Summary of Learning: Day 2

Submitted by Rachel Elizabeth on June 13, 2013 - 2:03pm


Day II Highlights:

Our Focus: Organizing Ourselves to Realize Neighbourhoods as an Asset

Our Goal: To make the case that investing in neighbours & neighbourhoods is worthwhile & promising

Community Reflection

·         We're so addicted to "quick fixes"....and we need to remember that our communities' issues didn't emerged over night...and the fixes won't be...need to think about the intention about how we keep citizens at the centre.

·         I’m reminded of the importance of inter-generational learning

·         It’s beautiful to have been able to put faces & voices to thinkers I've followed for so's a privilege

·         Where do we start?.  We need to take organizations out and put the people back in.  I’m thinking about our regular newsletter and how we cram everything re: what's happening within our org. but wouldn't it be great to profile something we saw that is going on with the people in our streets in our communities.

Community Reflection

·         We're building a shared language

·         We're exploring the policies & programs to advance a shared agenda

·         We want to build a supportive community to continue to build knowledge together

·         This gathering as a generative process to build shared ideas & also want to offer you opportunities to have fun & regenerate yourselves

Jim Diers Comments:

·         3 Crises in Community: Crisis in the Economy (requires us to work in a new way and engage under-utilized resources);  Crisis in the Environment (climate change);  Crisis in Democracy (requires us to remind people to view themselves as citizens not just taxpayers)

·         3 Steps to Address the Crisis: 1st Step Recognize the Harm We Unintentionally Do: - Government and organizations unintentionally devalue the knowledge and contribution of communities; organize in silos and organizational goals rather than community goals; communities are being “empowered to death”…but we take citizen time for granted perhaps because we don’t’ pay for it; 2nd StepRemove Barriers – find ways to reduce or eliminate red tape; organizational/city programs typically offer cookie cutter programs & regulation; a know-it-all attitude; 3rd Step:  Build Community Capacity - Offer leadership training; Offer non-meeting options for engagement; help groups to network with one another; foster the building of relationships

·         Keys to making change – Shared stories of success; work with internal champions; borrow good ideas; start small & utilize pilots; resolve legitimate concerns, give credit away; have kids identify opportunities & accommodate them

·         3 Ways to Shift Paradigms: Move Beyond Top Down Control – for example, create “little city hall” offices within neighbourhoods; Move Away from Needs – Neighbourhood matching fund; and, Build on Individual Capacities – Move into the streets and less in cubicles; don’t engage the community before you’ve helped it

Paul Johnson: Hamilton Neighbourhood Action Strategy

·         identify and work with internal champions

·         created systems to eliminate red-tape

·         put the energy where the community energy is

·         resolve legitimate concerns but take positive risks

·         we had community assets so I was wasn't worry about no municipal $

·         Told Community: “We want to plan differently...and if you are interested partner with us”; Community agreed by expected City to be in for the long-term (met in Two Cougars Cafe)

·         Talk about how to engage more people within these neighbourhoods

·         Went to schools & engaged children in adding their voice to the plan

·         Posted neighbourhood plans in many ways

·         The City’s Plan has residents attached to each action it listed

·         When neighbourhood leaders presented to City Council it was 3rd largest gathering in the History of City Council

·         Presentations emphasized their community pride...and their commitment to implement our plans...and then invited the city to partner with them

·         City departments are now approaching to contribute & get involved, e.g. the City IT Group connected  neighbourhood projects to for-profit  IT Corporations

·         The story of neighbourhoods is now starting to change...and it’s the neighbours who are changing it.

·          The best is yet to come!


·         What can we do that is not dominating...but is supporting citizen action?

·         Hamilton has moved quickly because we have built on the shoulders of the great ideas from other communities - this is the value of a Learning Community to share & accelerate this work

·         How do we move this to the next level?

·         I visited and learned from the Office of Great Neigbourhoods

·         We need to change the culture of how we think of public servants:  there is a group of ingenious and creative people who inhabit our public system, but we have helped to create an infrastructure that is paralyzed and maybe it’s our responsibility to create a new mechanism to help them to release their gifts

·         Where is our tolerance, and our willingness to embrace peacemaking which Canadians are known for...and apply it internally to our politicians, public service & for-profit sector?

·         “King Henry” from Savannah:  a city manager who ultimately learned to think differently: read Leading by Stepping Back (

·         Liability and insurance spending:  Hamilton neighbourhood associations now spend 40% of their budget on insurance to use public spaces for community events…we are now working to change this

·         There is a broader inertia that does not respect's not simply...working with individuals....

·         Culture is something you do when no one is looking over your shoulder (Peter Drucker) it is largely unconscious, something we don’t pay attention to them… our habits, rituals, relationships etc.

·         Culture trumps's accessed through story

·         Bowling Alone - by Robert Putnam...each chapter cites research between community associations and well-being.

·         We should evaluate two things: The # of people involved in associational life (the strength of the associations); and, the range of functions that associations are engaged in

·         Validate that communities happen in different ways...and lets not be too prescriptive and lets also be aware of the uniqueness of each community and what citizens (newcomers) have different histories and that these experience

·         How to Cut Through Red Tape: listen and identify the legitimate issues & work through them; create fiscal arrangements between neighbourhood groups and area non-profits; work out maintenance agreements between city & neighbours;

·         The outcomes we are seeking in community will take some's also about creating a new understanding between us too and that we need to be willing to learn together and come to the tables as peers

Learning Wall Themes – Day II

Define neighbourhood 

·       Distinguish between communities and neighbourhood

·       Defined by residents not planning communities

·       Need to get at stories of a neighbourhood

Shift the culture

·       Move past fear to engage residents in outreach provide support through staffing etc

·       Create more trust that minimizes the 'us and them'

·       Requires big shifts and we need to be prepared

Partnership and collaboration 

·       Creative thinking collaborative about how to share the tax system 

·       And how funds are used and shared as a community

·       Create relationships, listen, and create appropriate responses

·       Partnerships with grassroots citizens and non-profit as fiscal agent 

Remove barriers 

·       Cutting the red tape

·       Policies that prevent skills of service

·       Policies that prevent engagement 

 Training and Support  

·       Find that person on site who can do something positive that starts the community together

·       Leadership training is important

·       Seed and support community change

Access to Space

·       Create community gardens in vacant lots

·       Have satellite locations for city hall 

·       Provide space in housing units for key services

Resources Support & Matching Funds 

·       -Cities to provide matching funds program

·       -to seed and support neighbourhood initiatives

·       -Citizens and city work together to develop guidelines

Policies that Enhance & Empower

·       Build policy around best practice

·       Make policies easily understood

·       Policies that are fluid and flexible

Be Inclusive

·       Create platforms for ideas

·       Convene conversations

·       Create resources in Languages of residents



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