Our Shared Value….Community Matters

There is wisdom in our communities.

That belief was reinforced for me last week after spending three days with a group of amazing local community leaders at a retreat designed to help them enhance the quality of life in their communities.  A unique mix of staff, volunteers, business owners, and elected officials, they came wearing different lenses and bringing diverse sets of skills and experience. But, as one participant pointed out, while the challenges and solutions within their respective communities were unique, their paths to success were in fact very similar. 

While I totally agreed with the statement, it struck me that their paths were likely similar because they shared many of the same core values about community.  In addition to being very cool people, it was perhaps those values that made us all want to hang out together despite our differences. It also occurred to me that discussing and identifying our personal, as well as the values of our communities, is going to become even more important in the future. After all, strong, healthy and innovative individuals, organizations, and communities seem to be those who have made a point of identifying and living by their values.

Values are those things that really matter to each of us ... the ideas and beliefs we hold as being of special quality, worth, and importance. Values explain what individuals, organizations, businesses, or communities stand for and what will be made a priority as decisions are made. In times of rapid change, values become increasingly important as a filter for prioritizing how we invest our time and resources.

So that got me thinking, what values did the community leaders at that retreat have in common? 

Here’s the feedback I gathered from the leaders in attendance about their shared community values. 

1. CITIZEN ENGAGEMENT: Citizens should be actively engaged in problem solving, decision-making, and policy development. In other words, individuals should be involved in the decisions that affect them.

2. COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY FOR COMMUNITY BUILDING: Individuals and communities have a collective responsibility to help support the care and wellbeing of others. This manifests itself in a belief that government can’t pay for everything that is deemed to be a priority in a community as they are simply one of many partners.This also demands the sharing and distribution of leadership and power. As one elected official put it during the retreat, “My job is to unleash the passion and get out of the way”.   

3. INTEGRATED SYSTEMS: Trusted networks and strong, sustainable, integrated delivery systems provide a much more efficient and effective range of support and services in a community. Collaboration within and across the business, government and social profit sectors is essential.

4. DIVERSITY: Diversity is valued and respected. Differences involving ability, ethnic origin, religion, culture, lifestyle and beliefs are valued and viewed as contributing to enriched communities.

5. CREATIVITY: Creativity is valued and nurtured. At the heart of a strong quality of life is the freedom to innovate and create effective systems that nurture the creativity of individuals and groups.

6. SUSTAINABILITY: Sustainability of our natural and built environment is at the core of a high quality of life. Protection and preservation of natural resources, diverse habitats, and cultural assets demands a consistent culture of stewardship.

7. RECREATION, HERITAGE, ARTS AND CULTURE: recreation, heritage, arts and culture are recognized as being integral to social, economic and community well-being and as such are assigned priority in public policy.

8. A BRAND OR PERSONALITY: thriving communities are those that have placed a priority on something that makes their community unique or special. It is that special something that instills community pride, and is what citizens would miss the most if they were to move away.


9. STRONG COMMUNICATION: A variety of communication vehicles must be utilized to ensure citizens are engaged and to keep them informed about issues, opportunities, and local decisions. 

10. STATUS QUO ISN’T GOOD ENOUGH: Accepting a community that is less than it has the potential to be just isn’t good enough. As a result there is a commitment to being proactive, building on existing assets, and to ongoing continuous growth and development.

As responsible citizens we all need to be thinking about our community values and how each of us can ensure they are applied. It will be especially important this fall, as candidates gear up for local elections, to ask them about their values and how they plan to apply them if elected. After all, while having values is clearly important, they lack meaning unless they are put into practice. Regardless, whether we live or lead during the best or worst of times, values provide perspective.

Posted on 05-16-10


Brenda, I love the wonderful way you articulated and interpreted the thoughts and beliefs shared by the leaders at the Retreat.  My favourite value is CITIZEN ENGAGEMENT: individuals should be involved in the decisions that affect them.

•Posted by Barb Pedersen  on  05/17/10  at  10:04 AM

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