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This is an exciting month for the Orton Family Foundation and CommunityMatters®. To help you understand the significance, bear with me as I hit the reverse button.
In 2007 the Foundation held a national conference in Burlington, VT, which we named CommunityMatters. The new name reflected an important principle underlying our work—that is, the need for people across divides to come together to pursue change collaboratively. The Foundation was developing its Heart & Soul approach and others had their own ideas and methods, but CommunityMatters was about achieving greater change collectively than we could individually.More
When I go traveling to another country, I always take a book that helps me get in the right mindset. Oftentimes I choose fiction that takes place in that particular country. But this time as I packed for Italy, I made room in my suitcase for a fabulous collection of Paul Bowles collected writings entitled Travels.
While none of this book takes place in Italy, focusing more on Tangiers, where he lived for most of his life, and Morocco, in which he traveled extensively, it’s a book about exploring foreign lands. Bowles regales the reader with hilarious tales of near disasters, describes wonderful characters he meets along the way, and reflects on what it means to be traveling in a country other than one’s own.
In a re-published piece entitled “Windows on the Past” written in 1957 about his travels in Europe, Bowles argues that Americans travel to Europe to regain their connections to the past. We get lost, he claims, in the vast American melting pot, in a society always transforming and remaking itself, focused more on techniques and gadgets than something deeper and more meaningful. So we go to Europe seeking something else, something he labels “culture”.More
My father recently died after a long and full life. Over the course of the last few weeks, I was regaled with many a story of his contributions to his community. And as these stories piled in, I learned of others’ tireless efforts alongside his.
As I heard of the selfless contributions by these varied and numerous individuals, I couldn’t help but think of the communities the Orton Family Foundation has had the privilege to work with over the years. Time and again, I’ve been amazed by people’s unwavering commitment to assist the larger community in addressing issues of need and improving the collective quality of life.
Since 2005, Tammie Delaney has worked in Hayden, Colorado to help her town articulate a vision based on local values. Her (and others’) efforts resulted in a comprehensive plan and zoning regulations that embody thoughtful growth from the core out - successfully maintained despite a proposal to demolish a corner of Hayden’s historic district for new development - and an economic development plan encouraging growth consistent with the community’s values.More
Several weeks ago, Middlebury College opened the Center for Social Entrepreneurship, a new program encouraging students to take an active role in their education while accomplishing good at the same time. For its inaugural symposium, the Center brought a number of people to speak and teach.
I had the good fortune to attend two of the talks. The first was by Bill Drayton, founder of Ashoka-Innovators for the Public. Bill focused on the need to develop systems that can adapt quickly and effectively, vital in our rapidly changing world. He argued that traditionally structured systems need to give way to teams and teams-of-teams as a way to unleash individual creativity and remain nimble and responsive to challenges and opportunities. He also shared a few inspiring examples of work by Ashoka Fellows.More
While I would love to see the economy bounce back to what it was, I believe any further thinking along these lines is tantamount to the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand.
I don’t mean to suggest we should just give up; what I do mean is that if we expect things to return to the “old normal,” we’ll miss key opportunities to proactively prepare for the “new normal.”
With our life, culture and society transforming in fundamental ways, it behooves us to embrace this paradigm shift and challenge our old assumptions.More
As part of our Heart & Soul Community Planning work with towns in the Northeast and Rocky Mountain regions, we at the Orton Family Foundation work to train residents in facilitation, story gathering, outreach and communication, scenario planning, implementation and stewardship.
We know our time with a community will end and the long-term success of our collaborative efforts depends on the community’s ability to carry on the challenging work of navigating change.
Many foundations and non-profits share this goal, but the difficulty of achieving it cannot be underestimated. Building sustained civic capacity requires immense dedication, awareness, encouragement and stewardship, and it is the linchpin to a community’s long-term success.More
I work with people more than natural resources in our land use planning work here at the Foundation, so I sometimes miss the “purer” discussions around preservation or enhancement of a balanced, sustainable natural environment. That’s why I always eagerly await the next issue of Orion Magazine.
While the field of conservation has moved significantly towards the inclusion of humans in the discussion of and decisions about natural resources, the ethereal yet powerful spiritual elements of nature still find a constant thread in the articles, poetry and photography found throughout Orion.
Orion’s July/August was a different delight for me, however, as it looked at issues closer to home. It examines the interplay of climate change and peak oil and the responsibility of communities to plan accordingly and in a principled way.
The editors exhort the reader by asking, “When we take to the streets of our communities...shouldn’t we feel a sense of home that encompasses the past, the present and especially the future—a sense that our places are being made and remade to reflect the best of who we are and who we aim to become?” I’ve recently read two competing visions of how to answer these questions.More
The Orton Family Foundation looks to reach and work with a number of audiences. Most often we orient our work toward elected officials and citizen planners and activists, and we regularly work with a small city or town’s planning staff.
Town Planners play a pivotal role in how their communities plan and engage. Recently the Planning Commissioner’s Journal held an interesting LinkedIn discussion exploring the concept of town planners as change agents.More