Laurier hosts Mayor’s Forum

In the midst of a storm of division between disputing community factions, disagreeing on transit and housing by-laws, a ray of hope for unification shone through. In the concluding session of the Waterloo Mayor’s Forum event trilogy, people gathered at Wilfrid Laurier University on June 18 to share, communicate and move forward together to create change to build a stronger and resilient community in Waterloo.

The format of the events held throughout the trilogy were focused around the concept of conversation cafes. This open system of communication promotes keen listening and a dismissal of judgement as methods of facilitating greater insight. According to Alisa McClurg, Chair of the Waterloo Mayor’s Event Committee for Transition KW, the format of the event “… gave everyone a chance to relax because we knew we’d all have a chance to speak.”

Transition KW is an organization the focuses on sustainability, citizen engagement and collective action- among other ideals. The organization worked locally with Waterloo mayor, Brenda Halloran to develop the event series which began this past April. McClurg acknowledged that over the course of the three events, attendance had developed to become notably more diverse.

“Everyone’s coming from a different background,” she commented. “But just to have that vision [of collaboration] is very powerful because you can be flexible, and that’s one of the things maybe that I’ve been learning.”

Attendees of the Forum were given ample opportunity to discuss in smaller groups their reasons for attending, and their personal desires for change. Richard Garvey, a local musician, found the open dialogue system to be an extremely beneficial framework to communicate.

“It’s just the idea that it’s structured so that everyone can share,” said Garvey. “I like that.”

Allan Grose, an active volunteer and community member from New Hamburg concurred, commenting “That’s what I’ve enjoyed about this group, is the pleasure of listening, 100%.”

Laurella Woodcock, who had also attended the first two events in the series, felt that she made progress on discovering the meaning of a resilient community.

“After I got home, I realized that we kept on putting the word respect in front of everything else we were naming – respect for the environment and respect for families – and I’m like, oh, our resilience is respect,” Woodcock explained.

For Halloran, who made a brief appearance in the morning, a community’s resilience is truly based from its many human connections. “I think that I always keep going back to its about people, and helping each other, taking care of each other,” she noted. “Resilience means so many things and I think that’s what the conversations are, and I’m really looking forward to when this is all put together.”

While the Forums may have only reached a small sample of the city’s diverse population, the messages of understanding and cooperation that participants may now bring forth are ones which are applicable and necessary for all that wish to live in a stronger community.