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Authenticity, Integrity and Community

1 June 2020 |Community
Australian mum with kids

Authenticity, Integrity and Community

1 June 2020 |Community
The glue that holds a community together, whether its size be as small as a household or as big as a nation, is values. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is omnipresent and all-encompassing. This national emergency is dominating almost every aspect of our lives from our work and personal relationships, to the daily news coverage we consume and the social media feeds we scroll, tap, like, share and love.

 In just a few short weeks, our way of life has been turned upside down in an attempt to flatten the curve, protect our fellow Australians and preserve the health of our communities.

Commonly defined as a group of people who are linked by social ties, share common perspectives and engage in joint action in geographical locations or settings, communities are the lifeblood of our society.

This virus could have been an existential threat to our communities and our overall sense of community.

But rather than being cowed by the challenge, it’s galvanised us. It’s pulled Australians together in pursuit of the public good on a scale seldom experienced in any lifetime. At its core, this is what communities do - in it together.  

Instead, our response has highlighted, perhaps, a true definition of a 21st century community. A community rebirth, but not as we know it. Think global. Act local.

Be it supporting the local café, supermarket, pizzeria or restaurant that’s transformed itself into a delivery service/greengrocer, we’re all backing our local communities like never before. Everyone I know is making that extra effort to shop local and support local because after all, the people running and working in them are more than likely to be your neighbours, your friends or your friends’ friends.

Marnie Baker, CEO, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank
Marnie Baker - CEO Bendigo and Adelaide Bank

Conversely though, to unite we’ve had to physically retreat from one other. Social distancing is now part of our daily vocabulary and paradoxically, has become social solidarity. Our hauntingly empty cities and towns are testament to that.

It’s as if the traditional version of a geographically defined community forced its way out of our black and white history books and smacked into the middle of our 2020 Easter long weekend! But unlike those traditional communities, we haven’t been able to rely on physical human interaction and communal gatherings.

Instead, faced with almost unheard-of restrictions on our movement and physical interactions, we’ve changed how we socialise and do business together. Incredibly, we’ve adapted and at a pace few of us thought possible.

Not unlike traditional communities, we’ve once again become bound by the tyranny of distance, but this time it’s different. This time we have the internet.

These resulting virtual communities are hosting quizzes, crosswords, wine tastings, business networking, birthday parties, Board meetings, dating and exercise – and more. Even though we’re distanced, we’re arguably more socially connected than ever before. 

Other freedoms we’ve enjoyed, and often taken for granted, are no longer available to us, and it also seems to have sparked a newfound appreciation for the simple joys of exercise; outdoors.

Whether it’s a bike ride, a run or a walk, it’s almost as if our eagerness for the outdoors is growing with each passing day of isolation. It has certainly become challenging to maintain adequate social distancing at times; such is the sheer volume of people out and about!

As Joni Mitchell famously sang, “Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got till it's gone”.

However, the glue that holds a community together, whether its size be as small as a household or as big as a nation, is values.

 As Australians, we particularly value compassion for those in need, and while this public health crisis is undoubtedly testing our nation’s resolve like never before, it has been heartening to see the lengths we are prepared to take to protect each other, and the most vulnerable in our society. Afterall, without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.

While this pandemic was thrust upon us without warning, our unified response and resilience has been a sight to behold. Values my organisation and I hold dear - authenticity, integrity and community - have really shone through in recent weeks as people, businesses and governments have come together, put their collective shoulders to the wheel and attempted to solve seemingly insurmountable problems.

The significant bushfire and pandemic events Australia has faced since the turn of the year, and continues to face, have forced everyone to revaluate everything, rethink our relationships and re-equip for the future.

While many thousands of Australians are currently doing it tough and many more will do it tougher in the months ahead, I firmly believe we can emerge from this crisis as stronger, more robust, community-focused people.  

The road back from this economic shock will be a long one, but our response to this period of adversity will define our generation. This societal reboot can be the catalyst for a 21st century reimagining of how we live our lives, raise our families, do business and organise our communities. Imagine the possibilities as we emerge from our front doors into the physical world once again.

It’s a ‘community 2.0’ moment. Let’s not just “pave paradise and put up a parking lot”. 


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