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Letting Communities Guide Change

Posted on November 14, 2018
By Galen MacLusky

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What does it truly mean to be guided by community?

Last month I was lucky enough to speak with Diane Roussin, Director of the Winnipeg Boldness project. Diane shared stories of the work that the Winnipeg Boldness project is doing in the Point Douglas neighbourhood: how they gathered and shared community wisdom, how they have been working with residents and leaders to effect the changes that they feel are important, and how people across Point Douglas have guided their efforts at every step. There was so much to learn in what Diane shared, but two key points stood out to me for anyone interested in working with communities for change

1. Work with people as whole human beings

Our systems often focus on individual and community deficits – focusing on issues of poverty, violence, lack of health, and so on. Starting from this place positions communities as somehow in need of ‘fixing,’ and can often get in the way of seeing the assets: the knowledge, connections, and vibrancy, that communities have. The Winnipeg Boldness Project’s example encourages us to start from a very different place: that all people are whole, and that it is the broken systems around them that create the poor outcomes that we see. Starting from this place, it then becomes most important to learn from the people affected by these systems, learn how they believe positive change should come about, and to be guided by them for change.

2. Think inside the circle

In the pursuit of community change, we often ask ourselves to ‘think outside the box’ – to generate new ideas and new ways of thinking that can lead to change. The Winnipeg Boldness project also focuses on ‘thinking inside the circle,’ on being guided by the indigenous wisdom held by community members. Instead of discounting old ways of knowing and doing, the project is focused on reconnecting with the deep experience and wisdom from past generations. Might we all challenge ourselves to acknowledge the wisdom held by our communities and be guided by it, rather than seek to disrupt it?

These are simple starting points, but they challenge many of our current ways of working with communities. How would things be different if we valued the perspectives of our communities this deeply, and what do we need to change in our own work to move towards this possibility?

If you would like to learn more about this unique, community-led initiative that is guided by indigenous wisdom, check out the links below.    

Learn More:

Community Engagement, Community Innovation, Blog

Galen MacLusky

By Galen MacLusky

While Galen was at Tamarack he led the Community Innovation Idea Area. He is passionate about working with community organizations to help build and scale new ideas that deepen their impact. An experienced design, innovation, and co-creation consultant, at the core of his work are approaches that help organizations engage with those who are impacted by their services and test new programs and services with minimal investment. Over the past five years, Galen has used these approaches to help Fortune 500 companies and non-profit organizations across North America reinvent the services and programs they provide.

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