Guest Column: Work together and find resolutions for issues

Published 10:13 pm Friday, June 30, 2017

Live United by Ann Austin

My family attended Wind Down Wednesday on June 21, and we had such a great time!

We are naturally introverts, so it can be uncomfortable to go out in large public spaces with lots of people. I recall when the event began, I felt terribly awkward because it’s different than the fair or other places you can be somewhat anonymous.

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The Wind Down Wednesday event is a gathering of neighbors and friends. In some ways, it’s like a big family reunion. It’s a time to come together and appreciate the connections we have made in our community and have opportunity to make new and lasting connections.

Ann Austin

This kind of opportunity is a gift. Thank you to Susie Petersen and Tami Staker for all of your hard work and vision to continue, as well as the many others, who have made the event successful. I believe this gathering will have more profound of an impact than we realize.

Years ago I attended an event called BushConnect. It is an annual event sponsored by the Bush Foundation — which was founded by 3M Executive Archibald Bush and his wife, Edyth. The intent of BushConnect is to bring people from across the region together in conversation and common vision to create opportunity for more effective problem solving.

During the first BushConnect event, I made four connections that have since benefited the work of our United Way or other organizations, like Wintergreen Natural Foods. It’s amazing what can happen when we open ourselves up to discuss ideas with others.

In a book called “Where Good Ideas Come From,” by Steven Johnson (that was gifted to us at the BushConnect event) Johnson refers to the “space of innovation.” Johnson discusses how the physical environments we dwell in may either help or hinder our ability to innovate or find solutions to the problems we face as a community.

He said it’s essential for the health of a community to create gathering spaces for people from different vocations and perspectives to connect. This environment will allow for ideas to take root and grow. In addition, through various studies Johnson and his team performed, they found that including dissenting opinions encouraged greater creativity.

We have a tendency to surround ourselves with people who are comfortable or “of the same mind,” but this can be a disservice to our community and our ability to come up with a better solution. It’s also vital that we avoid excessive negativity, which will focus energy on perpetuating problems and obstacles, rather than finding resolution.

Wind Down Wednesday will occur two more times in our downtown — July 19 and Aug. 16. I invite and encourage you all to attend and embrace the freedom to discuss, with positive intent, the great potential we have in our community!

If you can’t make it — there are many other excellent gathering spaces in town. Make a coffee or lunch date with someone you just met to discuss an issue you want to resolve. You may be surprised there are more solutions than you can think of on your own.

And, if you would like, I am always open to talk about a good idea! Just give me a call at 507-373-8670.

I am confident, if we choose to work together, we will be able to find resolution for all of the issues we face.

Live united.

Ann Austin is the executive director of the United Way of Freeborn County.