Column: Leadership strives to meet eight dimensions of a healthy community

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 2, 2005

In any community, it’s easy to focus on the work to be done, forgetting the numerous victories which make the community a viable option for economic development and which contributes to quality of life.

But the health of a community is determined by a variety of factors, which the Blandin Foundation, a leadership group headquartered in Grand Rapids, have identified as follows:

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Economic opportunity &045; All people can earn an income which allows them to live with dignity. The economy of the community is sustainable and not dependent on exploiting human beings or depleting the natural environment.

This dimension has a two-fold emphasis. The first is on having economic opportunities that provide for adequate incomes. The second is on long-term viability through renewing and sustaining the human and other resources which create the community’s economic advantages.

Lifelong learning &045; All ages have access to educational opportunities which enable them to participate in and contribute to the economic, political, social and cultural life of the community to the full extent of their potential.

This perspective is based on a definition of learning as a means to helping people be productive members of their community. It also emphasizes the need for a variety of educational opportunities.

Valuing diversity &045; All people uphold the values of inclusion, cooperation, collaboration and empowerment.

This means there is a strong tendency for individuals to help each other and for groups and organizations to work together whenever possible. There are conflicts in the community, but efforts are always made to approach them constructively. Planning and decision-making in voluntary groups, as well as local government take place in such a way that all people can have an impact on what goes on in the community. The community is welcoming and helps everyone feel that they “belong.”

– Spiritual, recreational and cultural opportunities &045; Everyone has access to a variety of spiritual, cultural and recreational opportunities.

Part of the “quality of life” of a community Is based on people of all ages, abilities and interests having access to spiritual, recreational and cultural opportunities that meet their needs.

– Safety and security &045; The community provides appropriate safety and security measures for all and actively addresses the causes and consequences of violence.

Safety issues and violence exist in every community. In a healthy community, there is adequate police and fire protection. People watch out for each other. Violence is acknowledged in its many forms (e.g., from criminal abuse and assault to subtle forms of discrimination). The community actively seeks to aid all those affected by violence and to change the conditions leading to violence.

Environmental stewardship &045; The community supports the environmental quality and management of natural resources that best provides for a sustainable future.

All segments of the community recognize the need for environmental quality and are willing to assist in and/or support the responsible management of the environment. The community Is aware that it must decide carefully between competing long and short-term uses of its natural resources.

Community leadership &045; There are broad-based leadership structures in which many people fill leadership roles.

The same people, or same group of people, do not hold all the elected offices or chair all the committees. Instead, many different people fill these positions and there is a regular turnover of those holding leadership positions. Volunteer activities do not depend on a small group of people. Volunteers are numerous and they reflect the diversity, (e.g., age, gender, ethnicity, etc.) of the community. There are opportunities for people to gain or improve the skills that will help them to be more effective in leadership roles.

Infrastructure and services &045; The community has adequate infrastructure and all people have access to essential services.

The community has the quality and quantity of infrastructure (e.g., transportation, telecommunications, water, sewer) it needs. Everyone in the community has access to necessary services such as: Sanitary living conditions, health and wellness services and social services.

A community needn’t achieve perfection in these dimensions, but must be working toward them with some measure of success. I believe Albert Lea is a healthy community, whose leaders continually strive to make it a better place to live, work and play.