Last month, the Deepening Community team hosted Tamarack's first in-person event in over two years. This blog post is a reflection of the most significant learning I took away from the event.
As I think back to our June 2022 event in London, Ontario, there were many learnings for me, personally – too many to include in one blog post.
However, one particular observation struck me: the power of connection.
There were several examples of this throughout our three-day gathering, but one that resonated with me came from our introductory keynote presentation from John McKnight, co-founder of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute.
In his discussion, John talked about how, through Asset-Based Community Development approach, the power of the individual gifts every resident possesses means nothing unless they are shared with everyone in the neighbourhood. Connection is an essential catalyst to turn individual gifts into an asset that can be harnessed for the benefit of a broader community.
As he explained: "That's the wonderful thing. Everybody has gifts. And if you see with new eyes, then the neighbourhood becomes so rich. ... In a neighbourhood that has its way, it knows that it has untapped riches and people waiting to contribute."
Through connection, a community begins to realize the depth and breadth of the gifts of its members. And individuals realizing the power they bring to and have as part of the whole is an important component of deepening community.
Connecting with similar communities
The work of our changemakers, especially those directly or indirectly contributing to our Deepening Community movement, is not easy, especially if feels like you're doing this work by yourself. This is why we strive to create opportunities for those working in similar areas across Canada to connect, often accomplished through our various Communities of Practice.
While the context between the places where people work does influence the success of certain programs, there are valuable lessons that can be taken away.
Two dimensions of connection
For those of us who work in the Deepening Community movement, we see connection as having two main dimensions.
Connecting at the community level
The first dimension is the guiding reason for doing this work. It's the importance of creating connections at the community level to increase social capital and decrease social isolation within our communities. Our event partner, GenWell Project, has a variety of resources on this topic area for those looking to dive deeper.
The video below from the animation studio Kurzgesagt does an excellent job of explaining the importance of addressing loneliness. This video focuses more on the bio-medical side of loneliness, which to some degree is encompassed within the work Deepening Community.
A factor that is not necessarily captured within this video is the role of civic participation, which we believe will increase as more people become connected and become aware of the power they have when they work together.
Loneliness - from Kurzegesagt
Connecting at the peer level
The second dimension of this work is to create connections between individuals or organizations doing similar work.
In the same capacity that social capital is good for your health and well-being as an individual, having a well-established network of individuals doing similar community development work is beneficial to the well-being of your organization.
When working with the community, especially at the neighbourhood levels, it's invaluable to be connected with other organizations in the area. I saw this first hand at our event, where two of our members doing similar work in the same city were introduced to each other. With this relationship, they can leverage their shared learnings on how to engage stakeholders, government or their respective communities. When starting out a project, it is easy to fall into the trap of designing everything from scratch.
I'm sharing this story to remind our readers that you don't need to reinvent the wheel in order to make meaningful change.
Join a Community of Practice
Looking to get connected? Our Communities of Practice are a great starting place to begin making those connections. Deepening Community offers 4 public Communities of Practice: Neighbourhood Learning Community, Citizens & Emergency Preparedness, Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) Canada and Community Safety. We also have a Community of Practice exclusively for our 44 members across Canada.
- Learn more about the work of Deepening Community
- Read: 10 - A Guide for Deepening Community
- Register for our upcoming webinar on August 31: Making Community Essential: Seven Impacts for Communities and the Policy Shifts to get there
- Register for our upcoming webinar on September 14: Evaluating the Impact of Citizens Sharing Their Gifts – Lessons Learned from Abundant Community Edmonton
- Register for the Foundations for Building a Neighbourhood Strategy online course