By Dave Lamie
Creating a quality life for ourselves, our families, and our communities is at the heart and soul of our existence as community developers. Our Principles of Good Practice speak to these values that we all share and it is these values that draw us, a community of members, together so that we can find ways to do more and better than what we can muster alone. Further, our values speak to not only the mere fact that we need to work together to achieve great things for ourselves and others; they also speak to certain qualitative aspects of our coming together; inclusion of all who have a stake in outcomes, the use of quality information coming from multiple sources, minority voices being heard…and considered, and advocacy for those without a voice. We have a certain faith in the prospect that it is not merely the individual, but collections of individuals who bind themselves together in reciprocal relationships that, when push comes to shove, transcend the interests of the individual, while still respecting individual autonomy. The art and science of community development.
These values are seldom easy to live out, and we often fall short of our ideals. Dominant cultures that can exist in both the communities of place and interest often work against these principles. We are likely fooling ourselves if we think we can exercise our principles while working with communities when we do not practice them consistently with our friends, family, and colleagues. Some of us surely do better than others when measured in absolute terms. But, isn't it more important to know that we are all on a path toward improvement, no matter where we find ourselves on the path? I buy into that idea.
In order to know where we are on our journey toward becoming our better principled selves in this fast-paced world, we need to find the time and space to be reflective enough to better understand what path we are on and in which direction we are heading. Communities need this, too! That is why one of the fundamental questions of planning is "Where Are We Now?" --- the reality check. This question precedes "Where Do We Want to Be?" and "How Do We Get There?", perhaps for good reason. For some individuals, this might mean lengthy silent retreat settings while others might find this respite over their own cook stove or by taking in an art exhibit. We hope that CDS helps to facilitate and nurture this reflective process by serving as a gathering place for kindred spirits who are on a journey of discovering how they can most effectively bring about positive change in their world.
In a few years, CDS will reach its half century mark. In a few days, I will beat her to this milestone. Perhaps that is why I am in this reflective mood and so encouraging others to be as well. Perhaps it is because the CDS Board will be engaging in some strategic planning at our fall meeting and I'm just trying to get in the mood. Perhaps it is just the coming of Autumn.
Whatever the reason, I find myself in this frame of mind, I would like to encourage those of you who attended to 2014 conference in Dubuque, to reflect upon your experience, and help us to learn how to put on even better events going forward by completing our online conference survey. Finally, I hope that you all will begin to make plans for the 2015 conference in Lexington, KY so that we can once again come together to reflect, share, and figure out how to propel ourselves along our individual and collective paths.