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In the 1970's, in a little town in Alberta, Canada, and from the farms nearby, a small group of people got things done, outside of formal government.
But it was hard and slow and it was obvious to me they needed some mechanism to help them.
They needed a way to communicate, to gather, to brainstorm; to argue the merits of this detail or that, to gather support.
To make a plan, to implement the plan and keep track of it, to build a budget and stay within it.

There was no easy way to get lots of people involved early and keep them engaged.
It was painful to watch: how long everything took, how much stress there was...
waiting for the next meeting, the next edition of the local paper with its 'Letters to the Editor,' the next Town Hall Meeting.
Endless telephone calls.
This small group wanted their children to excel at the water sports they played, so they got an indoor swimming pool built, in a tiny town, in a rural area.
There were no indoor swimming pools in our province in the mid-1970's, except in the biggest cities.
Right away, the town formed the Spruce Grove Barracudas, a competitive swimming team.
I got to be on the team, and was startled by how successful my teammates became, just because they could practice every day, no matter how cold or rainy it was outside
- when kids from other towns had to skip their practices. The Barracudas immediately began to win nearly every swim meet in the area.
The idea and the drive to build the indoor pool didn't come from the local government, from the Town Council, or the County.
Another small group with several members common to the first group, conceived and developed a Multicultural Heritage Centre in the next town, about 5 kilometres away.
The Centre celebrated the rich diversity people brought with them to our country as well as the history of local First Nations.
This was in a rural area where it seemed most townspeople and farmers disliked immigrants and aboriginal peoples.
The Stony Plain Multicultural Heritage Centre thrived because people all around were surprised that they loved it so much.

I was just a kid then, lucky to work with the local men building the sundeck at the back of the building, and privy to the process of creating the Centre.
It was fascinating to watch this project come together.
The founders were members of the community and of the local government, working together to achieve something they were passionate about.
It wouldn't have happened if people hadn't come together, through many many conversations, to support the local County Administrator who originally had the idea.
The Stony Plain Multicultural Centre recently celebrated its 40th Anniversary, with many of the original founders in attendance.
This small group of people saw what they thought was needed. They became passionate about making it happen.
At first, other people opposed each of the ideas, but the group persevered. They calmly, patiently, convinced enough people to agree.
When enough people agreed, they made a plan to push their ideas forward and made them happen. In real life, with bricks and concrete and an avalanche of medals and awards.

But their real joy, their passion, was being part of building the world they wanted.

Later I realized the best part: There was nothing special about this group of local people, whose membership was as mutable as the prairie breeze.
They simply believed in their ideas and they got together and made them happen.
Small groups of people have done the same thing throughout history in every place and time.
They are doing it now, everywhere you look from Seattle to Syria.
But the process is slow, too slow for some, who suffer while people decide, who die while governments fail them.
Syntention or something like it has been wished for by many people in many places and times, long before it could exist. Now people can use it to come together and get things done.
Warrick Harrison
May 2016

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Stony Plain Multicultural Centre
Stony Plain Multicultural Centre: Stony Plain, Alberta, Canada, today

Stony Plain Multicultural Centre
Stony Plain School, in the 1930's

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