive reputation in the community with this name, which has taken many years to build. Instead, folks advocated the need to bring community engagement into the mission statement of VH in an explicit way.

The group spent some time reflecting on how they build community together and apart in their city. Those at the meeting felt they were building community by talking about their community together in meetings, sometimes bringing friends to these meetings and/or to volunteer at events; by being a part of things taking place in their neighbourhoods; staying connected to what is happening in their community through the local media; by gathering and building connections with others at church and other communal spaces; and through treating others with respect, dignity and truly listening to each other.

Those at the gathering expressed that community is important to them as it improves well-being for all those in the community, provides a better future for one's children, it can create a sense of belonging, it can raise the standard of living for those who are less priviledged and creates a space for gifts and talents to shared and celebrated.

Building community is particularly important to VH as it relies on communal support and volunteerism for their programs to run, it can provide leadership development opportunities, and it can inspire the community to feel empowered so that change and intervention start to come more and more from within and less and less from the government.

Looking forward, VH discussed ways they might be able to deepen community in Hamilton. Some ideas included: more opportunities to gather and have conversations, show results of projects/accomplishments within the community, more opportunities for mentorship and workshop trainig to build various skills, and walking alongside initiatives coming from within the community and providing volunteer support.

It looks as if Hamilton is in a really healthy and vibrant place of growth! Looking forward to hearing more as this strategic plan is further implemented!


Image: Many people gather to help plant trees and clean up on Earth Day with Volunteer Hamilton.


So beautiful to think of community engagement as a driving force, from which volunteerism and oher outcomes you desire will emerge.

So looking forward to hearing more about how the implementation of this goes.:)