There has always been a good amount of citizen activity in the city of Kingston. But I’ve found that the mood has changed pretty dramatically as of late.
In general, the lack of good public information made widely available has created a plethora of independent blogs and the like – where a person can now air their opinions and thoughts on any given topic. That’s a good thing in theory. Unfortunately, there is a lot of poor fact finding and planning that now can be broadcast for all to read or hear. In the age of sound bites, it’s more important than ever to be thoughtful in what you provoke.
Over the past few months, I have had many different discussions with citizens who are concerned on subjects where citizen involvement is key. Crime (thank you Michael and Claudia D’Arcy), Taxes (thank you KURA), the Safety Net (thank you Mary Ann Parker), Food Security (thank you Diane Reeder), Children’s Programming (thank you YMCA, YWCA, CCE, the Boys and Girls Club and the Hodge Center to name a few), Comprehensive Planning and Term Limits (thank you….TBA) and more. Garbage Disposal, Recycling, Water Source Solutions, a Local Economy, Bike Paths and Safe Routes to Schools, Parks, Schools – you name it. There is no shortage of issues that need to be addressed.
Bombarded by problems and bad news, how does one begin the process of lending a hand to make productive changes? Here are a few tips:
1. Is there an effort already underway? Take a moment and reach out to others to learn if what is of concern to you is already in motion, than join and lift them. You are not alone, and there is no need to reinvent the wheel as they say.
2. Choose a topic that interests you and that needs reform. Lord knows, there are many and you are only one person with only so much time in a day who wishes to volunteer. Selecting a cause and contributing to a change no matter how small or large is a really big deal.
3. Investigate and get the facts. Learn what is at the very core of a problem and become familiar with it’s history and what options are available to make the greatest impact. This is the most important aspect in helping you to speak literately about the subject. There is a great wealth of information as to who leads what on the city of Kingston’s website. Find out who leads a committee, find out when they meet – and take a few months to frequent their meetings.
4. Devise a well thought out plan with others, being clear about what you are asking citizens and public officials to do to support the effort. When turning over stones, don’t be surprised to find opposition. That’s alright. Take that, and go back to item #2. Use all of what you find along the way to finesse your effort. It’s always a dance, and it is never linear.
5. Check in with yourself. Make sure that you are continually moving outward from an authentic place. How many times have you witnessed ones ego, desire, belief or emotions derail an entire effort in the long run? Too many I’m afraid.
6. Build trust by following through and stay the course. If you don’t do so intelligently, you risk losing the support that you initially had. Don’t give up, land the bird and trust that the outcome will be exactly what it needs to be.
7. It takes a village. Shining the light on a subject will most probably attract new ideas and better ways to proceed. ‘Saving the world’ is not the goal, really. Inspiring people to become active productively and to make their voices heard…IS.
Got further thoughts on the subject? Post them in the comment section of this blog post. Got questions as to who the best person might be to connect with on a matter that’s important to you? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org . I’ll be happy to connect you to the source if I can.
Thanks for stepping up to the plate, and the very best of luck in your endeavors.
- Rebecca Martin