Building your community networks

28 March 2013
Our blogging workshop at the Maroochydore Library.

I've been very fortunate lately to have been involved in writing and blogging workshops in the Sunshine Coast libraries. We do the last one today. My business partner and friend, Ernie Marcum and I, delivered the 16 workshops at every one of the council libraries. It was exhausting, we had to leave home far too early and too often, we carried heavy bags containing computers and notes, some days were hot, some days it rained, but we loved every minute of it. Not only did we get to talk about things we love doing, we met some incredible people who are passionate about writing and blogging. We also met hard working librarians who focused on delivering appropriate and interesting activities, workshops and reading materials for their communities.

This is me with my good friend Beverly Hand, elder of the Kabi Kabi people. We met at our Neighbourhood Centre and I'm sure we'll be lifelong friends.

Above and below are community events that rarely rate a mention in mainstream media yet they're an important part of our community.  You need to be part of your community to know when your local events take place.

I have no doubt that libraries need more funding. They're doing a great service with what they have, but we need more librarians, and the libraries need to be open longer hours and open up to even more new programs and ways of operating. If you're in Australia, I urge you to lobby your local councillor to increase library funding and employ more librarians. Just a quick email should do it.

Libraries are wonderful places. They are there for us in large and small towns and in recent years they've been moving from the older model based solely on books and reading, to a wider approach of presenting workshops, genealogy research and resources, JPs services, baby and toddler reading and rhyming and much more. Libraries are the community places that many of us feel comfortable in. We introduce our children to them at a very young age in the hope of developing a lifelong love of reading and learning.

This community gathering was at Bell last year when Hanno and I travelled out there to demonstrate how to make soap, scones and laundry liquid. We had the best time with these ladies and Hanno was spoilt with hot coffee and cake - frequently.

Often in the past, when we moved to a new community, the library was my first port of call because of the local information and valuable connections to be made there. For all of us who live a simple life, libraries hold information we need, spaces we can use for community meetings and ideas for future projects. But I love libraries because of the people there. If you've simplified, cut back or downsized, then probably, like me, you won't be interested in most of the mainstream advertised information about big TVs, mobile phones and $400 shoes. You'll be looking for information that is not broadcast. You want to know where to buy old breed chooks, the best value for money water pumps and solar panels, organic yarn, good knitting needles and crochet hooks, incubators, honey extractors, where the community gardens are and the closest farmers' market or LETS market. You'll never find this sort of information in a magazine and often not even in the local newspaper. You need to know people in your community who will tell you. You need to build your community networks.

In our community, you can learn to sew at the Neighbourhood Centre, and it's free.

Community networking can start, very successfully, at your local library. If they don't have the information you're looking for, ask the librarian or put up a notice on the noticeboard. Ask about community groups you can join, be active, get out and be part of your community. Your neighbourhood will only be as supportive and active as you make it. If you're living a simple life, if you're aiming for a sustainable lifestyle, it will open new doors for you if you get out and be a part of your community. I have found you only ever get out what you put into life and when I first ventured into my community about ten years ago, a whole new world opened up for me. I have been changed in profound and significant ways simply by being part of my community. If you haven't made your connections yet, don't wait to be asked, every community is screaming out for people who don't mind a bit of hard work.  Just dive in, get involved and be a part of something special.

If you're a part of your community I'd love to know how you got involved in the first place.