"I love the new Mahone Bay playground. It says to me, "families are welcome to live here!" It's the Mahone Bay equivalent of a neon sign inviting people like me to settle. My wife and I have three kids and have chosen to stay in this area because of the community of young families who live here. I used to describe the phenomenon as "instacommunity" - we move into the area, add water, stir a bit and boom! - community.
Therefore, it was with a mixture of sadness and exasperation that I heard the story from the Mahone Bay mayoral debates. At the debates one of the candidates said he did not want Mahone Bay to become a "grey haired ghetto" to which the reply from one audience member was "what's wrong with a grey haired ghetto?" The room of around 150 people dissolved into laughter, apart from the small group of parents who had managed to find babysitters and came to participate in the event ..." Read the full article here
I recently found this in my diaries from 13 years ago. The year I moved to Nova Scotia.
“The world is not going to get better. The current global chaos is going to increase. The madness we see now will only continue to escalate, I suspect until we hit a massive ecological crisis. I believe human intervention has gone too far globally to be remedied - the battle is lost. The opposite of despair is not hope for me; the opposite of despair is action.
Nova Scotia works for me as a place to begin this new action in my life. It is on the fringes of the madness; what has infected so much of the world has not really hit Nova Scotia yet. It still has slowness and simplicity in its nature. When a pond unfreezes, it is the edges that melt first. I believe that as the world descends further into chaos, that we will need places which hold good human wisdom and practice.”
It felt a bit strange to read it to be honest. It does feel to me like the chaos has only increased over the lat 13 years: the number of ecological disasters, increased economic uncertainty, massive social unrest, the breakdown of trust between citizens and governments, corporate greed running rampant … you don’t need me to continue the list!
That got me to thinking about why Nova Scotia is such a great place to be. In the midst of all this madness we can watch from the edges and make our own decisions. It is like we are part of it but not fully in it all. Thank goodness. More from my diary:
Latest column in the local paper ... "I find myself in this constant tension between wanting to name some of the underbellies of the challenges facing our rural communities and simultaneously wanting to blow the loudest and most positive horn possible to attract people, business and progress."
My Mum and Dad were just over from England and we took them to the Nova Scotia International Tattoo on Canada Day. I had one of those straight up heart bursting “I’m proud to be Nova Scotian” moments. The MC, in the beginning, was getting everyone from different regions of Canada and parts of the world to cheer to show they were there. When he asked Nova Scotians to cheer, the roof was raised and I found myself unreservedly cheering too.
This is some excerpts from my latest column in the local paper and the second in a two part series on 'tough conversations for change'. You can read the first one here. You can read the full article on the Lighthouse NOW Progress Bulletin website. I have really enjoyed the calls, emails and comments I have received from these articles. I encourage us all to continue the conversations and allow what we learn from each other to change how we act.
In my last column I talked about the break down of trust in decision makers and the unintended racism that creates unwelcoming communities. This time, I would like to open up conversations around gender inequality and the distribution of power and wealth on the South Shore. I am inviting these conversations not because I think they are divisive but because I believe that by talking about these issues we become more authentically connected across our differences. It is not our differences that are the problem it is our disconnect. The more connected we become the more capable we will be as a region to rise to our collective challenges and opportunities.
Here we go then - let’s dig in:
Usually I put a video up with the posts of my newspaper column. These thoughts are a direct follow on of thoughts from a recent video blog I did with Tuesday Ryan Hart about Systems Change and Social Justice. In this column I apply what we covered there at the high level to my thinking about my local community. Get ready to dig into the need for tough conversations in our closest relationships, unintended racism, and the breakdown of trust in government. You can read the column on the Lighthouse NOW website - or better yet get a subscription!
It is time for tough conversations which address the root causes for our current circumstances in Lunenburg County. If we don’t break the silence on fundamental issues we run the risk of making changes to current systems that make no real difference. All of our change efforts could be more like moving the deck chairs on the Titanic - they keep us busy but we still hit the iceberg. Let’s start having the kind of conversations that make us nervous, that is how we know they are worthwhile. Discomfort is a sign that we are doing something new, comfort means the status quo ways of thinking reign supreme.
I think they are personal conversations to have in the day to day of our lives. That is where real change happens. We must engage each other in our homes, cafes, pubs, during car drives or when out for a walk. Although I do not believe that breaking silence necessarily creates change, I do believe it is a pre-condition. If we cannot engage deeply with our current reality, it is unlikely we will be able to transform it and build a future that works for our kids and grandchildren.
I will talk about two of these core issues in this column and two in the next. I have included some questions to get our conversations going. This month, I talk about the break down of trust in decision makers and unwelcoming communities. In next month’s column I will talk about gender inequality and the distribution of wealth and power. I am sure there are other issues in our region - the purpose of this is to provoke conversation, rather than be a definition of what is important.
"If we want to get through change and not just be victims of circumstance, we are going to have to rise to the challenge. The natural humility of people who live in our region is one of the obstacles we face in the challenges of our declining economy, aging demographic and risk-averse decision-making culture."
This is my latest monthly column in the local newspaper. A short video blog introduce this months column followed by an excerpt below. Read the full column online here or even better get a subscription to Lighthouse NOW!
If we want to get through change and not just be victims of circumstance, we are going to have to rise to the challenge. The natural humility of people who live in our region is one of the obstacles we face in the challenges of our declining economy, aging demographic and risk-averse decision-making culture.
I went to see Billy Bragg play in Halifax a few years ago. It was a great show. I have been watching Billy Brag perform in all kinds of venues since I was about 14 years old. He gets the audience all riled up with his rants and brings some good tunes into the mix. His history of punk music combined with traditional folk makes him a unique mix of modern revolutionary and lineage holder. At one point he asked the audience what they wanted, a Bob Dylan song or a Carpenters song. The lights went up in the auditorium and people put their hands up to vote.
Then he stopped playing the Carpenters and sang the Bob Dylan song all the way through!
I have gone back to that experience a lot in the last couple of weeks. It captures something cultural for me. What is it going to take to get us mobilized? How bad does it need to be for us to rise up, take the bull by the horns and start getting change done en masse? What is a vision of the future that we would all want to strive for and be proud of?
I don't mean vision that we have to get to - but something to motivate us to move from here. We don't need a milestone that we measure ourselves against to find out if we did a good or bad job. We need something that invigorates our citizens, educators, local government and business leaders into collective action. An aspiration that sets collective direction.
For me, this is population growth. I can see a future of schools full of kids, a culturally-diverse community and brimming economy driven by local people's actions. That is what keeps me motivated day to day. I can see it happening within the next 10 years. I can see the seeds of it already underway right now in our communities.
What if we swapped audacity for humility?
What would we do if we were not afraid?
Here's the video to go with the latest Change Ahead column for the local paper! You can read the full article on the Lighthouse Now website . This one is focused around the need for regional strategies to support localized change efforts. It is not enough to have change leaders making it happen in their own areas of influence - there must be broader strategies to support the overall effort for transformation. This is as true for region as it is for a company or system. Enjoy the video and article and catch you soon ...
It is time we begin to think together as a region. We cannot continue to encourage people to lead change without putting in place the regional infrastructure to support them. We run the risk of our community organizers, small entrepreneurs and local change-makers burning out.
I am excited to be starting a monthly column in the local newspaper LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin. This is the first instalment. I will do a short video blog to accompany the column each month. This month focuses on what we need be able to lead and work in the midst of change - build relationships, let go of control and know yourself. Enjoy the video and see an excerpt of the column below - follow the link to the Lighthouse site for the full article.
I have the exciting and often daunting honour of working with people who are going through major change that feels beyond their control. That is generally when I get a call. This ranges from large corporate institutions and governments to community driven organizations and loose local collaboratives. My work takes me across the Province, throughout North America and every now and then over to Europe and beyond.
One thing is clear to me. Change means things get chaotic. It’s the nature of it. Change means we are encountering and doing things we have not done before ...
READ THE FULL COLUMN ON THE LIGHTHOUSE NOW WEBSITE ...
This blog post has been provoked by conversations with friends, colleagues and current events. There is an accompanying op-ed piece in the LightouseNOW Progress Bulletin: Welcome refugees for their benefit and ours
The accompanying op-ed piece in this weeks paper (read the full article on the lighthouse now website):
The refugee crisis in Europe is the largest movement of people since the aftermath of world war two. From 1946 – 1962 Canada admitted nearly a quarter of a million refugees. Yet here we are faced with a disaster of similar size and we are not taking in the numbers despite the Ivany report and multiple other channels of research on our economy telling us we need to take 7,000 annually.
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