During the last 18 months, NOW Lunenburg County discussed many aspects of the changes required to ensure a sustainable, economically viable community that can support families and individuals in the future.
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
Over the course of two years NOW Lunenburg County has been working within our community in response to the Ivany “Now or Never” report. Throughout the course of our work we have organized two large open invitation public meetings, worked with several community initiatives, and gathered data on the economic, social and educational challenges facing 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.
How can you make a living from your art?
This is a question a group of young people from Lunenburg County have been considering since they began meeting in late March. The 10 participants applied to the project sponsored by Art Happening and the Youth Art Connection. Jessica Uhlman, the project coordinator, explained:
“they have explored and considered how they can pursue their passion for their art and convert that into a money making activity”.
Participants’ interests include music, art and performance. During their time together they have met local artists who have shared their experiences in developing their art into careers. Local mentors included Jessie Watson from Homegrown Skateboards, Alex Hickey, a local musician, Aliion Smith a poet, Allyson Simmie, a jewelry maker and Christopher Hyde with Mermaid Theater and the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival.
The event on May 7 (7-9 pm )at the Marg Hennigar Library (at the Lunenburg County Lifestyle Centre) will provide each participant with three minutes to pitch their work. There will be art work for sale and the musicians in the group will gladly accept bookings for events. The event is open to the public, bring your calendar of events and your cheque book to support our future professional artists of Lunenburg County.
NOW Lunenburg County is a giant experiment; an experiment in community development and community engagement leading to a better future for Lunenburg County. To date, this experiment brought together people of all ages from across our county to discuss our future. During the last eight months we held 6 events which served to connect people interested in change, highlight projects and initiatives that are addressing some needs or challenges in the community. All conversations were built around the theme of creating a better future for Lunenburg County.
For many, the meetings have connected like-minded people working on projects all intended to improve our community. Others brought ideas and got feedback on how to move those ideas forward; others found people willing to work with them on new initiatives. Most will tell you the conversations were rich and the experience positive. Participants made new connections, learned new things about activities in the Lunenburg County and recognized that there is a need to change based on our current demographic and economic indicators.
A number of new initiatives have started or are in the beginning stages – reimagining local government, a business investment fund for new start-ups, a project to bring the universities to the County (a series of lectures from the Dalhousie Law school started last fall) including finding opportunities for local businesses to benefit from student work experience. High school students who attended NOW 2.0 in October, were inspired to start a project, Lighting the Way, as part of Junior Achievement this winter. More than 15 other projects involving a diversity of issues from teen mental health, to projects like the Chester Health Centre, Ross Farm and the Mash Up Lab were showcased and provided an opportunity to seek feedback on issues, problem-solve with assistance from the larger group, and promote their work. We heard from many that being in a room with others who share an enthusiasm and love of the county and believe they can contribute to creating a better path for the future was rewarding for the time invested.
What do we know NOW is significant and will shape our next steps.
We know that people’s belief in the need for change in our County exists on a wide continuum from not believing any change is necessary, ‘life is good as it is’; to believing we will face a series of crisis in the years ahead with the burden of municipal government, labour force challenges, a growing seniors sector and a crumbling local economy.
There is an appetite for leadership that galvanizes people around creating a better future; leadership that is trusted because it is comes with no agenda other than improving life in our county.
The work is complex; at times frustrating and other times exhilarating.
We have seen a number of interesting ideas floated at NOW Lunenburg County events. Individual community leaders have taken them on, inspired by the feedback, enthusiasm, and support of others. This is exactly what we hoped. We want Lunenburg County to be recognized for innovative ideas and creative approaches. We want to support individuals who are willing to step up and step out.
After 8 months of work we have created an awareness of NOW Lunenburg County, a group committed to creating a better future for Lunenburg County. The reality is we have reached less than 1% of our population through our meetings and special events.
Our evaluation process and our own internal conversations tell us that we have not engaged the broader business community in addressing the need for change. We have scarcely nibbled at the underlying challenges that will continue to plague our local economy.
We believe we must create an activity that will bring clear, well defined focus to the work of change in our local economy. Since Christmas our discussions have focused on what that might look like over the next year. We know that it will initially be targeted at the business community but as it develops it will be essential for all sectors of the community to be involved.
Our future work in 2015 will be around the economy. We believe that focusing our intention and action here will have the greatest positive impact on the county as a whole. Specifically, we need to identify and act on the key issues which are impacting on business development and success. We need to engage influential business leaders who are willing to get involved. We also need to connect with young professionals, potential business owners, the new economy of knowledge workers and progressive entrepreneurs who can all contribute to creating solutions and opportunities.
The path we started down in responding to the Ivany Report took a number of turns over the last year. We will continue to shape that path based on the evaluation report and what we hear and see happening. No one else is going to build a path to a better future other than us, the people that live here. All of us agree we must continue to move ahead …. And we will.
We cannot wait any longer for “someone else to do something”!
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