Last week, Merrickville hosted the Teeny Tiny Summit, a conference presented by OMAFRA about harnessing the power of small communities. The keynote speaker of the event was small town enthusiast, Peter Kenyon. From Australia, Peter has travelled all around the world speaking about the power of engaged community members to create positive change in small towns. “People who care are a community’s greatest asset,” Peter told the crowd.
A dynamic storyteller, he captivated the audience with stories of small town people making an impact. One man in rural Australia bought a pub in a town of only seven people and turned it into the most tourist-awarded hotel in the country, while another group of townspeople decided to look into what made their small town unique, and turned it into a major tourist destination. “The world is not made up of atoms, it is made up of stories.” Peter says.
He is adamant that change in a community needs to come from the ground up, and not the top down. It is not up to politicians and government to create change, it needs to come from the people. Communities need leaders to create a vision, inspire others, facilitate collaboration, instill positivity, and promote leadership in future generations. “Great communities don’t just happen,” he says.
As a former civil servant in Australia, Peter knows the road blocks that government and bureaucracy can put up when it comes to creating change, no matter how positive it may be. “Part of my role is to challenge governments,” he says. “Good government should help build community and open doors and windows, not close them.”
Peter is the creator and current Director of the Bank of I.D.E.A.S., which is an international community and economic development consultancy based in Kalamunda, Western Australia. He has worked with over 2,000 communities in Australia and overseas, helping to facilitate fresh and creative ways to stimulate community and local economic renewal. It is clear from his enthusiasm that he loves what he does. During a planned vacation after the Summit, he will be touring around Quebec seeking out new places to fall in love with. “I don’t see it as work,” he says. “I am fascinated with small towns.”