Wake Him Up – Would You? Community Engagement Always a Challenge

community engagement

Lecturing or public speaking is fun as long the audience is not leaving the room or snoozing. During my early university studies, I remember this one lecture I had to attend. The professor used scare tactics to engage students in his class. This course wasn’t just a matter of writing tests and assignments, it was a matter of being engaged in every class and attending every class. We had to be prepared for each lecture and we had to be prepared to answer challenging questions. The engagement worked. Class was always full and awake. Every one sat up straight. But one day someone had to malfunction.

Hey you, sitting close to the sleeping guy’ – prof yelled from the front of the class.
Yes’ – the student replied.
Wake him up, would you?’ – prof asked the student.
You put him to sleep, you wake him up’ – the student replied fearlessly immediately blaming the prof.

Remarkably our prof woke the snoozing student up and we all had a good laugh afterwards.

I am not in support of injecting fear to create an engaging environment; however, deep down I know that our prof cared and he wanted us to succeed. He felt it was his responsibility, but was his technique the right way to go? Perhaps, this is something to think about – too much discipline suppresses one’s creativity.

I had many opportunities to speak publicly in the past during my university studies, at work and few times for fun. I have always been successful keeping my audience awake and engaged. I had a few techniques that always worked. However, recently I have done more blogging than speaking and I am beginning to think that these two may work great together with my community engagement project – community FOCUS.

“Towns do not build communities, people do.”

In the past few months I came to the realization that something went wrong with my community FOCUS community engagement project – it lacked engagement. It’s been two years since my community FOCUS community blog was presented to the community. Sensing a slow death in the public’s eyes, I have been banging my head on the kitchen counter for about two years generating ideas on how I can make this project work. No physical or mental injuries were sustained. Perhaps I had too many ideas and the community site became a bit too complex for some to absorb. Perhaps I put too many limits. Perhaps a business element was not what people wanted. Perhaps the site was lacking originality and perhaps I, Anna, was still hiding in the background.

I have not given up though. Even though for many years I have been moving around the town there was still very little I knew about our community, about the politics, art, music, history and many other things. Perhaps I needed to explore more, and I did – I encountered control, competition, rigidity, ego and vanity. This is not the way to exercise leadership, every good leader knows that torches are meant to be passed on. The beauty is that our community is abundant in beautiful, fun and lovable citizens that would like to have fun and make their place a better place to live.

Times are changing. Blogging is making its comeback. Blogging is an integral part of the business model for any organization out there. I am telling you though, the community FOCUS may have died in the public eyes but in my view this project is just having new beginnings and kicking strong. My plan of attack is to be simple.

“Through heart felt stories we are compelled to give back more to the community. Through critical thinking and sharing ideas we are creating a sustainable community. When we are sharing we are in fact a caring community.”

My model for the community FOCUS has been simplified. The site’s purpose is to engage our community via creative and critical writing. Writing about politics, history, art, music, nature – writing to learn, writing to connect, writing to engage, writing to contribute ideas and writing to have fun. I have also found out that being alone is not fun, just like the thought that we are alone in the whole universe. Therefore, let us have fun and learn about and from other surrounding communities as well.

Let’s see if we can break out of the shell and have some fun and be creative. I am going to lead and encourage you to join me and embrace the concept of writing that engages. I am prepping my fingers to type. I am getting my feet ready to wander again and getting my face out there to get to know people in our community and those surrounding. Yes, you people and fellow citizens are integral to the community engagement concept. Towns do not build communities, people do.

I am ready to be a story teller and a critic – let’s learn from each other.

Anna Lozyk Romeo, Editor’s Notes
Aurora, ON

[1] Photo by Shahram Nassir. Copyright 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Community Engagement, Community, community FOCUS
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