Reflection of My Time Here

Submitted by connor@tamarack... on July 7, 2017 - 5:29am

It’s been a little over two months since I’ve started my position at the Tamarack Institute and I wanted to reflect on what I’ve learned, specifically the work our Deepening Communities branch does.

When I first started this role, I was a little skeptical about the work I was going to be doing. I had never thought about the benefits of a strong community or a neighbourhood association. In hindsight, I should have known that I would become quite invested in the work I would be doing, because it was similar to how I began my degree. 

I walked into my first health class in university with the career of a pharmacist on my mind and the belief that health is affected by a disease or parasite. I quickly learned that there is a lot more to health than the biomedical perspective, that I have now developed a firm disbelief against. After a few classes, my career choice had changed from a pharmacist to public policy because of the impact I learned that social aspects and conditions can have on an individual. 

Even with this knowledge, I was still skeptical because I hadn’t heard about neighbourhood associations or communities working together to change their environment. It blows my mind that I never considered this because in the town I grew up, I had some incredible neighbours. 

 

One of my neighbours shares a backyard with my house, there are only a few small trees that separate the two backyards. My neighbours had a basketball net in their backyard that I could use whenever I wanted. Our neighbour on the other side of my house was an older adult that my family assisted whenever we could. Whenever it snowed, we ensured that her laneway was clear so she could access her car safely. Growing up, I always received $5 for helping her out, but my dad would never accept any money. 

My entire life, the concept of neighbourliness and being a good neighbour was always around me, but I didn’t realize it until now. 

I was also skeptical of this work because I’ve been conditioned through my schooling to only trust scholarly articles that have been peer reviewed. This is both a good and a bad thing. It is good because the internet is full of misleading information due to financial gain or certain beliefs. It is also good because it has helped me develop critical thinking skills and to question the results of almost everything I read. 

This way of thinking was bad in the sense that it made me not trust the work I was doing. There are some scholarly articles on community engagement, but they are usually tied to health or the environment. While the work we do does impact both, the main goal is to bring people together to increase the quality of life. Due to the lack of scholarly evidence, I had a hard time investing myself fully into the work. 

As I’ve continued to learn, I’ve realized that is isn’t always possible to have peer reviewed scholarly articles, especially if your organization is one of the main driving forces in the field. Sometimes the evidence you need is gathered by an organization or is a story told by someone that has been impacted by the work done. It isn’t always an option to have a professor or researcher to conduct a study when an organization is small or they are just beginning. 

My career choice hasn’t changed like it did on my first few days of class, but I have grown to appreciate and respect the work that municipalities and other organizations do. I am constantly making parallels to what I’ve learned in my studies and to the work that’s being on in this field. 

I am very lucky to be a part of the driving force beind getting communities and neighbourhoods engaged. I am excited to see communities become a larger stakeholder in the grand scheme of everything. I am also excited to see the concept of neighbourliness grow into something that is practiced in every community across Canada.

 

Thanks for reading!