ChangeCamp: a better plan…

It has been more than a month since ChangeCamp Edmonton, and since then, I have has ample time to reflect on ChangeCamp and why I choose to participate.

As a student, my life moves from one deadline to the next. Self absorbed out of necessity, I often lament the time constraints which excludes me from many of the social and community activities that happen around Alberta. I am fortunate in that my (amateur?) professions throughout last three years have allowed me to make community work a priority, but as my last year in my undergraduate degree slips through my fingers, I now am forced with that all important question.

What the hell should I going to do now?

I know I love political engagement, and I love media. To an obsessive level. To prove: I am in the midst of writing a paper on social media’s impact on political engagement, #nerdfest, amirite?

The biggest challenge I see is connectedness. Society has embraced social media in the mainstream consciousness. Facebook is used as a marketing/advertising tool, and press releases are disguised as personalized message. Twitter is used by a demographic which had yet to be tapped into, the educated well established professional. Blogs are widely read, and they are able to capture the collective consciences in a way that mainstream media has failed to do in the last five or so years.

ChangeCamp first captured my attention with its broad appeal. Completely format free, yet structured enough to be conducive to open and somewhat organized discussion. What impressed me especially was the quality of the discussion, the willingness of individuals to bring forth opinions and the openness with which they were received.

I am fortunate to be well acquainted with a few of the organizers and the level of commitment and the amount of effort being poured into this event impressed me. I wanted to be part of this movement, to be a member of this Alberta wide community, active in promoting a change,  a re-visioning of our current societal norms and processes.

In any city, ChangeCamo gives any citizen who has the cahones the chance to come forward and propose a topic, question a pre-existing norm, and offer a collective solution.

Recently, I have felt delighted and overwhelmed with the different paths in front of me to engage the democratic process in Alberta. Resistance Alberta, this blog, Twitter engagement, and the many circles of friends who see a need for a change in Alberta, and in our own communities.

Democratic engagement is not really Alberta’s strong suit any longer. Everyone has an opinion on something here, and a way to do it better, especially government spending and regulations; but all too often we allow ourselves to be placated by the lack of efficacy and empowerment many rural and isolated communities feel.

What does it matter to be progressive, if being progressive leaves you out of the process?

This is why I went to ChangeCamp. To meet these people, to interact with the same bloggers who I have followed to gain insight on such activities as Bill 44, Resistance Alberta, and the Alberta’s governing party, and the minutia which really does mean so much when put into context. Writers and analysts I have come to admire because of their willingness to criticize the status quo, while offering citizen based solutions.

Four others from Lethbridge accompanied me, and our discussion afterward revolved around the same basic issue we all had. How does this level of open discussion spread beyond the activist capitol who attend such events? How do we, or I, take everything heard and discussed here past this room.

Southern Alberta can often feel disengaged from the rest of Alberta. From the many involved tweeps I connect with, I hear of meetings carried out to continue the change they felt was needed. Whether it be open access, direct engagement with our representatives, or even a challenge to the current Albertan democratic process it seems that there are things happening, but they are very much centered in Alberta’s captiol city.

Stillthough, this gives me heart, but I wonder how this level of activism can be disseminated through the rest of Alberta. ChangeCamp should be more than just one day in one city center, it should reach out to inspire everyone to change what they can in their own communities. Be it the music scene in a smaller center, the way you connect with your political representative, or bigger changes such as running to be a representative yourself.

To enter into the system, the challenges are there and they are fierce. Compromise is necessary, but many of the individuals who take that opportunity to act as a community leader have been truly exemplary in leading through example and initiating progress. There were several political representatives participating in the ChangeCamp event, from multiple levels of governing and it was fantastic to be able to address them as people, not as politicians. Just as another person who is interested in something more, finding the common ground of active community involvement.

While my change may be as simple as inviting four others to be a part of this community, I know that it will ripple out. ChangeCamp should not start and stop with me or with anyone else.

I hope to hold a ChangeCamp event in Southern Alberta in early 2010. I hope to see people affected by this idea, and bring forward their own ideas for progress, and address the challenges they see and face.

One person can accomplish a great deal when they allow themselves to be heard, one community can accomplish even more when we allow ourselves to listen.

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