By Cindy Filipenko
Exploring ideas about community often ends up in heated debate instead of inspiring discussion. The Whistler Forum for Dialogue and Leadership Sea to Sky plan to change that for Pembertonians.
On Tuesday, March 27, the primary organization and its offshoot, which develops social collateral, will be hosting the first Dialogue Café in Pemberton. Titled “Why I Live in Pemberton: The Importance of Place,” the evening will be co-moderated by Leadership Sea to Sky: Cohort 1 alumnus Sheldon Tetreault and senior activist Marnie Simon. Tetreault hopes that the evening will bring out people interested in sharing stories that illustrate what it is that grounds them in the region.
“It’s not intended to be a controversial topic. I didn’t want to have to pick like ‘Airport expansion: Yes or No,’” explains Tetreault.
Tetreault, B.C. regional manager for the National Centre for First Nations Governance, has called Pemberton home for the last four years. When choosing a topic for the debut of a new Dialogue Café series, for inspiration he looked to one of the Imagine B.C. sessions he recently attended.
“The thing with Imagine B.C. is that you don’t focus on things like what’s wrong with our recreation services or what’s going on with our housing market. It’s more about getting people to talk about what are the essences, the essential things that inspire us to be here though telling stories. We can use those stories as the basis for planning instead of an intellectual discussion about things.”
Of course, future Dialogue Cafés may have more contentious topics. Over the years, the Whistler Forum has hosted more than 30 of these evenings, with topics ranging from sustainability to the pros and cons of gay marriage.
The evening will kick off with Tetreault and Simon discussing the format and introducing three community leaders who will share stories, both dramatic and humorous, that illustrate their love and commitment to the communities.
From there, the discussion will open, with the event employing a world café style. This style of discussion is essentially a bunch of people sitting around a table, examining a single question, talking and jotting down notes on drawing paper that covers the entire table. Throughout the evening, tables will rotate, so the ideas are continually built upon with everyone getting input on every question.
While there are no formal plans for what will be done with the information, Tetreault says that he could see presenting it to Village of Pemberton council or the Chamber of Commerce.
“The Dialogue Cafes aren’t set up as a formal consulting mechanism, it’s just a way for people to share ideas and explore topics. It’s about building a culture of conversation and collaborative learning.”
So, what should people bring to the event?
“Bring your curiosity about people around you. Bring a willingness to be open and to listen to other people,” Tetreault suggests. “And be prepared to share a story, having thought about an experience you want to share about your community that really inspired you — something that symbolizes what you love about this place.”
Tetreault believes that conversation is the first step to realization of any goal.
“We have to recognize and appreciate what we have and find a way of preserving that as we move forward.”
The event coincides with International Conversation Week. The event, which runs from 7:30 to 9 p.m., is by donation, with a suggested amount of $5 to offset organizing costs. The Local’s Living Room is located 1342 Astor Street.