Anyone can act to change the world for the better, using the tools, skills, education and resources they have right now.
“It’s about people making new choices,” says architect and ‘placemaker’ Mark Lakeman, a leader in the development of sustainable public places in the U.S. and Canada. “Community building is a consciousness project. Consciousness can actually shift to a place with such joy that it really is irrepressible.”
Based in Portland, Oregon, Mark was the main speaker at a half-day workshop, Building Resilient Communities: Thriving in the Face of Uncertainty, held at CommunityWise Resource Centre in Calgary on March 4th. Attended by approximately 40 people, the sold-out event was organized by Gaiacraft, a platform for ecological education, and City Repair Calgary (inspired by City Repair Project Portland), which fosters inclusive and sustainable communities through the creative reclamation of public space.
According to Mark, there are all kinds of things that people can do to make their communities stronger, more inclusive places. It could be anything from getting to know your neighbors, to holding a potluck; putting in a little free library or a bench on your street; or planting flowers to attract bees and other pollinators. “You build community simply by getting out together. These convivial gestures say a lot about who we are,” Mark says. “Animate the public realm so that others will find it more interesting. Even if it’s only one edge along a street, these kinds of actions can inspire other people, and society becomes stronger as a result. Your efforts will link up and reinforce the efforts of other people, to transform the community.
“Learn about others. Ask them questions.” For example, ‘What do you love, what are your passions, and what help do you need?’ Mark suggests. “Then problems become opportunity. Then you stop asking what the meaning of life is, because you’ve engaged.”
Much of what Mark’s work is about, is encouraging people to activate themselves, and each other, from a place of connection and inclusion, says Kym Chi, a workshop organizer as well as a presenter. “Mark’s goal is to move people from a place of fear into a place of empowerment. Starting small creates trust in a community,” she says. “From there, your community can start to build strength and resiliency.”
Workshop co-organizer Lindsay Meads adds that the organizers’ goal in bringing Mark to Calgary was to act as a catalyst. “We wanted to bring a little bit of outside inspiration into the community, and provide solutions-oriented examples of how other communities are addressing some of the big problems we’re facing, like how do we build resilient communities, deal with climate change, and foster inclusivity?” Lindsay says. “We’ve got an amazing city here in Calgary and many, many organizations that are doing great things in order to foster more resilient communities . . . There are easily accomplishable things we can do on a daily basis on both a personal and organizational level that can have a positive impact.”
And fellow workshop co-organizer Alla Guelber, founder and director of The Meaningful Work Project, which offers educational programs to support resilient ecosystems and a thriving local economy, says that whatever people choose to do, whether it’s working on a multi-year initiative or having a neighbor over for tea, will make a difference.
Co – created with Gaiacraft and City Repair Calgary
Supported by NewScoop Members