Nest City News - You are the city

Published: Tue, 02/18/14

Hi -
In the last week I have killed my computer with 1/4 teaspoon of liquid and travel plans thrown to the wind with a storm that arrived in Charlottetown last night. My 6 am Friday departure was delayed to Sunday night. The travel angels around me include all the folks that panicked and drove off the island, leaving room for me on airplanes that were clear for takeoff in the end. I am getting home much later than planned, but yet so much earlier than it could have been. And I got a good night's sleep. 

This edition of Nest City News is about citizens engaging themselves. Sometimes we tell ourselves that what needs to be fixed is up to others to fix. Sometimes it is, but many times its not. It's a default setting worth checking.
Beth Sanders

February Events

Cultivating Leadership
Sparking Innovation
Design Advisor, Speaker

Canadian Association of Planning Students Conference

February 6-8, 2014
TIFF Lightbox
Toronto, Canada


Collaborating in Complexity - Navigating the Systems of Community
Advanced Training Workshop 

Federation of Canadian Municipalities Sustainable Communities Conference

February 11-13, 2013
Charlottetown, PEI


The Georgetown Case

Federation of Canadian Municipalities Sustainable Communities Conference

February 12, 2013
Charlottetown, PEI

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Citizens choose to engage

When Pam Moody was elected mayor of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia 15 months ago, she was inundated with demands to fix things: "The town should do this, you should do that." She could see the difference between a pity party in a struggling town, and a town that stood up to look after what needed to be done. Her response:


Citizens choose to engage and sometimes they need to be told when they are not. Just the right person - like Pam - can do this. 


Jim Mustard, deputy warden of the County of Inverness, Nova Scotia, is driven by his passion for children. His passion has led to an exploration of early childhood development and how our brains develop because we spend time together. In our communities, he sees lost opportunities for us to grow and develop when we place experts at the front of the room and we remain alone and in silos. We are not creating new structures in our brains to build connections with each other that will allow us to be more resilient - and create communities that serve us in the best ways possible. We don't talk about what binds us - we sit and listen.


Paul McNeil, publisher of Island Press Ltd. followed his passion to create a place for Atlantic Canada's rural communities to find local solutions. He brought people like Pam and Jim to Georgetown, Prince Edward Island, to tell stories and notice what works. They did not sit and listen to a few experts; they explored the stories in the room and they are changing the face of rural communities.

What work is your city calling you to do?

I met Pam, Jim and Paul as moderator for a session at this week's Federation of Canadian Municipalities' Sustainable Communities Conference and Trade Show in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. (Here's the coverage in the local paper.)

To replicate the Georgetown Experience, which was all about connecting people and supporting the development of new relationships, we began with their quick story of Georgetown, then we asked everyone in the room to dig  into the panel's stories and tease out the story behind the story.

Our little FCM community built connections with each other they would not have if we would have stayed in the "sage on the stage" patten. They also proved that there is significant expertise everywhere in the room - in the community.

When citizens are engaging themselves, here's what's happening, according to our pop-up community:

  1. Bring your best self - leave the negative at the door
  2. Tell stories
  3. Pursue unusual partnerships
  4. Take action - don't worry about the specifics
  5. Trust that people want to contribute
  6. Trust that people want to take responsibility
  7. Offer minimal structure
  8. Practice working with each other - commit to meeting more than once
  9. Get together - bust the silos
  10. Pause to look at what's really going on, the macro

As Pam, Jim and Paul reflected on the session, they all noticed that people are started for leadership, but its not leadership from elected officials thats missing. Its the leadership of people standing up to say:


Only you are holding yourself back.

As you ponder this, here are some hot tips for city organizers. Since our work is what makes our communities and cities the places we need and want, here are some tips to do the work you want

Everything is connected to everything

Everything is connected to everything

so learn to suffer

and choose to grow

choose how to grow

choose to explore consequences

for you

and us

take risks

forget floating

choose to swim.