For close to a century, Edmonton’s form of volunteerism and community involvement has been unique. Channelled through the community league system, many, many volunteers have helped to build amenities, provide programs and guide community development, from Edmonton’s first Community League (Crestwood) to its most recent addition (Griesbach).
Individual Leagues and the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues have changed, adapted, and even when necessary, cleaned house in order to serve the needs of edmontonians and community.
The Community League movement has reached another transition point in time as the EFCL reaches out to a younger generation, while the demands of day-to-day life continue to slowly deplete local volunteer ranks.
It isn’t just volunteers and board directors that are needed, it’s the broader direction, inspiration and sustainability that can only come from a League’s membership base, lest a movement that’s contributed so much to Edmonton’s growth, sees its resources, and its capabilities, go underutilized, undermanned, and undirected. While the talents and abilities of so many Edmontonians, which could be directed towards improving their neighborhoods and city, go untapped. We need Edmontonians to see the value in this unique system, we need the support and encouragement of the community at large, and we need local Leagues to be open, warm, and welcoming places for residents, ideas and new volunteers.
The Matching Under 40s and Community Leagues events are a great and innovative step in this renewal process. I believe however, the opportunity exists here to do far more.
We live in a time of decreasing involvement in the political process, where voter turnout, particularly at the civic level is unfortunately, and perhaps even dangerously low. While at the same time, the next generation goes forth needing more and more skills to meet the demands and challenges placed upon them..
The Community League movement isn’t just a way to help your neighborhood and city, it can provide a gateway to public policy, governance, civic involvement, and even an education all it’s own.
My story, I joined the Glenwood Community League, was elected as its civics director, and encouraged by fellow board members, who despite my inexperience, pushed and supported me to advocate on behalf of our neighborhood with city administration and our civic and provincial representatives. I went from someone apathetic about government, who rarely voted, to someone who ran for elected office, and became passionate about governance and public policy. Along the way I’ve met so many wonderful people and learned far more than I could have hoped for, all while being able to give back to the community I call home.
For Leagues, here is the opportunity. To welcome and encourage Edmonton’s next generation by inviting new talent, new ideas, and creating welcoming volunteer opportunities. In particular, in the role of civic advocacy and involvement. Our neighborhoods are changing, our city is looking to grow inward, mature neighborhoods are undergoing revitalization efforts, and residents are looking more and more to live locally through new and revitalized amenities, and alternate modes of transportation. Perhaps, a perfect opportunity for a new generation of residents and community volunteers to jump into.