Healthy Communities – Coming Together as a Community to Solve Social Issues
I was recently interviewed by a local magazine and asked to write an article around the topic of “Healthy Community projects”. I shared an incomplete draft version of the article with friends and colleagues, asking for feedback and suggestions. When I shared this draft with my colleagues in San Francisco, Guernsey, and New Zealand, this is what I received:
- Dr. Lissa Rankin (San Francisco)
- Great article, Ken. I think the Call to Action IS gathering community. That’s the first step. Once people unite, there may be some time that we spend in what Charles Eisenstein calls “the space between stories,” when one story is over and the other has yet to make itself clear. This time between stories is uncomfortable. We’ve been trained to skip it, to rush straight into the solution, even if we don’t yet know the solution. But that expends energy, often energy focused in futile directions. Community gathering facilitates the change process, hastens the time in the space between stories, and helps us trust that when the time is right, if there is inspired action to be taken, we will recognize it and have the courage to act- together.
- Marc Winn (Guernsey)
- I couldn’t agree more Ken. Nice article. Never let the need for a plan get in the way of standing up to take on something bold. I love your take on consciousness as part of this. I recently came to the same conclusion and was quoted the same square root of 1% figure. … There are also some great announcements to come from our community in the coming months.
- Dr. Robin Youngson (New Zealand, volunteering on similar project in Louisville, KY)
- I was particularly struck by two of your ideas, neither of which I have heard put so succinctly: that if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change; and that if we replace the “I” with “we” we change from illness to wellness – how true! It’s wonderful to be having these deep conversations with thought-leaders around the world. Thanks so much for your excellent article.
I don’t have all the answers, yet I know that coming together is the answer.
Here’s the article:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead
There are a lot of social issues that affect our communities today. Mental illness, physical disease, and global warming are but a few of the ones that seem to affect us all. They’re big problems, and it often seems like they are so big that there’s nothing that anyone can do to solve the problems. It’s very easy to be lulled into the belief that we are too small to make a difference.
But what if? What if we decided to look at these issues as a community and meet them head on? What would that look like? We wouldn’t have all the answers overnight, it would take a while to figure out potential solutions. We’d bring people together. We’d listen to each other. We’d try a few ideas. Some of them would work right away and some wouldn’t. Some would get tweaked as we learned more. Ideas would come up that we never even thought about when we first began looking at the idea.
Creating a Healthy Community is NOT about having all the answers today, it is about pulling together in a common goal. The magic happens when the team comes together, recognizing the Greater Good, the Greater Whole. There are answers to every question that is going through your head, even if we don’t know them just yet.
What is a community? Any collection of people can be classified as a community. And any community, any collection of thoughtful committed citizens, can make a difference. In his book The Divine Matrix, Gregg Braden states: “The minimum number of people required to ‘jump-start’ a change in consciousness is the square root of 1% of a population.” In Burlington, with a population of 175,799 (from the 2011 census), that amounts to 42 people. Do you still feel like you are too small to make a difference? I believe it will take a change in consciousness, a change in awareness, a change in the way we look at the problems, in order to make a difference. And I’m encouraged by the possibilities for change that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens could make.
The Big Problems
What do you see as the big problems that are affecting people within our communities today? I’m sure everyone has their own list and many would prioritize their items differently. For me, the list includes a number of items, many of which are interconnected:
- Health and Wellness – with increasing incidence of cancer, autism, allergies, autoimmune diseases, etc, it seems like everyone is either sick or knows someone close to them that is. Our current healthcare system tends to focus on diagnosis and treatment of the physical body, but isn’t quite as focused on identifying potential root causes such as diet, stress, emotional well being, and others.
- Mental Health – there is also increasing identification and awareness of both mental illness and mental health. While there is still work to do, great strides are being made in this area.
- Food – as different types of illness and disease are on the rise, there is an increased awareness and questioning of the food supply. As more and more of the food that we eat is processed, manufactured with GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and additional chemical additives, the links between food and illness are being examined and debated.
- Pesticide Use – there is an increasing belief that the herbicides and pesticides that are in use to control weeds and pests are contributing to illness as well as having a devastating effect on beneficial insects such as bees and butterflies. As bees are responsible for pollinating upward of 30% of the food we eat, the radical decline in bee populations is raising a lot of concern.
- Global Warming – this is certainly a topical discussion around the world
Each of the problems is big, and it’s pretty easy to feel that any of us is too small to make a difference in any of them. But I come back to the phrase “square root of one percent”, and I choose to think differently.
It’s Not a Fight
As I step back and look at the problems, I see a lot of Big company involvement. There are Big insurance companies, the Big Oil industry, Big pharmaceutical companies, Big chemical companies, and it’s easy to get mad at them and become activists against them. Yet even the largest companies that are seen as evil will present the case that they have a responsibility to shareholders, and if you’re a shareholder of that company you want the company to do well.
What do I see when I look at these Big companies? I see a collection of people. And I know that there are people within those companies that are sick, or have mental health issues. And I see a lot of people that need jobs in order to provide for their families. I also see a lot of people that don’t want to be part of the problem, they want to be part of the solution. And I also see a lot of people that think they are too small to make a difference. So I don’t see Big companies as Big companies, I see them as communities, I see them as collections of people.
We are all people. Regardless of where we work, if we work for the tobacco industry, the Big Oil industry, it doesn’t matter. We are still people. And when we’re mad at the Big companies, we’re mad at some of us. We’re mad at members of our own communities.
The Story of Ubuntu
An anthropologist had been studying the habits and customs of a tribe in Africa, and when he finished his work, had to wait for transportation that would take him to the airport to return home. He’d always been surrounded by the children of the tribe, so to help pass the time before he left, he proposed a game for the children to play.
He’d bought lots of candy and sweets in the city, so he put everything in a basket with a beautiful ribbon attached. He placed it under a solitary tree, and then he called the kids together. He drew a line on the ground and explained that they should wait behind the line for his signal. And that when he said “Go!” they should rush over to the basket, and the first to arrive there would win all the candies.
When he said “Go!” they all unexpectedly held each other’s hands and ran off towards the tree as a group. Once there, they simply shared the candy with each other and happily ate it.
The anthropologist was very surprised. He asked them why they had all gone together, especially if the first one to arrive at the tree could have won everything in the basket – all the sweets.
A young girl simply replied: “How can one of us be happy if all the others are sad?”
The anthropologist was dumbfounded! For months and months he’d been studying the tribe, yet it was only now that he really understood their true essence.
If We Change the Way We Look at Things, the Things We Look at Change
Every one of the problems that we see is something that has been created. They weren’t intended, they came as side effects of other actions. Many of the problems that we are seeing are interconnected. And if we look at things differently, we can also change them.
It all starts with a Call to Action. As a result of the Call to Action, people come together to tackle the problem. Initially, the problem may seem very big, possibly insurmountable. The answers are unclear, but eventually the idea gets traction, potential solutions are uncovered and a path gets laid. What was once impossible has shifted ever so slightly to being improbable, then eventually it becomes inevitable. Every answer (solution) comes at the end of a journey. The answers are never clear in the beginning, but there is progress every step of the way and contributions should be acknowledged and celebrated.
Everything we do creates a ripple. Everybody has a role but it’s not the same role. One person might simply be the encourager to the passionate, motivated neighbour, another might be an activist. Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something.
A Community Plan – Call to Action
I believe that the Call to Action for a community is far simpler than originally imagined. I personally believe that the rallying cry or theme of “Creating a Healthy Community” is all that is needed in order to get started. People come together when a common goal is recognized as something to strive for.
Want To Get Involved?
- You don’t have to have all the answers.
- Start the conversation.
- Don’t compare your chapter 1 to somebody else’s chapter 20.
- Remember that everyone has their own sh++ show.
- Love and accept every part of yourself, you are perfect even with your imperfections.
- Find your voice.
- Share your story.
When we replace “I” with “we”, even I-llness becomes We-llness
I’d love to hear from you. Reach out by email ([email protected]) and/or add a comment in the section below.
Namaste, and Espavo (thank you for stepping into your power)
Really thoughtful and action oriented! The messages we hear over and over are “aren’t you so stressed out?” “aren’t you feeling disconnected?” By coming together as a community on a small, local scale we can feel more connected, less stressed when we realize we can share the burden and lighten the load. The problems facing the planet are big, no doubt. But it’s not an all-or-nothing to right the sinking ship. Start where you are with the resources you have available and know that making a difference and making a change in your life will ripple out into the world. The solutions are there and we will implement them – together! Peace.
Awesome feedback, thanks Amanda.