WHAT I LEARNED AT THE GEORGETOWN CONFERENCE
MOVING FORWARD TOGETHER - Bernice Theriault
I had heard the buzz after the first Georgetown Conference and began thinking about what I could learn, what I could bring and how I could help make my community a better place to live work and play. My role with Bluenose Coastal Action Foundation is Communications and Events Coordinator. We know firsthand the importance of sharing our work and engaging our community. Our organization has been quietly working in the community since 1993. We work with species at risk, such as Atlantic Whitefish and Roseate Tern. We also monitor water quality and climate change adaptation.
Georgetown opened new doors to share information about our partnerships on the Bridgewater Community Energy Initiative and sustainability planning.
I sat in on a discussion about community owned energy. I learned that there are many people in Atlantic Canada looking for renewable and green energy projects. I shared success stories of youth engagement, and building awareness using youth. It was exciting to learn about new opportunities to engage youth.
I listened carefully as those who had recent amalgamation talks shared the good, the bad, and the unexpected difficulties in that conversation.
Georgetown was validation that we are having the right conversations in our community. Atlantic Canada may not be on the exact same page, but we are all in the same chapter.
In terms of solutions the focus of the conference, I walked away with many new connections and resources. I will use those resources to build on the work here in my own community. The biggest lesson – we are moving forward together! I have already followed up with a number of connections and look forward to continuing those important relationships.
FEELING EMPOWERED - Michelle Greek
I love Lunenburg County and the opportunities that are presented by rural life. My husband Jason and I have chose this place to live, to raise our three children, and to start a business because we know there is no greater place than right here! Lunenburg County is filled with caring and compassionate people and beautiful scenery.
I attended the Georgetown Conference 2.0 on June 2nd-4th as a representative of the New Germany Area Promotion Society (NGAPS). The Georgetown Conference was incredible! The conference was filled with people who all share the passion of building vibrant communities in rural Atlantic Canada by doing something great. We didn't all know what that "something" was, but we all like to see positive action.
The part of the conference I enjoyed the most was listening to the 20x20 speakers. The videos of the 20x20 speakers are on the Georgetown Conference 2.0 Facebook page for anyone who wants to view the presentations.
Each of the nine speakers enthusiastically talked about 20 slides for 20 seconds. The speeches were fast paced, filled with knowledge and motivation to "just do something". Two of the nine speakers were from Lunenburg County; Andrew Button and Elspeth Mclean-Wile.
Another motivating part of the Georgetown Conference was discussing obstacles while trying to get things done in the community. Chef Michael Smith summed it up the best for me: Creativity is often spectacular when you are constrained and forced to think outside of the box. Embrace the constraints. Challenges are wonderful and lead to magical results.
I left the conference feeling empowered and excited to go home and spread good vibes throughout Lunenburg County. I hope I am achieving my aspiration.
WORKING ON SOLUTIONS TOGETHER
What do you care about enough to take action on now?
to view the notes from the conversations under photos, (Action Project Templates).
WHAT I LEARNED AT THE GEORGETOWN CONFERENCE
(A Perspective from Lunenburg County)
We're not alone - Lynn Hennigar
Bassem Alataalah a newcomer to PEI from Syria was a highlight for me. Bassem had the courage to educate all of us on what Syria was before the conflict and the damage the conflict has inflicted. He reminded us that he didn’t choose to leave a good life and that all he’s asking for from us is a chance at a new one. Bassem’s revelation that it takes 365 days to get a driver’s license in PEI, where little or no public transportation makes driving a necessity, was just one example of the significant challenges newcomers face.
I was surprised and heartened by the many conversations around municipal government change and amalgamation. Our whole region is struggling with this. Municipal leaders, who understand the unsustainability of the current system, are working on how to engage the public so they too will understand the needs and benefits of working together. We were incredibly lucky to have a number of people from Pictou County attempt who could help us understand what went wrong and to learn from their mistakes.
My only disappointment came from speaker Doug Griffiths. While Mr Griffiths book, “13 Ways to Kill Your Community” is a great read, in his presentation, even after attending Bassem’s presentation, Mr. Griffiths continued to perpetuate the myth that our newcomers should just be grateful to be here - when really we should be grateful for the opportunity to welcome them.
Overall – The big message was we’re all struggling with the same issues, people don’t want to change anywhere, attitudes are a problem throughout the region and we’re not alone.
You couldn’t help but be inspired by this room full of change makers. Even those from Pictou County who arrived defeated gained strength from the room to begin talking about next steps and how to move forward in spite of their setback.
The issues and problems we face across this region are the same – more importantly though there is a growing group of people willing and dedicated to making the change needed to move us to prosperity.
DIGGING INTO OUR CHOICES,
He spoke to the group about challenges and opportunities on leading change in the region and asked the group these five key questions:
- Are you setting the bar high enough?
- Are you telling it like it is?
- Are you acting authentically?
- What restraints do you have in your world?
- Are you embracing them head on?
What courageous conversations now will improve our solutions moving forward?
to view the notes from the conversations under photos.
13 Ways to Kill Your Community - Doug Griffths
Concerned about the future of rural communities, he ran and won his first election to become the sixth youngest person to ever serve in the Alberta Legislature.
Doug took the group through the steps of his book, 13 Ways to Kill a Community. He told the group if you do not deal with these issues in your community it will become obsolete.
- Don’t have quality water.
- Don’t attract business.
- Ignore your youth.
- Deceive yourself about your real needs or values.
- Shop elsewhere.
- Don’t paint.
- Don’t cooperate.
- Live in the past.
- Ignore your seniors.
- Reject everything new.
- Ignore outsiders.
- Become complacent.
- Don’t take responsibility.
The follow up, Georgetown 2.0, Solutions, was held this past June 2-4, 2016. Passionate and inspiring leaders from across the Atlantic Region attended to identify and work through real issues in their communities.
NOWLC will be presenting a three-week series highlighting the conversations and learning coming out of Georgetown 2.0, including stories from those who attended from Luneneburg County.
We hope you enjoy the series and send your thoughts and comments along via the comment section at the bottom of this blog or to our email address at email@example.com
WHAT I LEARNED AT THE GEORGETOWN CONFERENCE
(A perspective from Lunenburg County)
At every opportunity I was able to easily slip into rich conversations with other participants who were involved in business or community projects that are or can contribute to a more vibrant economy… the couple from Newfoundland starting up a 400 head sheep farm. Step #1, clear 80 acres of forest to create pasture land!
In the world of agriculture today, there are not many starting at this significant size. Their backgrounds are not agriculture – food service and business! They will bring a very different perspective to the farming community.
Then there was the young man from eastern PEI who is dreams of opening a microbrewery and restaurant by May 2017. He needs a financing package valued at $1.5 million. He asked the group on options for financing and how he can get community investors. He got lots of ideas and input.
I could not help but sympathize with the folks from Pictou County who arrived just days after the plebiscite on amalgamation of four municipal units in the county. Three young women, the MacConnell sisters, shared their experiences working on the “YES” campaign. Lisa MacDougall, the Chief Operating Officer for New Glasgow, shared stories of hostile public meetings. Residents were pitted against each other in ways many had never seen before.
I was most interested in learning why there was such hostility around a realistic and inevitable discussion. What lessons can our community learn about how we approach these discussions and how to include public input that contributes to improving the outcomes? Clearly, the broad community needs to be party to all aspects of amalgamation proposal building. These discussions need to start at the grassroots with citizens and build up. Many of our elected officials appear afraid to bring these discussions to open forums and take the time to insure public understanding and knowledge of the implications of amalgamation. The public meetings in Pictou County appear to have come too late in the process to allay the fear of higher taxes, loss of representation and community identity. There reis plenty for the residents of Lunenburg County to consider as our councillors toy with the notion of amalgamation.
Rural communities across the region share many similar experiences with depopulation, loss of infrastructure and challenging economics. There were lots of conversations about the inability of government to change the “tide of demise”; that tide will only turn when ordinary citizens lead the change, community by community.
Understanding Our Current Reality &
Seeing the Bigger Picture
At the most recent meeting of a group of people focused on labour issues in our economy, there was a rich, in-depth exchange around the power dynamics that exist within our community. Everyone recognized that power is held by local, provincial and federal governments, institutions like school boards, health boards, unions, churches, business associations, community groups and even individuals. There were plenty of concrete local examples, including discussions around municipal reform, school closures and amalgamation of fire departments, to name just a few.
Many taking part in the discussion offered examples of new ideas and proposals being blocked, sabotaged, undermined or opposed by the traditionally-recognized power brokers in the community. Many in our group expected to have more consideration for new ideas and opportunities that could improve or enhance our lives in Lunenburg County from these leaders.
Our discussion lead further to consider the importance of understanding the power dynamics of a situation where change is desired. If new ideas are to be introduced and old ideas challenged, it is critical to determine who holds the power directly or indirectly and how that can affect the desired outcome. Sometimes working with the “power broker” is the right step; other times it is not. Sometimes the leaders you thought should champion an idea — the obvious choice because of the position they hold — is not the correct choice at all. They may actually get in the way of proposed change. Sometimes it means finding new champions in the community, those who are viewed as not carrying biases and who are passionate and committed to the idea.
We all came to a much clearer appreciation for carefully thinking through this aspect of community change. As NOW Lunenburg County continues to inspire and champion new ideas within our community, we will consider how power dynamics can impact on good ideas and innovative projects.
Core team member, NOW Lunenburg County
With the intention of moving the conversation towards action we then convened a smaller group of 25-30 individuals to develop a definitive action plan focusing on the labour challenges of Lunenburg County. We met as a group in September and have a planned meeting in November to develop these actions steps to moving from “talking the talk” to “walking the talk”. Each individual is in the process of gathering data to add to our previous information to inform this process. Once the actionable steps are completed it is our hope to bring the plan to our supporter list of 300 people to support and help in the implementation of this plan.
The large public meetings were helpful in data gathering, but in the end became a focus of more talking instead of action. As we experiment with ways of moving towards action we believe a smaller group may provide the environment we need to make that next step.
It is our full intent to be inclusive, as the responsibility for Lunenburg County lies on the shoulders of 48,000 people not just a few.
Please continue to support this initiative. We look forward to sharing our progress at our next public meeting in January 2016.
Keep up to date with NOW LC events, projects and learnings. This page is updated regularly - come back and check it out!