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Community engagement is everyone’s job

Community engagement is everyone’s job Community engagement is everyone’s job

For members of the Medford Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual Leadership Medford Class, the issue with keeping people engaged in the community wasn’t so much the availability of resources, but in people knowing what resources are available.

If only there was some reliable, centralized place where community events and information were complied on a regular basis that was equally and easily accessible to long-time residents, newcomers and those visiting the area. Such a resource would probably be used by thousands of people each week to keep informed about what was going on around them.

Setting the sarcasm aside, the Leadership Medford class hit upon a key issue that people generally don’t care about things such as apartment hunting or securing childcare services or when a support group meets until they have a need for those services.

This has a tendency to divide any community into those who know what is going on (or more importantly how to find out) and those who don’t. This second group includes many newcomers to the community as well as people who have lived or worked in the community for years but who always felt like an outsider or somehow being excluded.

The Medford area, as with many communities, has a vibrant and active social calendar with multiple events and activities going on every week. Many people are familiar with Venn Diagrams that show how groups of people with different interests or commonalities overlap.

Communities are not monoliths, but rather are combinations of many sub communities. It is a mosaic of church, civic groups, sports, hobbies and countless other sub-communities which, in turn, are made up of different groups and interests.

The takeaway from the Leadership Medford class project is that all of us need to do a better job in reaching outside of our circles and connecting with those around us. At the very least, it is necessary to be welcoming to newcomers and others who might not know what resources exist.

Compounding the concern is the increasing insular nature of society as a whole. The past few years of social isolation have turned many people into default introverts who are timid about approaching new things. It is no wonder there has been the explosion in virtual communities through social media networks. Social media communities require little effort to join and are just as easily discarded when they no longer meet that need.

The challenge is in getting people to be invested and seek out real-world connections and communities rather than what some algorithm says you should like to see or do. All of us must do a better job in reaching out and sharing the great things going on in our community of communities.

With the Medford community positioning itself for growth to take advantage of the post-pandemic urban dweller flight to rural areas, it is essential that newcomers are quickly made to feel like they have a home here. This is truly something we can all work at improving.