A couple of weeks ago, I was re-introduced to a person I met years ago through my mentor. At that time, he was already a successful Executive Placement Professional. Over the last decade, he has grown and refined his craft and is now living in the country and has an HR business focused on municipalities. Meeting after all these years and listening to him describe his current pathway has informed and inspired me to view Inclusive Municipalities in new ways.
A review of current literature begs the question:
Who is at the center and who is at the fringe or on the margins of a Municipality?
Sub questions to this inquiry include: Who is fragile? Who is economically disadvantaged? Who is overlooked? Who isn’t heard? Who isn’t seen? Who isn’t fully employed or engaged? Who isn’t wholly participating as a citizen in the way that suits them?
Those that are at the fringes can teach us much about social cohesion. An inclusive municipality is cohesive. Social Cohesion is defined as a society or community that includes the following characteristics:
· Works toward the wellbeing of all its members
· Fights exclusion and marginalisation
· Creates a sense of belonging
· Promotes trust
· Offers its members the opportunity of upward mobility via social and economic engagement (rising from a lower to a higher social class or status)
Social cohesion helps to ensure the stability in a community’s social network. This is possible in communities that value all its members. The municipality demonstrates that community members are treated with equality, despite culture, race, language, rank, social status wealth and so on. When all people are treated equally, members aren’t splintered or isolated. It is social isolation, making outsiders of some by leaving them out, I contend, that fosters anti-social sentiment and behaviors. Communities are disrupted. The evidence of threatened social cohesion is in the rise in xenophobic sentiments and attitudes globally.
If we look at our municipalities with compassion and a commitment to fruitful stewardship we can consciously act to promote social cohesion. In this way, we can work together to co-create inclusive societies, cohesive communities.
Across Canada communities are changing. Municipalities are looking with fresh eyes at a broad spectrum of initiatives, each arising from a uniquely local, yet universal experience, to find solutions for perceived dis-harmonies and strains in the social cohesion of their home towns.
For instance, the City for All Women Initiative is an organization of women from diverse communities, organizations, and universities working with city decision makers to create a more inclusive city and advance gender equality. Organizations like this bond together into a loosely formed network. The more we participate in promoting social inclusion, the more attention is brought to bear on marginalized peoples. Also, when tools are developed to assist people in thinking and behaving in a way that treats humans as equals these tools can be shared across networks and with organizations that members participate in as well.
It helps to think of our municipalities as a wealth of resources. Each of us is unique and each of us offers original worth to our communities. We must first recognize each member though, to create value from the gifts they have to offer. I wonder which municipalities are open to the idea of assessing their social cohesion and accessing the resources of their members, creating thereby, a roadmap to a more inclusive scenario. What rewards can municipalities earn by counting everyone in the community as an asset?