I was an honoured recipient of the Tamarack Institute’s Be A Light Scholarship and am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have attended not only my first Community Change Institute – but first Tamarack Institute learning event. Arriving in Vancouver I was full of excitement to be surrounded by likeminded individuals. I arrived with an open heart to connect, to learn, to grow, and to be inspired but little did I know that this creatively designed learning event provides a truly transformational experience – which happens when you have an open heart, mind, and a helping hand. You just have to LeanIN!
On Monday, I arrived early to the registration table to help welcome the delegates, provide them with their ‘Change Maker’ note book and pen to ensure that all inspiration is written down with love and collected in one space. Throughout the entire week I observed the various rooms filled with change makers who carried this book around everywhere – always in sight…..including me with the intention to LeanIN to the experience!
The morning started out honouring the complexity of co-creation – and identifying that when you are managing concerns, creating movements and tackling difficult issues – it takes many voices to be around the table and most movements are composed of hidden heros … quiet, heart led leaders … LIGHTHOUSE workers! We are all in this together and we must listen authentically to all the voices if we are going to LeanIN with intention. As lighthouse workers we must respect opinions, approaches, and recognize that all roles (agitator, innovator, and orchestrator) are vital in communicating strategies and instilling change. Lighthouse workers create spaces that allows for the “WE” instead of the “US” or “THEM”.
The week started bright and the stage was set with our first speaker, Dr. John Helliwell who was one of the minds behind the World Happiness Report. He states that the simple recipe for happier communities is human and we must remember that belonging matters!! Opening Doors & Windows = Creating Connections = Happier Lives. Community spaces allow for belonging to take place. Happiness is not measured in the number of rooms you have but the number of neighbours you relate to – human connection. Dr. Helliwell shared that “a happy community focuses on the importance of cultural spaces which provide the opportunity for participation, engagement, and giving. This truly spoke to me and I could relate to this happening in my hometown of St. Catharines, Ontario. I feel and see the shift that is happening in my community – it is a heartfelt movement that is creating space for a Compassionate City. Our Strategic Plan sets out a vision for St. Catharines to be the most dynamic, innovative, sustainable and livable city in North America. We continue to take daily strides that propel us forward to achieving our vision. We are a changing community and are re-identifying ourselves. We have made significant investments and we continue to evolve by learning to keep momentum with our new investments. Some new community investments in the downtown that are creating cultural spaces include:
- $50 M Meridian Centre (5,300 spectator facility and 6000+ seats in venue space)
- $60 M FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre. A unique four-venue facility with 775 seat main theatre event space.
- $42 M Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts
These investments provide many opportunities that allow for community animation for participation, engagement, and giving. While keeping momentum with our new investments, we must also look at spaces that already exist and how we can create an experience. A cultural space has been created on the front lawn of City Hall – which also has the greenest, softest, most beautiful grass in all of St. Catharines. A lawn that once was frowned upon for stepping on and now has been opened up to our community to use and enjoy. It has turned into a cultural space for the last two summers with Yoga on the front lawn – by the community, for the community!
In order to move forward we must get comfortable with the uncomfortable. We must LeanIN and follow the Heart (passion) - Head (hear and do) - Hand (hard work) and know that what we do, matters! Using a daily lens on ‘What can we do to be happier” and more importantly “what can we do to make others happier” will keep us on a positive path towards community change. We all face challenging circumstances, but it is important to never dim your light and be the LIGHTHOUSE you were meant to be!