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Apprendre à connaître votre communauté

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Introduction to Community Development

Getting Started

Getting to know
your community

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Getting to know your community

Sharing Issues and Concerns

Healthy Communities initiatives have begun in a number of ways, such as:
• identifying a serious problem or issue
• seeing a need for new services or resources within your community (e.g. a walking trail, a community centre or a soccer field)
• wanting to know more about your community (e.g. its history, culture or social programs),
• recognizing a state of discontent among community members
• learning about the Healthy Community model or about a Healthy Communities initiative undertaken in another community
• distributing or receiving planning documents or study reports about the community
• the desire to keep a great community great!

As you talk with your friends, neighbours and co-workers about your thoughts, you may find there are others that have similar ideas or interests. Some may be willing to work with you to explore the possibility of organizing a group to put your ideas into action. You may find that there is already a group established that would welcome your participation.

Getting to know your community
Sharing Issues and Concerns

Whatever your reason for starting your organizing efforts, your initiative will be more successful if you do some background work before discussing it with others outside your group, or close circle of friends, neighbours and family. It is important to become familiar with your community, if you aren't already, in terms of its resources, needs, issues, power structure and decision-making processes.


At this initial stage you may want to:
• read your local newspaper regularly
• attend community events
• join a community group or local committee
• obtain and read community reports (e.g., health status reports from local health unit, crime reports from police)
• talk to neighbours about how they feel about living in their community.


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Getting to know your community

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Courtesy of http://www.phillip-lee.com

It is important to get a sense of what the current issues and priorities are, within the various sectors of the community (e.g. the issues identified by the local chamber of commerce are not likely to be the same as those identified by the local anti-poverty organization), and how decisions are made.
It is also critical that you look around your community to see who else is involved in similar activities or has similar interests to yours. You could then contact them to share information and explore the potential for collaboration. The last thing you want to do is try to start something new and then find out that it isn't new at all. Often, by working through an existing group, you can effect change by contributing your ideas and expertise to an existing group and interest them in adopting a Healthy Community approach.

Getting to know your community

Coming Together

When you feel you are ready, the next step is to gather a group together to plan a community
event that will:
• bring community members together to share their ideas about what a healthy community is
• identify the resources and assets that already exist in your community
• consider a wide range of issues and concerns
• initiate a planning process to improve the social, economic and environmental well-being of your community.

Depending on the circumstances, this group may be an unstructured association of individuals, an existing organization, or a coalition of various organizations and individuals. Whatever the case, this organizing body will be referred to as the "group" throughout this course.

Getting to know your community

Creating healthier communities will benefit everyone in a community, and ideally everyone in the community will be involved in helping in some way. Coming together can happen around the kitchen table, on a street corner, or in a public library meeting room. Sometimes a series of informal talk sessions with friends, associates and neighbours turns into a planning committee which then organizes a larger event.
It can involve an informal meeting or a formal, publicly-promoted gathering such as a town hall meeting or a community focus group. It is important to discover the range of perspectives, interests and needs within the community and find the areas of common ground. By bringing people together to reflect on where they live, work and play, individuals can become inspired to engage in efforts to improve their situation.
It is also important to continually broaden the base of people that are involved in the process. There should be specific strategies developed for outreach to those not traditionally involved in community planning. When considering particular issues or needs to be addressed, it is important to find out if this is an individual concern or a community concern. When a sizeable group shares a common concern and commits to a course of action, it promotes credibility with the public and the local government.

Sharing Issues and Concerns

The following section describes some types of exercises that are useful in planning, organizing or facilitating this initial community meeting. See example in resources pdf.

Visioning

Visioning is believed by some to be a critical first step in preparing to create social change. Visioning is a popular performance-enhancing tool. Athletes and business both use it to boost performance, team spirit, creative problem-solving and self-confidence.
In a community visioning session community members with diverse characteristics and from different sectors of the community gather to create a collective vision of a "Healthy Community". This vision is usually expressed in pictorial form, using images and symbols to convey their ideal community.
Visioning is a creative process that allows us to go beyond current political, economic and social realities and helps people to articulate what they truly want for and from their community. It is important to make every effort to involve as many people/perspectives as possible in your visioning exercise. People feel a greater sense of ownership and commitment to a vision they have helped create.
A Sample Visioning Workshop is included in the resources pdf

Future Search

According to the Future Search Network, by using this method "hundreds of communities and organizations have achieved a shared vision and committed action from diverse stakeholders. People worldwide have found common ground in future search despite differences of ability, age, education, ethnicity, function, gender, hierarchy and language".
Future Search is a three-day community conference which brings people from all walks of life together to tell stories about their past, present and desired future. Through this process, they discover their common ground. Only when their commonalties are confirmed do they begin to develop concrete action plans.
Future Search is based on premises that are complementary to Healthy Communities; e.g. the idea that focusing on a shared future provides more incentive for action than listing problems or conflicts, and having everyone create a joint picture of the world leads to everyone improving the whole in ways they had not thought possible. The meeting design comes from theories and principles tested in many cultures for the past 50 years.
Detailed instructions for organizing and facilitating Future Search conferences are available on the Future Search website. (http://www.futuresearch.net)

Open Space Technology

Since 1985, this technique is has been used thousands of times on all continents, with corporations, villages in developing countries, religious communities, governmental agencies, and whole towns. Participants come together around a broad theme, such as "How Can We Become a Healthy Community?" and create and manage their own agenda of working sessions, based on the issues are important and meaningful to them.
Open space uses the principles of self-organization. Sitting in a circle, participants write topics that they would like to discuss with other on a card. Then, one by one, they come to the centre of the circle, identify their topic and give a brief explanation, and post it on a wall or board. When all the topics are posted, they are arranged in the available time slots and meeting locations. Participants then decide which of the sessions they would like to attend.
There are four basic principles of Open Space
1. Whoever comes are the right people
2. Whenever it starts is the right time (spirit and creativity don't run on the clock)
3. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened (no critique of what should have or could have happened)
4. When it's over, it's over (getting the work done is more important than sticking to an arbitrary schedule).
One of the most unusual features of this style of meeting is "The Law of Two Feet": "If at any time you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing, use your two feet and move to some place more to your liking." This serves to make the individual participant responsible for the quality of his or her own experience, and eliminates guilt for moving on.
For more information about Open Space technology, visit the Worldwide Open Space website at

Introduction to Community Development

End of Unit:
Getting Started - Getting To Know Your Community
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