Not long after I moved to my community, I was invited to be part of a new 'planning' process. Halifax was looking to do community visioning process in a rural, suburban and urban communities. My community of Musquodoboit Harbour was chosen as a rural pilot. We spent over a year consulting with groups in the community, hosting community meetings and doing an online survey. All with the support of city staff. It was one of the most significant things I've ever experienced. It made me feel connected and engaged and empowered in my community in a way I'd never been.
The document we came up with was powerful. Every time we went to do something, ask for resources, write a grant - we used that document as proof of a broad community voice. Before there was no local transportation in our area - now there is a very successful, cooperative model run by and for the community. Before an old school and heritage building was going to be commissioned and sold off to the highest bidder. Now it is a bustling community hub. Before there was a tremendous need for support for people living with a variety of mental health challenges in our community. Now there is a support group online with over 500 members.
Support for community visioning and organizing, I think, is one of the most powerful things government can support at a local level for real change. Now we are working on developing a new, even more inclusive plan to ensure prosperity for all. But the city program is gone. So we are trying to do it on our own. Our MP Sean Fraser has helped where he can, but more support for initiatives such as our would be really revolutionary.
Imagine a program across the country that could enable communities and neighbourhoods to each develop their own action plan for their own community. To develop their own action teams. It could be really transformative. They are doing it in the UK with an umbrella organization called Locality (http://locality.org.uk/).
Consultation has concluded