Note from Doug: Cheryl is a personal friend with a background in journalism. When I wasn’t able to attend the Saturday session of the Great Gathering, I asked Cheryl if she would bring her camera and write up a piece based on the day. I’m happy I asked her; this helps Black-Capped expand in my vision of documenting the story of New Brunswick by New Brunswick writers.
The Great Gathering 2012 wrapped up in Fredericton yesterday with almost 200 enthusiastic attendees sent out into the city to work together to make Fredericton better.
Hosted by Greater Fredericton Social Innovation, the Great Gathering is a unique forum that took place in the city’s downtown Convention Centre Friday and Saturday.
Based on the First Nations idea of a talking circle, participants first gathered in a circle on Friday and were invited to come to the centre individually to write their ideas for improving their community on a piece of paper. Some included a car free street downtown, a bike co-op, youth inclusion, and surplus food management.
The ideas were then posted on a topic wall and assigned a time and space for discussion. Participants perused the choices to decide which ones to join. The discussion groups were also arranged in the talking circle format, with the individual who first posted the idea leading the session. Recorders took notes for the group which will be e-mailed to participants and posted on the gathering website for all at www.greatgathering.ca.
Building on these ideas from brainstorming sessions at the gathering on Friday, Saturday’s agenda was arranged into themes where participants could determine what action to take on those ideas. Themes included affordable housing, food security, municipal government and immigration.
Coming together again in talking circles, suggestions for action, like the ideas on Friday, came fast and furious. The room was literally buzzing, with people sharing information and formulating strategies to make an idea happen.
Various local politicians also attended some of the sessions including, Premier David Alward, Energy Minister Craig Leonard, and the Green Party’s David Coon. Fredericton city councillors included, Eric Megarity, Mike O’Brien, and rookie councillors Greg Erickson, Leah Levac and Kate Rogers.
Many who work in the wider humanitarian field in Fredericton also attended including poverty advocates Brian Duplesis, Cindy Wilkey and Tim Ross, STU sociology prof and former mayoral candidate Matthew Hayes , and Stephanie Merrill of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick.
The participants reflected a wide swath of Fredericton life; the young and old, newcomers and lifetime residents, students of all ages, doctors, lawyers, dentists, single mothers, administrators, managers, low income earners, children and babies.
All had one mission in mind: working together to make greater Fredericton better for everyone.