Gathering in a circle around a shared intention. Ian Attridge helped open the Citizenship Unleashed gathering by evoking a sense of place. Participants placed thirty years of touchstones of citizen-led community-building around the centrepiece of the room.

Citizenship Unleashed in Peterborough
A citizen-led gathering models and invites better ways for citizens to gather

PETERBOROUGH - What if we could change the way the community gathers to discuss and decide what matters?

That was the intriguing invitation that brought more than 40 citizens of Peterborough, Ontario together earlier this month for a two-hour participatory evening called “Citizenship Unleashed.”

The invitation asked: “What if we could reawaken citizenship, right here in Peterborough, so that it’s alive with possibility — and we actually feel like co-creators, restored to creative power in the neighbourhoods and communities we live in? You’re invited, and so is everyone you think might be looking for a new way.”

Those attending were promised an experiment, mixing citizen power with a sense of play: “A public meeting about … a new kind of public meeting.”

The evening mixed deeply participatory process in a circle, an opportunity to connect with the intentions and aspirations of relative strangers in small-group conversation, and a high-speed, spontaneous design lab to create community projects. At least three live projects emerged from the resulting small groups.

Participants were asked to bring their curiosity, their hopes for what Peterborough can be, and a small contribution to the event’s costs. “We’re doing this together,” organizers said.

The video below captures some of what participants took away from the evening.

This citizen-led gathering came out of the “Citizenship Unleashed” circle of the Peterborough Dialogues. The intention was to gather in the spirit of the Dialogues — and similar awakenings of shared leadership all over the world.

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