Acton is a small town, off the beaten track, with a slower pace then the buzz found through the rest of Halton Region, and this is what the people who reside there like about it. Famous for the Acton town pony, this town serves as a flavor of rural while still being within reach of the busy urban centers of Milton, Guelph and Toronto.
This past week a group of 13 community leaders came together at the local Acton Hub to connect, share their different projects and find out how they could collaborate.
“The Acton Hub is more than a space. It is a network of schools, local and regional support agencies, along with dedicated staff and volunteers, who have been working together since 2008 to connect families, children and youth in the community to the services they need.” (http://www.ourkidsnetwork.ca/Public/Acton-Hub)
This regular meeting of community leaders helps foster collaboration and the sharing of knowledge between groups. One of the great gifts I have found in many rural communities is that people know what is going on and are quick to chip in and help out.
As part of this weeks gathering the group took part in Tamarack’s 1000 Conversations campaign by having a discussion about what Acton community meant to them. The discussion was rich with lots of different stories.
People talked with great pride about their community and how it was unique from anywhere else they had lived. There were a couple people at the table who resided or worked outside of Acton and they shared this sentiment. In particular what stood out for me was the comment that “Acton listened.” People in Acton felt heard by each other and this was sited a couple times as one of the special traits here. Being listened to makes someone feel like they matter to the other person, and I think is a key part of building a healthy community. It also creates an environment where people can be more responsive to the changing needs and dynamics of the community.
On the flip side many expressed frustration at how they felt Acton was ignored by the rest of Halton. That most of the time, energy and resources was focused on the major centers of Oakville, Burlington and Milton and that Acton then became more of an afterthought. This lead to challenges with funding and programing.
I think there are important lessons that can be taken away from this conversation. Regular communication and collaboration between groups helps build a strong community. A key piece of this is actively listening and valuing each person and group’s perspective and contribution and recognizing that responses cannot be one size fits all. Lastly no matter how big or small, everyone has gifts that can be brought to the table and when we are all listened to and included, everyone is better off.