Drawing a parallel between Alberta and Athens would seem a difficult task — especially on a November evening in Red Deer.
But that’s exactly what Ian Hill did during a presentation at the fall general meeting of Central Alberta Economic Partnership.
The founder of the humanitarian organization Let Them Be Kids and the community leadership program Becoming a Community Builder, Hill spoke glowingly of the contributions of the Athens of ancient Greece, describing it as the “greatest city state in the history of mankind.”
Athenians believed that their community would define history, said Hill, adding that thousands of years later, they’ve been proven correct.
Alberta is positioned to create its own legacy, he suggested, pointing to the province’s wealth of natural resources, the talent its attracting from around the world, the “rugged individualism” of its residents, and the reputation it’s gained in the global business world.
“I think you have the opportunity in Alberta to be the Athens of the 21st Century.”
Specifically, he said, Albertans can define what a community could be like in the 21st Century.
What’s needed is an “alignment of community stakeholders,” said Hill. This requires “clarity of vision, clarity of purpose, clarity of the principles and values.” Also needed are the systems, policies and processes for people and organizations to become aligned.
Many communities don’t give much thought to what citizens of tomorrow should look and act like, he said.
“You can tell me where the sewer is going 10 years from now, you can tell me where the road is going 10 years from now, but can you tell me the attributes and qualities of the citizens of 10 years from now? And are we in alignment of building that?”
Schools, churches, social institutions, youth organizations and parents all need to work with the same vision, said Hill. Even local economic development strategies should be aligned with this objective.
Unfortunately, the youth in many communities are being shaped by video games and role models like Miley Cyrus, he said.
“If you don’t have alignment of community-based organizations, family, places of faith, businesses and the like; if you don’t have alignment in our activities to develop the citizen of tomorrow and you’re leaving it to chance, you will not thrive in the 21st Century.”
Community members must understand their responsibilities and act on these, said Hill.
“Community is not a group of people that live in close proximity to one another and share the buying and selling and consuming of goods together.”
Rather, he said, it’s about collaboration — with shared vision, shared sacrifices and shared victories.