Community of Conversations – Character Community Foundation of York Region
I attended the Annual General Meeting for the Character Community Foundation of York Region a few days ago. I was very taken with the speech given by Pier Giorgio di Cicco, poet laureate for the City of Toronto. Until attending this meeting I felt rather ambivalent (skeptical) about the Character movement that school boards, municipalities, community groups and business sector groups seemed to be embracing.
I was ambivalent because I never felt that talking about these character traits would bring about change. Now I see that it’s not so much the character trait words but the conversations that embody the change process as individuals evolve as people of character, for better or worse. By talking and celebrating character we can bring more to life the qualities that make us more generous and benevolent as humans. I also understood that by shifting the language more to character conversations, we can address deep systemic issues that keep us stuck in negativity.
What I learned was that the Character Foundation of York Region is doing some very incredible work, namely facilitating all citizens of York Region to think about themselves and the community in more supportive and sustainable ways. This work is not easy as it calls for a switch or reversal in attitude about how we relate to each other as humans beings and how we choose to work together to make a healthy, friendly and open community.
Pier Giorgio di Cicco spoke eloquently about the work of the Character Foundation and how important it is to continue promoting character traits if the community of York Region is to evolve towards its greatest potential and possibility. Forces of fear, doubt, uncertainty, superficiality, non engagement are pitted against the positive qualities that we as citizens all posses but so often are buried beneath our anxieties.
There was a few comments that I disagreed with. There was the usual railing against technology as one of the causes of people’s disengagement from civic life. My view is that technology greatest contribution is it’s potential for bringing people together, who otherwise are cut off or left out of civic life as our world is transformed by changes brought about by the social web (i.e. media, marketing, sales, music, culture, non profits etc).
It was great to see some of the people that I’ve worked with closely and peripherally over the past few years. Just a few in attendance include: Cathy Wilkenson – Georgina Transit; Una Wright – YouthSpeak; Stephen Rensink – YRDSB; John Havercroft – LeaderImpact Group (formally YRDSB); Steve Hinder – Youth Justice Committee of York Region; Tim Jones – former Aurora Mayor/community member; Daniele Zanotti – United Way of York Region; Janet Rurak – Executive Director, Character Community Foundation of York Region.
I hope to have video from Pier’s speech soon. In the meantime here he is talking on TVO about critical factors that make up a healthy community.