Summary of Learning: Day 1

Submitted by Rachel Elizabeth on June 13, 2013 - 1:54pm

Day I Highlighlights:

Our Focus: Exploring the idea of Neighbours as Assets…and what’s possible

Our Goal: To make the case that investing in neighbours & neighbourhoods is worthwhile & promising

John McKnight’s Comments:

·       Discerning your “professional hat” from your “personal hat”…and how that changes things.  A simple act:  begin each meeting by discussing the gifts each one brings: ie. ability to listen, community connector, intuition, connecting head & heart)

·       Institutions can provide you with service but they cannot care for you

·       The most powerful neighbourhood is one where everyone is giving their gifts…it may be well-serviced…but it is lacking in care.  Everyone in the neighbourhood needs to be able to give their gifts

·       A gift isn’t a gift until it is given & everyone is full of gifts…but these don’t become real until they are given and received

·       Saul Alinsky’s Iron Rules: 

o   Never do for another what they can do for themselves

o   Never just meet to meet

o   If you’re asking people to come together, something has to happen as a result.  What’s the action?

·       There are 4 assets of neighbourhood community-building:

o   Individuals who come together to share their gifts

o   The groups that form to amplify individual gifts

o   The institutions that come forward to support individuals & groups

o   The land upon which the community exists & people’s relationship to it

·       The critical action of community building is creating connections.  There’s an important distinction between leadership and connector-ship:  You are working with what emerges from the group…not imposing an agenda

·       The greatest possibility for neighbourhoods is to strengthen those “on the margin” to bring forward and contribute their gifts.

·       In Neighbourhoods we know things through our stories…and this is how we share what we know.

Lynn’s Comments & Questions:

·       The strength and challenge of the role of social planning in the municipalities when compared to other planners is that our role is less encumbered by legislation to dictate how we work.  The advantage of this is that we can be fluid in how we respond to emerging needs in the community.

·        We do not hire people and “send them” to neighbourhoods….we hire people from neighbourhoods and bring them into our program.

·       In our role within the region, we spend a lot of time helping the region to connect horizontally.

·       We need to pay attention to the relationships between individuals & organizations…and also in and between systems.

·       The importance of neighbourhoods is growing because social needs are growing more quickly than government funding is increasing.  So, the role of neighbours caring for one another is one way to begin to address these needs

·       A Key Questions: 

o   How do we create space for citizens and organizations together to develop responses to complex social issues?

o   How do we create “shared space” where organizations and citizens CAN come together and develop policies that foster a strong community?

o   How do we know we’re making progress?

·       John always reminds us to come home to what we know.


The Paradox of Professionalism 

·       There is no substitute for what community can do….and lots of things that communities are uniquely capable of

·       wePods not iPods

·       Al, “John McKnight has been the soundtrack of my life...his speeches are amongst my signature songs”

·       There’s a paradox when you are working within an organization.  We all have one foot in the professional world and another in the neighbourhood world.  There’s a temptation to “colonize dependency”…you can work with this paradox by bringing forward what you are passionate about….dig deep into your heart

Shifting the Culture & our Mindset of Community-

·       We need to shift from how we think about what community we want

·       The culture of community is key here – it is a feeling, a sense of history of how people are together

·       Shifting the culture means intentionally seeding and supporting change and a gifts approach

·       Do we want to live in a community that is kind or are we?  You know that living there you want to be kind to

Rebranding Neighbourhoods

·       Sometimes this means using different language

·       Other times it means creating smaller neighbourhood boundaries

·       It can mean intentionally elevating the assets of the neighbourhood

Three Planning Questions for Community

1.   Which things can we do with the resources in our neighbourhood?

2.   Which things could we do in our neighbourhood if we had additional resources?

3.   Which things do we need the assistance of institutions to help us with?

Raccoons in the Attic: Sharing Knowledge

·       A real important role for neighbours is to share knowledge and solve problems together (like how to get rid of raccoons from the attic)

·       Sometimes we don’t even realize that we have knowledge that others would value

·       Supporting local newspapers can be part of this knowledge sharing – this elevates the gifts of citizens

Inertia in Neighbourhoods

·       People have been trained to be passive recipients of services

·       Often folks believe that people are “too busy” to be involved

·       How do challenge/overcome this?

·       Why does it have to be a meeting….why can’t it be a party?

·       We need to challenge ourselves to think about community organizing in a different way…lighten up and have fun!

                                 Learning Wall Themes – DaY I

 Neighbourhood Culture  

·         Community Cohesion 

·         Interconnected communities

·         Kindness & Caring Communities

 Rebranding Neighbourhoods

·         The community identifies itself

·         Community papers: telling our own story

·         Neighbourhood offers shared framework for different experiences


·         Safety; stability; knowing each other

·         Questions to guide capacity-building

·         How to deal with racoons in the attic


·         Caring connections: the more we trust the more capacity we have

·         Building relationships decreases loneliness

·         A shared sense of opportunity


·         Equalizes the professional with the neighbour

·         When people are proud of where they are, they take ownership

·         Confidence to speak up

 Gifts (skills & talents)

·         Open the door to people who want to give

·         Engaging hearts & passions

·         Endless possibilities

 The Role & Paradox of Institutions

·         Effective Problem Solving

·         Language is a barrier

·         Conflicting roles in professionals


·         Circles of support

·         How do we get middle-class neighbourhoods engaged?

·         One great idea can become a trend for another

 Political Action

·         Possibility to influence policy

·         Chance to change community stories into policies and programs

·         When people are their own advocates

Creating Ripples: A Movement

·         Community of practice

·         Shift our language from “in the trenches” to “communities and neighbours”

·         Harness the power of many: coming together for the greater good




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