Category Archives: Kootenay Life

What would a family friendly community meeting look like (besides noisy)?

family-support-group

Recently, I attended a public meeting held at the local community hall to share the latest findings from a city budget engagement process. While it would have been easier to go on my own, my husband was out of town and the only way I could attend (and show my support for our new council) was if I brought my children (a 2 year old and a 5 month old baby).

My biggest concern for this meeting was how to get everyone out of the house on time and what snacks to bring that wouldn’t create a mess (the time of the meeting crossed our dinner hour). Having worked in many countries around the world where children are integrated into all aspects of community life, I feel comfortable bringing my kids with me to most meetings. In fact, I just returned from three weeks working in Nepal with my son who was four months at the time. It had not crossed my mind whether we would be welcome (or not) at this meeting in our community hall.

For the most part people were quite helpful and nice. The facilitator had brought his young son, which helped set the tone of inclusiveness. That said there were no other children in the room. The turnout was likely the best ever for a budget meeting though it was demographically homogenous.

unnamed

Thankfully no one had to ‘sit silently’ through lengthy presentations. Most of the meeting was spent walking around talking to your neighbours about what was important to everyone for budget priorities. The facilitator was top-notch and everyone was on task.

After about an hour and half, the meeting closed with a sharing circle of fifty people. It was a nice touch however this is exactly when my baby started to get vocal. I wasn’t sure what to do as I had brought my double-wide stroller into the hall and the circle passed directly in front of the exit door. In addition I would have had to figure out how to open the double doors of the venue to get out (I had to seek help when I arrived earlier). Given it wasn’t a very formal meeting and we were in a community hall, I decided to wait. Besides, I wanted to hear what people had to say!

It didn’t take long before someone gave me a scowl and pointed to the door. I used the opportunity to quickly exit however I left feeling rather sad. I had put in a lot of effort to drag myself and these two young kids downtown to a budget meeting and was now being booted out?! At the same time, I didn’t want to ‘ruin’ the meeting for anyone due to my crying baby.

Once I finished feeling sorry for myself, I reflected on two things:

  1. Why is it important to have children (or diversity in general) at community meetings?
  2. What can community organizers do to make meetings more inclusive of families?

These are my thoughts.

  1. Having young people at meetings is important for many reasons:
  • When you walk into the room and see children, it changes the vibe for the better.
    • We speak differently to each other (often kinder)
    • We are more patient
    • The mood is lighter (a child’s smile can brighten even the most boring budget meeting)
  • It is a reminder of community diversity.
    • Different segments of community will have different priorities. For example, an arena or a skatepark might be a budget burden for some people however for children it may be their anchor to the community
  • Children often say things that adults feel uncomfortable saying (usually these things need to be said).
  • Seeing a child in the room is a helpful reminder that the impacts of decisions made today will be felt by young people in the future
  • Instilling a sense of civic engagement in our children is key to a healthy community for the long-term.
  1. Some ways we could make meetings more inclusive of families are:
  • Include family-friendly in the advertising.
    • This lets parents know its okay to bring children
    • This helps everyone attending (including those without kids) understand that it will be a noisy meeting (kids make noise)
    • Facilitators can plan for noise and use microphones to help ensure everyone is heard (for example during a circle discussion)
  • During the meeting introduction, remind people that we are planning for everyone in the community. All voices are respected including those of little people.
  • Use visuals and have opportunities for drawing (as opposed to only speaking and writing)
  • Choose meeting times that don’t interfere with meals and naps (i.e. finish by 5 or 5:30pm latest).
  • Provide healthy snacks for little people that are potentially missing dinner.
  • Provide child care so that parents can participate more effectively and children can easily be removed if the discussion is more serious.
  • If you ask a single parent with two kids to leave, at least help them to open the double doors so the stroller can get through quickly and quietly 🙂

Teaching our children to be civically engaged is important to sustaining healthy communities. I hope future community meeting participants embrace the noise!

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Blogging as Reflective Practice on this Sunny Monday Morning

I started this blog in 2007 as a way to keep in touch with a remote team while working in the field in West Africa. Over the years, I have found it very useful to reflect on my work, reflect on my learning and share interesting things that I’ve come across with the blogosphere.

Enjoying the Tien Shen Mountains July 2013.

Enjoying the Tien Shen Mountains July 2013

The last couple months have been quite the whirlwind after a relaxing summer focused on family and travel.  I gave two energizing facilitation workshops using visuals (a topic I love) and have been looking at the social impacts of a global mining company on one of their communities (really fascinating).  It’s been busy but nice to be working on subjects I care about that also contribute to making the world a better place (in my humble opinion).

I am now about to embark on a major shift in the way I work for the next 6 months.  I plan to test the boundaries of a knowledge worker by moving my office (computer + phone + brain) to Kathmandu, Nepal.  Much of the work I do requires 80% planning and 20% face-to-face.  Hence, I don’t really need to be chained to my desk in an office in Canada.  Some of the work I do is feasible from a desk in Kathmandu, for other projects I’ve recommended colleagues to take my place and I hope to make new contacts in Asia and work with them on national and regional projects.

While considering this idea of working from anywhere, I came across an advertisement for a very cool contract that could be based anywhere in the world.  This seemed to be a great opportunity to work on a topic I’m passionate about AND still be able to live in a developing country for a much-desired cross-cultural experience.  Even better, this would allow me to connect to networks in two different parts of the world (which I feel would enrich the work even more than I could from one location).   I put in a proposal and was very excited to be selected for an interview.  Wow – could this dream contract come to fruition?

Well, I spent the last few days preparing for the interview and got up at 5AM this morning, made my way to a local ‘HUB’ (shared office space you can rent for meetings) and had a phone interview with people from three different continents.  Despite my belief that I am definitely a fabulous candidate for the contract, I came away feeling that I had not quite rocked the interview.   While it’s all a bit up in the air, I am now reflecting on the process so I can learn from the experience and make sure that I rock future interviews! So I asked myself 3 questions: What did I do well? What could I improve on?  How to move forward with a positive frame of mind?

  1. What did I do well?  This is an important question as overall I am happy with the fact that I was selected for an interview amongst a global pool of candidates.  My written proposal was strong and I had a lot of experience to share.  I learned a lot about the subject matter through research online and I reconnected with several colleagues and networks around the world.  I had great conversations with a lot of great people while preparing my ideas for the interview. Preparation was very inspiring and got me excited about a potential future.
  2. What could I improve on?  Despite feeling a little blah after the interview, it’s helpful to understand why I felt this way and I have a few ideas.  The easiest thing to change in the future would be to do interviews at a reasonable hour, when all engines are fired up.  Waking up at 5AM and speaking to a group of strangers around the world via telephone was more challenging than I thought. I would have likely been more coherent and energetic with daylight and a few cups of coffee in the system.  In addition, while preparation is important, it’s equally important to listen carefully to the questions being asked.  Answers should be short and sweet (to the point).  At times, I found myself distracted by ideas I had prepared rather than speaking from the heart in the moment.  This took me on a few unnecessary tangents and I did not always deliver with confidence.  Lastly, unable to see body language and receive feedback was challenging for me as I am a conversationalist and enjoy the back and forth / group conversation rather than providing a monologue.  I could ask for SKYPE or FaceTime interviews in the future.
  3. How to move forward with a positive frame of mind? Now what?  It’s not over yet and I remain hopeful. Still, the process has taught me a few things about myself that I would like to work on in the future. The biggest one is the skill of improvisation.  Improv is a must-have for leadership, facilitation and interviews.  One of the first principles is to be prepared (which includes ‘warming up’, i.e. coffee,  sunshine and chit-chat for me).  While preparation is important, one also needs to ‘let go’ in the moment in order to be truly authentic and present. Another principle is willingness to fail and/or make mistakes as this means we are trying, taking risk and engaging with something new.  On this note, I definitely can I say I put in a good effort and am not afraid to try. There are several other principles but one for me to work on is to stay in the moment (as noted above, don’t be distracted by your prep in the interview).

It’s been helpful to reflect on my Monday morning, my experience and the future.  I am not sure what the year ahead holds however I’m certain it will be filled with fun, interesting, and meaningful experiences wherever I go.  These are exciting times and I’m happy to step out of my comfort zone, even if it is ‘uncomfortable’ (obviously!).

I’ll be sure to share a few updates from Kathmandu.

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Changing the landscape…

Visually Planning Using a Mind Map

Visually Planning Using a Mind Map

It’s fall in Canada and a season full of change.  The leaves change colour, the temperature cools and the wind picks up!  I love change and I love fall.  This year we are inspired to change our landscape and experience a different culture for a few months.  We rented our house and bought tickets to Kathmandu.  On the one hand it seems foreign and on the other hand it feels completely natural.

On the practical side of planning there is lots to do! The numerous lists I was creating to ‘get things done’ were getting lost in the piles of paper.  So, I took a step back and decided to think big.  I create a mind map on a central wall in the house and ensured the task list was visible.  I used a mind map because it allows space to continuously add things as they ‘pop up’.  I starting to check things off as they got accomplished.  Seeing the red checks and the map fill  is quite satisfying and calming despite the chaos of a big move.  The warm fall colours help me embrace the transition period.

With ten days to go, there is lots to do so I’ll write more from Nepal.  In brief, the plan is to set up a home office overseas and continue consulting.  I look forward to working on some projects in Asia and revisiting my international development roots.  We will see what the first few months bring and then adapt our course based on what we experience and learn.  It feels good to realize  a dream and truly test the boundaries of a mobile knowledge worker!  Keep in touch online 🙂

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Ode to Rossland

Rossland, B.C. image by freshots.ca, Steve Hilts

I work from a home office in this beautiful mountain town in southern British Columbia.  I recently wrote a post about feeling isolated so I thought it only right to also share why most of the time, I am grateful!  Here are 10 reasons why I love Rossland:

1. Rossland is a winter town – people come to town, walk the streets and are happier when it snows, including me!

2. One of the best ski hills in North America is a 3minute drive away or you can x-country ski there on the trail connecting town and the hill.  There are also 50 km of groomed x-country ski trails.

3. Ferraro Foods has everything a great grocer and health food store could supply.  Miso, chia seeds as well as the staples.

4. Affordable.  This is one of the few places young people can still buy a house.

5. Friendly people often stop to chat on the streets.

6. Gypsy at Red serves amazing high end food when you simply don’t feel like cooking.

7. Yoga, Spin Classes, Pottery…there are many extra curricular classes available.

8. Winter Carnival when the streets close to cars and fill with people, bonfires, bobsleds and rail jams.

9. A compact community where you can walk almost anywhere.

10. I met my husband here!

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Discover Your Passion

ImageDiscover Your Passion was one of the messages Christian Begin shared with a small yet captivated audience at Rossland Mountain Filmfest’s Journey of An Adverture Filmmaker.  Christian gave an animated account of his career from starting out in Quebec, then Rossland and on to the world stage of filmmaking with a recent dream accomplished by completing a film for National Geographic.  

There were plenty of good tips and stories shared.  The best part, as always, was the inspiration gained from those who follow their passions and realize their dreams.  Thank you to Christian for sharing your story with Rosslanders today and feeding our inspiration!  Thank you to KAST for supporting the workshop.

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Reflections of a home-based consultant living on the edge of the woods

“Be patient.  Good things come to those who wait.”

This is the Chinese fortune cookie wisdom I received Sunday night after eating out in a town nearby.  The town of 10,000 people is the hub of the region I live in which most likely has more trees, wildlife and clean running water than it does people.  Yes, I am feeling a little isolated.

My small town on the edge of the woods

I wonder if it’s the remote geography, working alone in my attic during the dark November days, or lack of strong professional networks to share the daily grind with.  Being patient is interesting advice as I have been thinking about my professional life lately and how I can enhance it from good to great as well as being less isolating.

For anyone that works on issues related to improving people, places and making positive change, you could imagine that doing this alone in your attic, mostly by typing into a computer box, could be a lonely place (despite my online friends – thank you friends 🙂 ).  Given that it’s a not so bad trade-off for living next to bears and powder skiing, I have been seeking advice lately to find that magical work-life balance.  Here are some of the nuggets that I plan to work on in the New Year:

–       Have a filter for work you take on.  Here are four criteria my inspiring colleagues at Bright Green Learning use: Impact, Creativity, Interesting, Learning.  I may add people/team to that list.

–       Network.  Go to conferences to meet people you want to work with and keep in touch with them.  This may mean dedicating two phone calls a day as follow up which is very possible (That is my brothers advice and he owns a successful HR magazine so I’ll take it).

–       Develop a local network of professionals who may also be looking for people to connect with.  I will use my community building experience to start this in 2012 with the domain being ‘professional development’ and the side benefits of deeper relationships and networking (this is an idea that has been on my mind since I moved here – time for action).

This is only the start to my 2012 ‘good to great’ list as my mind is burgeoning with ideas for connection, social media is at my finger tips and I should not forget my widespread community of friends, colleagues, alumni…who I should make more time to get in touch with.

Blogging is important to me as it is a place to reflect and share thoughts with others.  The professional world (even for someone living at the edge of the woods) has lots to offer.  So do I wait patiently for taking my professional life to the next level or work to make it happen?  Drop a line if you have a thought.  My top of mind response is that it will be a bit of both.

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Beyond Graphics…Our Love Journey Continues

Just Married...added after all the guests left and before the tear down. The flowers are my bouquet from the wedding.

Francois and I were married on Saturday, August 6th, 2011.  I used a graphic planning tool to help us see the big picture including all the events from start to finish.  Each week over a period of 5 months we checked off items on the list as we got closer to our wedding day.  The red pen was a valued item in our house!

Tonight we ensured that all boxed were checked, added a rainbow to symbolize our first dance “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and filled in the corner for ‘Just Married’.  The graphic has been a unifying symbol for staying on track and working together.  We know the journey will continue off the page 🙂

Our full wedding graphic August 10, 2011.

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