Golden

Uniting the Golden community

New initiative to identify local values through diverse participants

Posted 5/8/17

To have a true sense of community, there must be something — a sense of pride, shared principles, traditions or common principles — that unites people of broadly different backgrounds.

A new initiative is taking shape in Golden that seeks to …

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Golden

Uniting the Golden community

New initiative to identify local values through diverse participants

Posted

To have a true sense of community, there must be something — a sense of pride, shared principles, traditions or common principles — that unites people of broadly different backgrounds.

A new initiative is taking shape in Golden that seeks to strengthen that unity.

It is called Golden United, and its primary goal, as the name implies, is to bring the community together. It hopes to accomplish this by identifying local values and taking action on these values for the betterment of the community as a whole.

“This is an opportunity to shape the future of our community,” said Golden United’s founder Ron Benioff. “It’s recognizing how much we have in common, both as Americans and Golden residents (and) acting together to strengthen the community.”

Initial brainstorming sessions began in December and January, with about 25-30 participants. The group then organized a planning committee consisting of 10 people with diverse backgrounds: different ages, ethnic identities, longtime and new Golden residents, two city councilors and people with no city government affiliation.

The group is citizen-led, all volunteer and does not yet operate with a budget, Benioff said. Anybody with an affiliation to Golden — lives, works or frequents — is welcome to participate.

The planning committee’s first responsibility is organizing the May 20 events. An invite-only meeting will take place in the morning, during which about 30 people — invited by the planning committee — will participate in a facilitated discussion on identifying the community’s shared values.

At noon, a community potluck will take place at Lions Park, and the entire community is welcome to come and learn more about Golden United and talk about opportunities to participate.

“A big part of it is demonstrating the power of diverse groups working together and finding common ground,” Benioff said of Golden United. “We have lost the ability to work with people who have different perspectives, to solve issues. If we want to solve issues, we need to step outside our normal social groups.”

The most important thing that comes from dialogue and discussion with people from different backgrounds is empathy, said Maha Siddiqui, who recently moved to Golden from Pakistan. She is active with the Muslim community and serves on the planning committee for Golden United.

Empathy should be a core characteristic of humans, Siddiqui said. “We cannot progress if we cannot simply empathize with one another’s beliefs, lives, situations and perspectives.”

To live in a fair and equitable world, everyone must be represented at the table, she added, if not on the same page.

Golden is already an open and inclusive city, said Paul Haseman, who also serves on the planning committee. But it’s always good to reinforce that, he added.

There are some well-established organizations in Golden that do a great job promoting and benefiting the community, Haseman said, who recently ran for city council and is active with the Rotary Club. One thing Golden United will strive to do is to enhance and compliment those organizations, he said.

There is no preplanned agenda, and the direction of Golden United will be up to the participants, Haseman said. However, he added, the group abides by three principles — tolerance, understanding and open dialogue.

“We will always have differences with our neighbors, but overcoming obstacles and understanding that we have shared goals … will allow us to shape our community into what we envision it to be,” said lifelong Golden resident Hannah Fritz. “Every town is unique in its makeup of residents. Our primary goal is to bring the community together, regardless of political affiliation, race, gender, religion, socio-economic status or any other factor.”

It’s important “to recognize our strength in unity,” Fritz, 23, added, who serves on the planning committee to represent the young adult/millennial and student population of Golden.

A few of Golden’s shared values that the group has identified is caring about the education and safety of children, the cleanliness and health of the environment and the policies implemented by city council, Benioff said. And some actions the group has brainstormed which may be considered for the future are providing some educational programs or joint activities such as cooking or language classes, and promoting economic inclusivity and volunteerism.

There are a lot of issues going on worldwide and nationally, Benioff said, an employee of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory who does a lot of international work with diverse communities.

But Golden United will start on the local level, he added. And if it proves to be successful, the initiative can be expanded to other communities.

Of course, not everything can be solved, Benioff said. “But for most issues, we can make substantial progress.”

Golden United, Golden , Ron Benioff, Christy Steadman

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