Edmonton is already one of the only cities
with an extensive network of established community leagues
EDMONTON ON THE MAP
Then along comes Howard Lawrence with his brilliant idea
of starting something called Abundant Communities
and put Edmonton on the map
According to CTV News segment “ On Your Street”11 March/14
a University in the US will be coming up here
to do a documentary on this new fangled way to make “ communities into villages “
In January 2013, The Highlands Community League, with support
from The City of Edmonton and The Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues,
began piloting The Abundant Community Initiative.
Since it's inception, the pilot project has built momentum
catching the attention and interest of neighbourhoods, community leagues,
special interest groups, local businesses and organisations,
City of Edmonton staff, and media across the city.
Howard Lawrence, who led phase one of the initiative in Highlands,
has been contracted as the ACI Consultant to guide phase two.
The purpose of The Abundant Community Initiative
is to advance the development of neighbourhood well-being in Edmonton
following the principles and practices as described by Peter Block and John McKnight
in their book The Abundant Community.
AWAKENING THE POWER OF FAMILIES AND NEIGHBOURHOODS
Lawrence had the opportunity to fly to Seattle to meet the authors
and discuss how the properties of the book could be implemented
in his own neighbourhood.
At the heart of the Initiative is the designation of a neighbour(s) on each block who
initiate a casual conversation with each household on their block. During these
conversations they might discuss:
A vision for their neighbourhood.
Activities and interests that neighbours might do together.
Skills, gifts or abilities that neighbours might be willing to share with others
on their block or within their greater neighbourhoods.
Neighbourhood ideas joining together
to help our Community Leagues move into the future.
Finding others within the neighbourhood who also enjoy
what your or your kids interests (ball hockey, walking, guitar, knitting, stamping, etc.).
Sharing your gifts of caring for seniors, garden, coach, baby-sit, etc., with others.
Helping each other out and making your neighbourhood an even greater place to live.
Working with community leagues or community groups
in selecting a “Connector Co-ordinator” who will:
Identify, enlist and organise "Block Connectors."
Facilitate and encourage the connector/interview process.
Collate/group the information collected on behalf of the neighbourhood and the
Initiate a momentum of household connection within each block and neighbourhood.
Shape neighbourhood life according to the residents’ vision of their neighbourhood.
Facilitate relationships through the formation of “associations” within the neighbourhood.
Connect the gifts, skills and abilities of residence to neighbours and the neighbourhood.
Connect block neighbours together through relationship with a “block connector.”
In every neighbourhood there are programs and clubs
which help bring like-minded citizens together in a common interest.
We’ve all seen them: the neighbourhood sewing club, the local men’s hockey group,
and even the local gaming troupe.
BUT THESE THINGS DO NOT HAPPEN OVERNIGHT
Often it takes the tireless work of a volunteer or a specific member of the community
to help bring these like-minded individuals together under one banner.
This person is what Howard Lawrence,
a resident of the Highlands neighbourhood for 25 years, calls a “connector.”
Lawrence is the former vice-president of the Highlands Community League
and he is spearheading a new pilot project, the Abundant Communities Initiative,
to help plant these “connectors” in his neighbourhood,
The idea is quite simple: to form associations or common interest groups in the
neighbourhood, or as Lawrence describes it, “building a culture of connections.”
“It’s amazing what’s in every neighbourhood,” says Lawrence, who after doing some
preliminary research found several common interests among his neighbours,
including four accomplished cellists living in the community.
“Even choir, there are so many people in our neighbourhood who want to sing in a choir
but don’t want to drive to join a choir, but would be happy
to not only share the interest, but more importantly, build relationships locally.”
After receiving a $15,000 grant from Edmonton’s Neighbourhoods, Parks and
Community Recreation — Northeast Division, the initiative is now officially under way.
Over the next year, Lawrence will be gathering information from the neighbourhood
and orchestrating interviews with interested citizens.
Lawrence will also have to hire what he calls a “connector co-ordinator,”
whose job it will be to support the interviewees and create the subsequent interest groups.
SPREAD TO NEIGHBOURHOODS
The hope is that the initiative can find its legs and spread to neighbouring communities.
“Our project is an organic process
— it’s something the neighbourhood does for itself, ” says Lawrence.
“When it moves on to the other neighbourhoods,
it will happen through the neighbourhood, it will be their own initiative.
and will be the sole responsibility of the community league and its board.
We will coach it along, but it will be theirs.”
While Highlands is one of Edmonton’s oldest neighbourhoods,
having found its roots in 1912,
Lawrence is confident the project will flourish and spread to other communities,
“We think that any neighbourhood
will be successful with the abundant community initiative.”
The ongoing challenge is that we do not generally know anything about our neighbours
What are their interests, their likes , dislikes, hobbies, skills and
why do they like living in the neighbourhood.
The Abundant Communities Project assigns Block Connectors to find out.
Block Connectors live in the community and they knock on each door ,
introduce themselves and start chatting.
The knowledge they obtain during their chat
becomes the glue for making the neighbourhood a village.
People are drawn together when they can join and participate in an activity
which matches their gifts, skills, interests and passions.
GROUPS ARE FORMED
As groups are formed around common interests and passions
the neighbourhood becomes filled with people
who are connected to each other and to their community.
This becomes the catalyst for all kinds of new powerful and satisfying relationships
and the sum of these connections is the social fabric of the community
Hope is the belief in the plausibility of the possible
as opposed to the necessity of the probable
Until next time
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