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Formal and informal leadership is complemented by a diverse collection of other groups, organizations, and individuals, ranging from professional and recreational groups (like chambers of commerce, 4-H, agricultural associations, and business collectives) and service providers (health, community and individual supports, social services, recreation, etc.) to sports teams, seniors groups, environmental organizations, and neighborhood or community groups. This diversity is both a blessing and a curse — engaged communities and services build community capacity in a variety of ways. At the same time, however, these groups may not only have competing agendas and interests, but may also be competing for resources such as members, money, space, land, and political support. These are some of the key dynamics of local governance. The blessings and opportunities, as well as the specific challenges facing a community in the real game of local governance, is not always immediately evident, and will require some analysis. Who has a leadership role can be opaque too, and varies from place to place. For example, in one town, the chamber of commerce may be rather passive in local governance, only waking up when a few members ask explicitly to say something in council, while in another town, the chamber may have a strong vision for the community and is an active participant in governance. In a third place, the chamber may take an informal leadership role and vigorously push its vision for the town, finding allies, taking initiative, lobbying higher up, and designating mayors. Leadership, formal and informal, carries an ambition, an urge to take initiative, to move a community in the direction of a cherished story. That drive can become reality only when there is a deep understanding of the local landscape of formal and informal institutions, of the stories and the coordination tools existing within the community. Of all local actors, leadership has to see most clearly how to use both formal and informal institutions, how to interpret, use, or ignore provincial policies to advance local visions. As we will explore in later chapters, this may even mean a complete redefinition of what a local community can do, transcending limits on local autonomy seemingly imposed by formal institutions.

Part I: Basic notions for community analysis

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