The ABCD: Healthy Neighbourhoods, Healthy Cities Conference in Edmonton was one of the most profound conferences I’ve been to; a plethora of experts, changemakers, wisdom-imparters, and entertainers – the combination could found in each presenter respectively. There was a palpable energy of support, encouragement, positivity, and kinship in the room, vast as it was, holding the collective community of over 300 people, who were there to learn from the greatest in Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) and each other.
Throughout the 2.5 days, there were more quotable moments than not. It’s difficult to narrow the earth-shattering a-ha moments given there were so many. The head-nodding was aplenty as the teaching being imparted was the song of the student choir.
One of the stand-out moments for me was Cormac Russell’s Humpty Dumpty analogy. Imagine if Humpty wasn’t found and nursed by the king’s horses and men, but fell into the arms of his community instead. Imagine if he didn’t hit hard and crack to pieces, but fell softly into the collective comfort of his community instead. This new version of the nursery rhyme is the ethos of ABCD; to lean into one’s community for help, comfort, friendship, camaraderie instead of leaning into the institutional system. It’s such a simple and clever analogy as it really gives the picture in one’s mind – and gives hope for Humpty!
Looking inwards to our communities and neighbours, moving from needy to needed, hatching the proverbial egg from the inside out – all demonstrate the culture of ABCD. As Cormac noted: “Small is the new big.” We need to move to small conversations, small connections, to form our strong communities and create big change.
When we move inward to build community, we bloom in health and social connection and decrease illness and dependency on social systems. Interconnectedness brings good health and is created when we come together and get to know one another. The grassroots approach is the root of interconnectedness.
One of the profoundly simple concepts to realize is that community buildings don’t necessarily result in a built community. Places don’t equate community. It’s the conversations held within those buildings and without those buildings that result in and build community.
When we shift conversations from ‘what’s the matter with you’ to ‘what matters to you,’ as Cormac suggests, we then get to the heart of interconnectedness. We allow for openings in familiarity, likeness, hope, and the like, and through those openings, we form connection. That connection allows us to create the figurative ‘soft arms’ to fall into within our communities.
It’s possible. One connection at a time.
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