A-Class Community Builder

Q. For those who would like to engage in community service, what does it mean to be a community builder/ developer?

It means that your job is to bring people together around a common interest or a common goal, hold the space for people and be willing to step back and let the community make decisions. It’s not about you – it’s about us.

Q. You volunteered with Dreamcatcher Mentoring programme where you mentored northern youth, what do we need to do as a community to support disadvantaged groups?

The first thing and one that permeates our culture is to stop thinking first about the negatives, or the barriers people face – the ways that people are “disadvantaged”. We need to learn to see the gifts that people have – the skills, talents, and passions they have and do our best to help people build on and share those.

I’ll give the example of some of the people we work with at Facile Waterloo Region. Our job is not to focus on a disability that someone might have, but on who they are and what they have to share with their community. And the people we serve are amazing! There are so many people with interesting talents, skills, and gifts. If we just focus on the disability, we would lose sight of the amazing people we get to interact with.

Q. You have some interesting views about social profits, how can we identify and quantify such profits?

The very way that we as a society quantifies anything – through money – is short-sighted. We think too short term, and we focus too much on the financial bottom-line.

As an example, if we looked at investing in community gardens, it might look like a waste of money. Gardening is inefficient compared to large-scale farming, so let’s invest in that instead.


But when we think like this – short-term, single bottom-line, we don’t think about the spinoffs – community gardens bring neighbours together, provide organic produce for people who may not have regular access to it, they give people exercise, and make good environmental use of land. The make people and environments healthier, which might save us money in health costs down the road. Plus people are happier, and our environment is better.

If we could get everyone thinking about a triple-bottom-line – financial, social, and environmental – we would think very differently about how we organise our society.

Q. You have started the Waterloo Region Community Developers Network, what was your vision when you started the network and what is your strategic goal that you wish to reach?

It started with a little breakfast. I had bumped into a few other community-minded people at events, and we kept saying that we should get together and catch up. We never did.

So I invited a dozen or so people to a “Community Developers Breakfast” so that we could catch up. It was a hit, and we’ve been holding them every month since, with new and interesting people coming out each time. There’s no agenda – we’re just holding the space so that people can connect.

After a while, it morphed online into a Facebook group so that people could share initiatives throughout the month.

What’s the future of it? It’s whatever you – the community – wants it to be!

Q. How fatherhood changed your life? 
Well, it’s certainly changed sleeping habits in our home! Our daughter is closing in on 5 months old and we are just so in love with her. It’s changed things in the obvious ways of requiring more attention at home, but also in less anticipated ways: first, I’m more cautious about booking a meeting or a commitment in the evening or on weekends. I have kept up a schedule for years now where I work through the day and whether it’s work or volunteering, I would often have commitments after the usual workday. Now I am more guarded with this time, not because I should be home, but because I want to be home. I miss her during the day and can’t wait to get home and see her! The other thing that has changed is my mindset in my paid, volunteer, and community work. I’ve always been doing this work to contribute towards a better community, but now I have an even more personal stake in it – creating a better community for her. There is a Greek proverb that I love and have tried to make as a personal touchstone in my work: “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” I hope that my work in some way plants trees that cast shade on a sunny day in her future.



Originally posted 2016-04-25 17:56:06.

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