It wasn’t the most exciting of topics for a meeting but when you’re using public tax dollars and corporate donations there is a responsibility to measure progress….even when progress is something as intangible as quality of life and community leadership.
So one day last week as our small group was meeting in a stuffy, windowless room to further explore the scintillating world of evaluation and its application to our provincial initiative, others in the building were startled and somewhat surprised to hear boisterous enthusiastic voices and a lot of raucous laughter.
As another staff member walked by the doorway, he remarked that it sounded like we were having a party.
One woman within our group – we’re definitely not a group of shrinking violets – raised her voice and said to him, “You’re just not used to it…this is the sound of productivity”!
She was so very right…we have, and continue to be, incredibly productive.
However, what is becoming even clearer is that we’re productive because in addition to being connected to the larger whole of meaningful work, we are experiencing the unity and synergy that is the result of becoming a community.
Although most people think about community from a geographic perspective, it may not be the most accurate use of the word.
Real community is more likely to be about what our team was experiencing - the acceptance, a sureness that our individual contributions were valued, and a sense of belonging.
For those who have been fortunate enough to work with a tightly knit group of co-workers or volunteers or have been part of a successful service club, organization, sports team or self-help group, there is likely already an understanding of what community is all about.
If you haven’t experienced community, chances are you’re searching for it even though you may not be aware of it.
These days community is too often rare and my guess is that people are hungry for it. There are many who live in relative isolation, often not even knowing the names of their neighbours. Some believe this is an indication that the very concept of community may be at-risk in North American society.
For our group, community is about being able to communicate honestly with each other. It’s about working together on challenges that are so complex they require all of our respective lens and competencies. It means pushing each other to learn and grow, and celebrating together when we get it right.
Sometimes the synergy is down right magical. One expert has compared community to electricity and concluded there are questions about community that can’t be answered just as there are questions about electricity that even the most knowledgeable scientists can’t answer.
Regardless, what we need to know and understand is that community is important.
In a community there is an understanding and acceptance of the importance of each member and their capacity to contribute.
Communities are also about collective effort…people working together, assuming shared responsibility and utilizing their many talents. And, even though it often looks loud and messy from the outside, there is still an order even though it may not always be obvious.
Communities incorporate celebration, stories, parties and social events into their activities. The line between work and play is blurred and laughter and singing is often heard.
Food is also an important part of connecting and celebrating so perhaps it was no accident that one of our team members brought homemade cookies and another came with vegetables and dip.
While our typical managed and ordered institutions and bureaucracies too often leave little room for fun and celebration, they can and should be places to build communities where people can share, work, play, and grow together. After all, if our meeting was any indication, there can be no doubt that all of us are smarter than any of us!
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