Members of Calgary’s Metro Alliance for the Common Good (MACG – Calgary) are using community organizing to tackle issues together in the city at the root causes through shared power. This year, the two focus work areas are reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and supporting seniors.
MACG has 17 member organizations (representing several thousand members) from various sectors including faith, labour, non-profits, education and community organizations. So that they can be free to tackle the issues that matter most to their communities, members own the alliance, contributing to its financial sustainability and leadership.
“There is a growing desire for people to work together on issues,” says Ryan Andersen, MACG’s lead organizer.
“It is amazing to see how transformative it is when people begin to build real relationships across diversity,” he notes. “We live in a culture that emphasizes the private life and our separateness but there is something about who we are as human beings that comes alive when we actually take responsibility for the common good and enter into relationships that build that common good.”
Last year, community leaders held a listening campaign where they listened to the pressures and hopes of citizens. Five areas rose from those conversations. Last October, 48 leaders from across Calgary representing the city’s diversity and the power present in the alliance gathered for a discernment assembly and held a vote to determine MACG’s areas of focus. Reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and supporting seniors formed two research action teams, with economic pressures and mental health being a close third.
The reconciliation work has four co-chairs, three of whom are Indigenous, and who will be engaging in conversations with Indigenous leaders and other people in the community to ask about the pressing, concrete and specific issues that need to be addressed to move into a new relationship of partnership. The group will also look to understand the history and effects of residential schools, where Indigenous relations are now, what is happening in the city, and then determine a specific area to tackle.
The seniors work group has been meeting with seniors and people caring for seniors. They have been hearing about how many seniors are isolated, how simple supports can help seniors stay in their homes and the importance of shifting our perspective so that we begin to see seniors as elders who need to remain integrated into our communities.
Previously, MACG created Calgary’s Interfaith Council, originally to bring faith leaders together to address poverty and contributed to the city’s Poverty Reduction Strategy. The council has recently amalgamated with other interfaith groups, and will be working on social justice work through MACG.
“That comes out of the understanding it is important to bring together the faith communities to engage public life, but we are also in an age where this needs to be done with the community and not just for the community,” Ryan says. The first step is building relationships, then build a shared commitment to work together and listen together, and then create action together.
MACG is looking to grow to 40 member organizations in order to be formally founded. Listening and discerning processes are integrated into its ongoing work.
The leaders of MACG are working to see people come together and form real relationships that “give ordinary citizens a means by which they can become public leaders.” In five years,they hope members can reflect on an area of impact. “(My hope is) five years from now we can say we tackled this (issue) and we made a significant difference and none of us could have done that on our own, and say wow, that was fun.”