Community Development – To What End?

(This is Part 7: Community-Driven Tour 2010 New Zealand. To read these posts from the beginning, head here.)

We flew to Christchurch then drove to Queenstown via Lake Tekapo, a lake made mesmerizingly green-blue by mineral deposits.

Lake Tekapo

Dimitri had made reservations at an apartment hotel in Queenstown that seemed online to be luxurious for the $150 NZD (approx. $110 US) per night we would be paying. It ended up being beyond our wildest expectations of what was possible. Kitchen, living room, dining room – the combined area of which was the size of the same rooms in my own home.  And while the bedrooms were spacious, the bathroom had a heated floor. Wow.

Room with a View

Still the most amazing part was the view. Huge bay window plus huge accordion glass doors to the balcony, all overlooking the ever-changing skies above Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains.  We spent five days with that view as the backdrop for writing and catching up on work, skyping conference calls and coaching clients. Every hour or so, one of us would jump up to photograph the same scene under light that seemed to change with the whims of the gods.  Once a day we would walk the ½ hour trail that led along the lake from the hotel to downtown, to get provisions, or just to clear our heads.

Mountains outside our window

And then it was time to pack up again, this time heading to Dunedin, along the east coast of the South Island. Margy-Jean lives in Dunedin, and she had arranged for us to meet with community leaders, all of whom are doing some form of community development work.

The questions we facilitated were the same questions we have been asking everywhere we go, as we work to elevate new conversations throughout this sector.

  • What do we mean when we say community development?
  • Is community development a specific program or a way of being?
  • And if it is a way of being, are we being that in all our work?
  • If so, that would mean the community is an integral part of making every program work, that the wisdom of community members – real people – is infused in every aspect of every program. Is that what we mean?
  • And with all of it, to what end?
  • What results are we hoping to create by doing any or all of our work in that way? And for whom?

Lake and Sunrise

We got into a little of the “how.” Governance focused on leadership. Programs built by engaging community members from the inside out. Programs built on a base of shared community resources.

But mostly we talked about empowering community members to find their own wisdom, and more than anything to create the future of their own communities.

From there, we spent a magical evening with Margy-Jean, eating and talking and sharing and sightseeing and visiting the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Preserve, where, despite the caution that molting season made it unlikely that we would see any penguins, we did indeed see a few.  Dimitri and I spent an amazing second day in Dunedin – just the 2nd day out of the entire trip that included no work at all (unless you consider spending ½ day moving hotels and dealing with rental car issues “work”).  I’ll share stories and photos of our entire amazing (really and truly amazing) time in Dunedin in the next – and last – post of this tour.

And so we are on our way along Route 1 from Dunedin to Christchurch, where tomorrow we will catch a plane to Auckland, and where the next day we will catch a plane home.

As always happens when we are teaching, Dimitri and I feel we have learned far more during our time here than we have taught. We have had a glimpse into what lies ahead, both for the Institute, and for each of our personal quests. That glimpse tells us that indeed the whirlwind will continue, that the ride will continue to be incredible, and that the reward is nothing less than transformation for this beautiful bauble that is our planet.

The future is indeed bright. And each and every one of us is creating it every day.

Tomorrow: The final post – a gorgeous travel log with gorgeous photos of the gorgeous places we saw.

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