This past week I had the privilege of taking part in the unveiling of the most recent Giants of Edmonton mural. I must say, unveiling a mural is not something I ever imagined that I would be doing, but sometimes our paths take us to places we don't expect. My involvement was the result of being the Acting Chair of the Jasper Place Revitalization Steering Committee.
The Jasper Place Revitalization is an initiative of the City of Edmonton, bringing together residents, business and community partners of the Canora, West Jasper Place, Glenwood and Britannia-Youngstown communities. United Way is involved as a community member, as we were happy to move into the Canora neighbourhood last year.
In addition to the Steering Committee, there are three Working Groups for the initiative - Connecting our Community, Feeling Safe in Our Community and Building our Community. The various committees focus on a range of issues including community relations, neighbourhood events, community safety and economic development.
Working with partners such as the Stony Plain Road Business Revitalization Zone, the Jasper Place Revitalization has provided support to a number of successful initiatives including the development of a community newspaper (The SPURR), the popular Store Front Cinema Nights (this year's event is scheduled for this coming weekend) as well as several community safety projects. Perhaps most importantly, the members of the Revitalization have also worked to define a vision for the future of the community.
The initiative has not been without its struggles. The decision to run the LRT down Stony Plain Road has slowed things down as there is a great deal of work that has to be done to ensure that the sequencing of community projects makes sense. As an example, there is no sense in re-doing all of the sidewalks this year and then having to tear them up in a couple of years when the LRT comes.
One of the challenges (and likely one of the strengths as well) of community development work is finding a way to integrate the ideas of a diverse group of stakeholders. There are times when people get frustrated with what feels like a lack of progress and there are times that we disagree on how to proceed. What keeps us moving forward is the vision of what we would all like this community to become.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to listen to Jay Connor from the Collaboratory for Community Support speak. Jay is one of the leading thinkers around Community Development and he shared a story that has always resonated with me. He told of Francis Ford Coppola being asked what the difference was between an average movie and a great movie. Now, you might have expected the answer to be something like "having a great script" or "wonderful actors," but that's not what he said. His response was much simpler. "The first step in making a great movie," said Coppola, "is getting everyone involved to be making the same movie."
It is easy at times to get distracted by the little things when doing community work. Understandably, people sometimes get focused on things like turf, money and credit. People want to see results quickly. What makes us succeed, however, is the ability to rally around a common vision. For the Jasper Place Revitalization, that vision is of a healthy, resilient community that people are proud to call home. With time, I am confident that we will see that vision realized.
Tim Osborne is the Director of Community Building and Investment for United Way of the Alberta Capital Region and the Acting Chair of the Jasper Place Revitalization Steering Committee.