Synergy and Serendipity

Submitted by Christie Nash on September 28, 2015 - 4:55am
The Peterborough Neighbourhood Story


 On April 15th, 2015 a group of about 50 people gathered at Sadlier House, a community hub of sorts, in Peterborough, Ontario to participate in a neighbourhood asset-mapping exercise.  Representing not-for-profit organizations, neighbourhood associations, the City of Peterborough, Trent University, and active residents across the City and County, this group came together to learn about the ABCD approach to community mapping and share some of the neighbourhood-led collaborative initiatives already underway in Peterborough.    

Building on the success already underway in the Stewart Street Neighbourhood, in partnership with Active Neighbourhoods Canada (ANC), and the growing interest and momentum in Peterborough around developing a neighbourhood strategy, this exercise was designed as a hands-on, participatory activity to bring residents together to think about their neighbourhoods from an appreciative, or asset-based, lens.


Hosted by the Peterborough Partners for Wellness (PPFW), six large maps were printed out representing each ward in Peterborough. The group was divided itself into the wards based on where people lived and/or worked.  Each group was given a number of stickers that the groups stuck onto the maps to indicate various assets in the community. Although most of the assets indicated were structural (hospitals, schools, parks, shopping centres, etc), as the activity proceeded relational assets were also mentioned, including: neighbourhood associations, activities, groups, and community leaders.

This engaging, affirming, and eye-opening gathering was strengthened by the announcement that 16 (you read that right!) people would be attending the Neighbours: Policies & Programs 2015 gathering in Hamilton, ON to join 200 of the finest minds in neighbourhood building to share and learn together.

Simultaneously, the PPFW had submitted a grant to the Community Foundation of Greater Peterborough to more deeply engage with Tamarack through our Local Deepening Community Initiative to continue to build on a resident-led Asset-Based Community Development engagement process. The success of this grant and partnership with Tamarack was announced on June 23rd at an event sponsored by the Peterborough Pack to bring home the learnings gathered at NPP.  Here, 15 people signed up to be part of the Leadership Team to co-develop the framework, scope and scale of this local Deepening Community project, and 30 people signed up to participate in the ABCD mapping training process.

On August 31st, Sylvia Cheuy came to Peterborough to launch the Peterborough Deepening Community Initiative with the new leadership team.  Using a number of engagement tools to help build relationships amongst the team members and attempt to shape the project, the leadership delved into some topics that seemed to raise more questions than answers. It was quickly decided that more gatherings needed to take place to help define some terms and figure out how this projects fits into a larger and sustainable community development process.

With several seasoned facilitators on the leadership committee, a natural collaborative process has emerged with rotating leadership roles, meetings taking place at different locations, and each person bringing their gifts, skills, experiences and passion for community building to the table.  Staying true to the ABCD process, this group is discovering their own assets and building strong relationships that, although takes time, will build a strong foundation for a deep and meaningful community engagement process.

With two dates set in the near future, this aspirational community exploration will ideally move into a practical exercise that will connect neighbours, build community, deepen individuals sense of belonging, and provide opportunity and space to strengthen the social fabric of this beautiful place called Peterborough.