By Surjit Atwal. In ‘Seeking A Positive And Inclusive Way Forward‘ I spoke of my commitment to social justice and the fact that social justice is at the heart of everything I do. In this column I would like to share some of the methods I am using to achieve my goals as the Community Outreach Coordinator for MLA Darryl Plecas.
In the past year, the scope of the community outreach position was simply for me to reach out to the community by contacting people and organizations, offering to hear their concerns and where possible to link them to existing resources, or link them to one another to create resources.
As I reached out, I began to find the opportunity to build positive relationships with the municipal government and the local business community and to develop meaningful relationships with local media. Also, as I described in my last piece, a second positive outcome of this contact was that I became involved in assisting charitable organizations like Mathew’s House. All of this has helped me learn how many people are interested in building better relationships and seeing our community move forward..
In the next two years, I will develop the scope of outreach to draw in more of the groups that I have just begun to contact. These include the university, youth, community groups, unions, and church and temple groups.
Writing for the media is also a piece of the plan. I would like to generate meaningful dialogue with the public and solicit their views and opinions on matters of community importance.
Here are the first steps I am planning to take.
Community outreach covers dealing with people’s issues as well as regular liaison with business and municipal government. There are three main groups I will be sure to keep reaching out to.
- City council. I began regular meetings with councillors in April 2014. I will continue to meet with them once a month to hear about municipal issues and share provincial issues they might be interested in. The aim is to build co-operation between the two levels of government. I will also continue to liaise with City Council’s Homeless Task Force, co-chaired by councillors Patricia Ross and John Smith, so the MLA’s office stays informed about city initiatives.
- Local business. I have attended the meetings of the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA) since April 2014. I will continue to attend their monthly business meeting, and will also invite the Chamber of Commerce, ADBA, and Indo-Canadian Business Association to a round-table meeting once a month on business issues.
I believe that regular meetings with business, government and media will develop a framework for broader discussion of ongoing issues in the community. When everyone is engaged in the relationships which have been building as a result of these regular meetings, we should see increased opportunities for consensus and positive relationship building, and for problem solving.
- Other organizations and groups. I have been making connections with many different organizations and groups, such as non-profit societies, the university, and church and temple groups. I am finding that organizations and individuals who perhaps didn’t know one another or engage in ongoing discussions are beginning to do so, and out of those relationships I am hoping to develop working relationships which can help to solve community problems.
By conducting regular meetings with business, government and media a context has developed for discussion of ongoing issues, identification of problem areas and the beginnings of a protocol for resolving differences. When everyone is engaged in the relationships which have been building, as a result of these regular meetings, increased opportunities present themselves for consensus and positive relationship building and problem solving.
Organizations and individuals who perhaps didn’t know one another or engage in any ongoing discussions are beginning to do so and out of those relationships I am hoping to develop working relationships which can be used to solve community problems.
I hope that in the coming year this community outreach plan can begin to play a part in conflict resolution and community evolution. I hope that more people with new ideas which might move our community forward will want to join in the discussions and the communal decision making which is so important to the life of our community.
Please feel free to comment either publicly in the comments box below or email me your thoughts.
Part Two of Four
Surjit Atwal is a graduate of the University of the Fraser Valley and holds a BA in Political Science. He is currently the Community Outreach Coordinator for the office of Provincial MLA Darryl Plecas. His columns appear regularly on Abbotsford Today