Community is important to us as humanity. It shapes our identity, impacts our health and economic stability, and is essential to a deep sense of happiness. On a larger scale, community is essential to effectively tackling social and environmental issues, like poverty and water quality.
As I highlighted in a previous post, community means different things to different people, ultimately, though, it boils down to four key themes:
Space – either virtual or physical, this is a place where people can come together
Connection – the feeling of being connected to people, nature or a physical space
Theme – a common topic, interest or experience
Feeling – a feeling of belonging or home
As people come together around these four themes they form groups. These groups take all different forms: from a neighbourhood association to a religious community. There are common themes that we are drawn to; this is a combination of both biology and culture. As a result, regions all across the world will have, for example, a chamber of commerce or local business networking group. These groups with similar mandates will then connect to share resources and idea’s creating large networks like Scouts Canada.
These large networks of groups where people come to experience and express community forms the perfect breeding ground for a national dialogue on community. At Tamarack we are undertaking this challenge with our A Thousand Conversation to shape our future campaign. Our goal with this campaign is to catalyze a thousand conversations on community across Canada. Through these conversations we hope to learn about people’s experiences of community and how to build and deepen them. We will share inspiring stories and trends we hear through regular updates. At the completion of the campaign, we hope to take what we hear and use the common themes to inspire programs and policy that will help organizations, governments and people take advantage of the opportunities to deepen their community experiences and also to overcome or remove barriers to community building.
The campaign has so far been launched in the Kitchener-Waterloo and Guelph area and will soon spread across the country. Already there are many exciting things to share.
People and groups everywhere are talking about community and they are approaching it from all different angles. Below is a list of some of the conversations I have heard so far in the campaign:
-The United Church in KW is talking about what does an "affirmative community" look like at our church ? (that is a church community that is open to all regardless of sexual orientation)
-Several people, after wrestling with a feeling of wanting more connection, are coming together to have conversations about building intentional community in Guelph.
-The City of Guelph is engaging its citizens in a series of dialogues about Wellbeing, leading to a rich picture of the type of neighbourhood that citizens want
-Faith communities across KW are coming together to explore what a compassionate community could look like (based on the Compassion Charter spearheaded by Karen Armstrong and the Dalai Lama)
-Groups of young adults in Guelph in KW are exploring what it means as Christians to love your neighbour, and engaging their neighbours in this dialogue
-Artists in Guelph working through the organization Musagetee’s are exploring how to use art to build community
This diversity of approaches is both inspiring and healthy as each one engages a different group and yields exciting and unique results. Different generations are wrestling with a changing landscape for community. While some seniors fear the disappearance of many small rural towns as people migrate to the city and the loss of neighbourliness, youth are invigorated by the potential of online platforms to connect people across the world along common interests like never before.
Historically, people would be part of two major communities, often tied to a faith group or a geographical region. Many churches I have talked with are now wrestling with the change as people are now part of many communities well beyond their church community. This provides a great opportunity to spread the values of a community while at the same time poses a challenge as people feel less committed to any one group.
So far we have heard that there is undoubtedly a shift in how and where people are experiencing community. Through this major shift a rich dialogue is growing as people after a decade of growing individualism, are being pulled back by a deep desire to connect with others and feel part of a community.
I am really excited for what I hear next.