Next time you’re out and about in the area you live take a second to pause, even just for a moment, and take in everything that is going on around you. Look around at your community and ask yourself “how could this be better?”
Maybe you’d like to see more support for the disadvantaged in your community, like the poor or homeless. Maybe it’s more opportunities for kids – more parks, more jungle gyms, and more safe spots for kids to be kids. Or maybe the real issues in your community aren’t so apparent – maybe they’re simmering below the surface, or only evident to people in the thick of them.
This is precisely the reason that engaging with your community can cause paradigm shifts in not only your own mind, but in minds and actions throughout the community. Those collective minds of those around you are the ones whose thoughts, feelings and voices are going to guide the development of your community – as as Australian government put it on a paper on community engagement, “We cannot know what these communities need without better understanding their aspirations, concerns and values.”
It seems almost cyclical to claim that to create an engaged and improved community, you must start with, well, an engaged community. To create change from within necessitates production and input from all of those involved, and all of those within the community. Ideas that your neighbor has – or someone who lives on the other side of town – might differ from your own; in fact, there’s a good chance that they should differ from your own. Different people not only prioritize different things, but through diversity of ideas and people, different individuals can often come together to create something more impactful than they can alone.
Getting engaged and involved with your local community isn’t just about creating change within the community, though, there are a myriad of personal benefits as well. The community will, itself, come closer together and new bonds are often formed; local networking opportunities are created and trust amongst the community and its leadership grows and improves with a more involved populous.
It’s easy to consider and understand the importance of community engagement when viewed through the broad possibilities above, but what are the tangible, concrete ways that you can not only get involved with, but make palpable change within your community?In a future blog, I’d like to dive more deeply into some strategies and ideas to boost involvement from your own community.