Recent Publications

May 2016 ENeighbour

Start planning your summer activities
Neighbourhood activities can easily happen outdoors during the summer, making it much easier for all to gather. You can celebrate Canada Day, the Summer Solstice, or the end of summer... or simply celebrate the good weather! Read more in the May E-Neighbour.

Building A Movement to Deepen Community

Insights and Learnings from the 1000 Conversations Campaign
In the fall of 2012, Tamarack started on a journey to explore the experience of community across Canada.  We wanted to learn about how Canadians were experiencing community in their lives today, where they were coming together and what they were doing.  We wanted to unpack these experiences, and dig deep into what they meant to people.  We also wanted to dream together.  To learn about Canadians’ visions for community and understand their thoughts on how to get there.  Through this work, we hoped to raise the profile of community in the minds of people across the country and gain insights regarding the policies, programs and practices that support neighbourhood resilience and the building of social capital.  Our assumption underpinning this work is that strengthening and deepening people’s experience in community, will enable us to better respond to challenges and build a better future together. Tamarack created the 1000 Conversations Campaign as a structured way to undertake this work.  The idea was simple: get people together to have conversations with each other about community and then document and share the insights generated from these conversations.  Specifically, the Campaign served two purposes:
1.       It taught us a lot about people’s experiences and insights on community; and, 2.       It gave people a chance to connect with one another and experience community. Through this work, Tamarack developed an initial model for hosting community conversations that: .          Raised people’s awareness of their community; .          Improved their knowledge of and feeling of connection to each other; and, .          Increased their interest and knowledge about becoming involved in their community. The 1000 Conversations campaign was a first phase of Tamarack’s work in exploring the meaning and possibility of community.  The learnings from the 1,000 Conversations Campaign have now evolved to a new phase:  Local Deepening Community Initiatives.  From 2014 – 2017 Tamarack is committed to partnering with 3-5 local communities each year who are interested in leading local Deepening Community Initiatives within their own communities. These initiatives are simultaneously highly aspirational and profoundly practical projects. Our partnerships with a variety of local communities across Canada is one of the ways in which Tamarack is committed to supporting a national movement of community builders interested in deepening our collective understanding of the power and possibility of community and identifying the programs, policies, and practices that are demonstrating effectiveness in building and sustain strong, engaged communities.
Community Conversations

Healing Trauma in Community

First steps to some principles for community-based healing
Trauma Journeys in Community This is a first draft of a set of principles or markers for a journey of healing trauma in community settings. It is intended to answer the question “What can we share of what we know about trauma healing within diverse communities”? It recognizes the success of 12 step programmes like AA while pointing out the difficulties of (a) giving one’s self over to a “higher” power and (b) centralizing Christianity when dealing with peoples whose spirituality is other and whose trauma includes colonization and sexual/spiritual abuse within churches. This draft also honors indigenous and community-based healing practices rather than the more individualized, decontextualised and pathologising/disease models of Eurocentric paths. It assumes that healing places will have the same characteristics as those people seeking healing, i.e. be safe enough, open and freely accessible, able to offer confidentiality even though located within communities, alcohol and drug-free, honoring diverse expressions of Spirit and the particular group’s emergent culture ( developing community altars, marking beginnings and endings in meaningful ways, celebrating/feasting together, using multiple modes of creative expression).   Be safe enough No woman, no child, no disenfranchised or vulnerable person within the larger community, including any member of non-dominant cultures, is fully safe. However those addressing trauma need to be safe enough. That is they should not be currently living in an abusive situation. Their basic needs for shelter, food, health care and at least some loving supports, should be in place first. Addictions, which numb emotions and increase dissociation, need to be in recovery. Addiction recovery and trauma recovery go hand in hand.         2. Be ready to know We recover and look at our memories of the unbearable only when ready. Often it is in leaving places of conflict, getting rid of addictions, discovering loving supports, reaching some period of social safety, having a child or being with an other who calls forth the deep need to protect, nurture and foster growth, that we become ready to know. It is also rare for a trauma survivor to go toward healing until they are ready to know, however mixed their emotions.         3. Have guides or witnesses prepared to walk the path with you Someone who has been through the journey of trauma recovery far enough can guide others at least as far, and only as far, as they have traveled. There also needs to be a clear commitment to stay with those journeying in both compassionate and self-compassionate ways. Hence the problems of most medical/psychological/counselling systems which do not require practitioners to have made their own journeys …and the problems within profit-run non-wholistic systems or those with limited coverage which promote revolving-door treatments, short-term or solely medical-model coverage with no adequate training in multi-local models of trauma, indigenous ways or power literacy. Even with adequate enough guides, there is still the need for community and or public witnessing of the injustices, pain and effects of trauma to heal individuals, communities and, in rippling effects, cultures. That is why I offer these tentative first steps for others to build upon.         4. Be in open healing contexts that counter and never fully replicate the power over dynamics of the abusive contexts underlying traumas. Closed units or entrapment only within the medical mental health system (or even in remote communities/residential settings with just one or two ‘expert’ healers) tend to replicate dominant-subordinant dynamics. Long-term individualized one-up, one-down, expert-patient healing situations risk the same issues. They can easily maintain or replicate disempowerment and risk epistemological abuse however well intentioned. Hence I suggest community-based healing circles containing others further along on the healing journey. They can offer open, easy and free access to those safe enough and ready to know. They can ask confidentiality and social equity like that found in AA or NarcAnon. Information on such circles locally needs to be in every health and community centre, library, supermarket, church, video/liquor store and sports complex. Experienced guides could initiate such healing circles together in several communities, sharing their experiences, resources and learnings. At the same time we need to be addressing the problems in the traditional training systems to which most survivors are directed. We need training systems which teach about multi-levels of trauma, that have a long-term peer team commitment to survivors, that teach power literacy and the effects of colonization, racism, global greed and cultural awareness specific to their places. We need to advocate for funding for survivor chosen wholistic treatment in multiple modalities beyond the medical, pharmaceutical and psychological, all of which tend to be euro-centric and non honoring of indigenous healing ways locally. We need to develop and offer those more community-based indigenous resources to more traditional systems, e.g. hospitals, doctors offices.  5 Rekindle inner life and the sense of Spirit larger than ourselves, larger than humans, certainly larger than organized religions or tribal traditions, many of which are themselves traumatized. When the basic human contract of interdependence and loving connection with each other is violated, the sense of trust and of life’s meaningfulness is impaired. “Violence historically destroyed our capacity for inner life and has subsequently limited it from re-emerging” (McIntosh, A. 2008,  Hell and High Water; climate change, hope and the human condition.) Rekindling the sense of the Sacred and of inner life, heals.

Practices for Building Community

Learnt from 10 yrs of Spirit Matters Community gatherings
  1. Call in Spirit first.   2. Invite each person to introduce themselves to the community.   3. Honour the ancestors and descendants, elders and youth.   4. Sit in circle.   5. Create space for each to be seen and heard.   6. Give time and guidance for solo reflection on experience.   7. Model a gift economy to set the stage for a free flow of giving and receiving (e.g. "free table")   8. Share food; local, organic, prepared by local community.   9. Elicit non-verbal ways of knowing and being.   10. Offer a sanctuary space.   11. Make space and provide materials for spontaneous creativity  

Global Public Space Toolkit From Global Principles to Local Policies and Practice

Public spaces contribute to defining the cultural,social, economic and political functions of cities. They continue to be the first element to mark the status of a place from a chaotic and unplanned settlement to a well-established town or city. The value of public spaces is often overlooked or underestimated by policy makers, leaders and developers
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There are a number of reasons for this, such as the lack of resources, understanding or capacity to use the possibilities of public space as a complete,multi-functional urban system. Often the lack of appropriate enabling frameworks, weak political will and the absence of the means for public
engagement compound the situation.
In recent years, however, we have observed a remarkable rise in the number of cities, particularly in the Global South, that have managed to use public space as a key lever for urban development.Cities have used public space to improve mobility and access to basic services, making their environment safer and crime-free, stimulating economic activity and investment, preserving historical and cultural assets or facilitating urban renewal and inclusiveness.

Community-Builder Burn-out, and why I don't fear it

Why the "little things" mean SO much...
I do a great deal of work in my community, and there are those who ask me "Why do you do so much? You are going to burn yourself out!".  I have no fear of this ever happening, and the biggest reason is the people I meet in my travels/travails, and the conversations involved.

This morning, walking home from dropping 2 of my children off at school, I walked beside another parent.  She (let's call her "Alice") started to tell me the (actually kind of sad) story of her past year: 

-Alice's son ("Steve") was at a different school last year.
-Steve was living with his grandmother, due to Children's Aid involvement.
-Alice had had some personal issues ("I was a 90-pound junkie" were her words).
-Steve has a weight problem, and wears thick-lensed glasses.
-He was bullied A LOT at his old school.

SO, our conversation actually started with her asking how long my children had been at this school. I told her about my stepson, who started there in Grade 2, and is now in Grade 10.  How my second-oldest started there in JK, and is now in Grade 2, and my second-youngest who is now working on his second year there, in SK. I have a bit of experience with this school.  I have been very active since my daughter (the second-oldest) started, and I've helped make some of the programs better, and know almost all the teachers. Alice told me about her son being bullied, and I immediately told her that there was a low probability of that, which she said she had already experienced.It seems her son and her walked into the schoolgrounds the first day, and he was surrounded by children who were actually EXCITED to see someone new starting - something she said would NEVER have happened at his old school. I was able to set her mind completely at ease, because I was able to tell her who to talk to if such a problem arose, and that the teachers - in my own experience - responded quickly and well.

Alice thought perhaps many of her son's problems stemmed from the fact that she had not been too visible at his old school, and since none of the kids knew who she was, and that he was living with her mom, they felt no reason to hesitate in picking on him (which actually makes a lot of sense). I was able to inform her about the next Parent Council meeting, and again set her mind at ease just talking about my own experiences with the teachers and administration and how fantastic they are at working with parents to enhance and increase their desire and ability to be involved with the school.

This whole conversation started with Alice being a little upset that she had been hit in the face with a ball on the second day of school, and ended with her a) asking my name (just never came up) and b) smiling and extolling the virtues of this wonderful school her children have attended for all of a week.  I have these little moments with parents at the school, and people in my neighbourhood at least once a week, and these seemingly small conservations are what makes a community "happen", what makes a community strong, and how a community can know if something is broken and needs to be fixed, or is strong and should be a rock to build upon. If my small part in the vastness of the phantasmigorical things happening in the wider community this small City is is having these little conversations, I am happy to do it, and proud of it.  If I do not stay involved, or increase my involvement in community, I will not have the information to help these people out.  How does this affect my burn-out rate? Well, I am a social creature, and if I can't answer these questions, I am going to want to find out how, which is only going to throw me right back into the fray (so to speak), and make it harder for me to do what is in my nature, and THAT would burn me out.  So, I would rather be involved, and have the information at my fingertips - It actually means I won't burn out :)

Re-imaging the Civic Commons - Cities: Where Opportunity Meets Place

Resource Type: Report || Author: The Municipal Art Society of New York
Civic Commons is a term that refers to the facilities and shared spaces where a city’s residents “celebrate, learn, rest, play, make key decisions, express collective aspirations and provide for themselves and one another.”  The civic commons is also increasingly being recognized as an important factor in the quality of life of citizens and the ability to attract and retain the talent and investment needed to support the overall economic vitality of cities.  Re-imagining the Civic Commons – Cities: Where Opportunity Meets Place is a new report by the Municipal Art Society of New York that invites us to consider some of the less obvious, yet important ways that the civic commons contributes to city life and highlights some new possibilities that can be realized by challenging the way we think about, and utilize, our civic assets.         Shifting Trends and the Eroding of Shared Space  In the early 1900s, wealthy donors, corporations, faith-based and charitable organizations in all contributed to create their city’s civic commons – libraries, community centres, schools and settlement houses – that served the collective needs of its citizens.   Since the 1960s however there has been a “downward spiral away from the commons.”  The result is a vicious circle: disconnected and poorly funded civic assets lose their effectiveness; people who can afford to opt for private amenities.  Swimming pools are a good example: data shows that across the U.S. the number of private, in-ground swimming pools grew from 2,500 in 1950 to 5.2 million in 2009.  And, in 2012 the City of Sacramento – population 450,000 – had closed all but three of its public swimming pools due to competing municipal priorities.  The loss of a community asset like a swimming pool is easy to see and quantify.  However, less tangible but equally significant, is the loss that the absence of this shared space created to the community’s social fabric. Community assets and shared spaces “present opportunities for social interactions and chance encounters that foster neighborhood cohesion, cultural expression, a sense of belonging, the ability to source the ingenuity of others, and the advancement of our economic pursuits.”  These informal interactions amongst diverse citizens are crucial in nurturing a city’s social capital.  The authors caution, “If public comes to mean only for those who cannot afford private, we have a precarious inversion of the original purpose of the civic commons.”  The authors identify eight indicators as evidence that, in America, people’s sense of commonality and connection is eroding.  The eight indicators that Americans have less in common are: Distrust is Increasing – In the 1970s 50% of Americans agreed that “most people can be trusted” but in 2014 that number had shrunk to 33%  Significantly Less Time Spent with Neighbors – In 1970, 29% of Americans spent time with neighbors at least twice a week and only 21% had no interaction with their neighbors.  In 2015, only 19% spend regular time with neighbors and 33% report no interaction at all  TV is the Single Largest Use of Leisure Time – In 1965 the average person spent 10 hours per week watching TV.  By 2013 this had increased to 19 hours.  During the same time period the amount of time spent socializing had fallen by 10%  Private Pools Increasing While Public Ones Close – From 1950 to 2009 the number of private, in-ground swimming pools grew from 2,500 to 5.2 million  Driving Alone is the Norm: Public Transit is for the Poor – In 2014, 85% of Americans travel to work in cars, up from 63% in 1960; 10% of people carpool a decline from 20% in 1980; and commuting via transit has declined from 12% in 1960 to less than 5% today.  Outside the handful of large cities with excellent transit systems, public transit is limited almost exclusively to those who cannot afford a car or don’t drive  Middle Income Neighborhoods are Shrinking – Between 1970 – 2009 the percentage of families living in predominantly poor or predominantly wealthy neighborhoods doubled from 15% to 33% and those living in in middle income neighborhoods declined from 65% to 42%  Gated Communities Are On the Rise – By 1997, there were more than 20,000 gated community developments with 3,000 or more residents  Like-Minded People Stick Together – In 2014, 63% of self-reported conservatives and 49% of self-reported liberals said that most of their close friends share their political views. Emerging Opportunities to Re-build the Civic Commons  The authors of this report believe that today’s cities are at a “crucial inflection point” with respect to their civic commons.  Citing a “fundamental disconnection between the physical assets that most cities own and manage and what a cross section of their population needs and wants” as well as gaps, disconnections and constraints that limit shared programming across city departments and with community partners. They suggest that “a connected, aligned and modernized civic commons system” offers the possibility of emphasizing a city’s local uniqueness and enable them to be more flexible, adaptive and responsive to the needs and wants of citizens in the use of their civic assets.  One example cited to illustrate what’s possible is Pittsburgh’s City of Learning Program, which links together a number of its civic assets – libraries, museums and public schools – offers accessible learning opportunities via a network of partners and incentives to help young people map out pathways to college or career success. Translating these opportunities into realities will require municipalities to be willing to surrender the desire to either own or do everything in favor of embracing collaboration and being open to eliminating arcane zoning restrictions, bylaws and rules that undermine creativity and innovation.  Technology also offers the promise of facilitating greater transparency and connectivity between civic assets.  The report ends by posing three questions to consider when imaging the future of the civic commons: What are the levers for modernizing, aligning, connecting and sustaining the civic commons?  How can a connected and strategically aligned set of civic assets build competitive advantage for cities?; and,  How can digital technology be used to connect assets to deliver more value and make them more sustainable? There is a compelling need to reconsider how we use – and view – the civic commons of our cities in order to maximize their capability to deliver value that is responsive to the changing realities of citizens and municipalities.

From Age-ing to Sage-ing

Intergenerational caring in Edmonton
  Seniors are a powerful resource to tap into. Many have the time, patience, and life experience to help a child see their own worthiness. This project demonstrates the tremendous value of engaging seniors on their own terms. It also demonstrates a practical process to mobilize collective action in a very complex neighbourhood. It is hopeful work with tangible results. 

Make Serious Change by Having Fun

Seekers Journal August 2015
Seekers Journal
Dear learner, In his book Deepening Community: Finding Joy Together in Chaotic Times, Paul Born outlines the four pillars of deep community: sharing our stories, taking the time to enjoy one another, taking care of one another, and working together for a better world. In this August edition of Seekers Journal, we highlight posts and resources that capture the space where all of these pillars come together forming what is known in the venn diagram as the "common elements". Jim Diers explores how having fun and being creative together can be the most effective form of social activism; Michael Jones delves into the power of leadership that creates space for spontaneous dialogue and collaboration; and the Festival of Neighbourhoods in Kitchener demonstrates that the celebration of people and place can lead to a deeper sense of belonging in communities. We'd love to hear your stories of common elements. What brings your community together? How can we create spaces that inspire spontaneous dialogue and innovation? Visit our website to read more stories, gather more resources, and share your insights with us. Happy reading!
Make Serious Change by Having Fun   Community_Images_SurreyWhalleybench By: Jim Diers I was surprised when Cesar Cala, a fellow community organizer, complained that his efforts were often frustrated by “those GD activists.” “GD,” I asked, “what are you talking about?” “The grim and determined,” he replied. Cesar is right. Too many of us take ourselves way too seriously. We give the impression that activism is our cross to bear. If that’s our attitude, who’s going to want to join us? We need to lighten up and have fun if we want to make serious change.
Read more
 
Horizontal Leadership and the Spaces in Between
Michael_Jones01 By: Michael Jones In his short poem, “The Third Thing”, DH Lawrence wrote: “The atom locks up two energies but it is the third thing present which makes it an atom.” That third thing cannot be explained.
In times of volatility, leaders need to think outside the boundaries of their own business, sector or nationality in order to engage the challenges and opportunities that exist in this ‘third place’ -- the space in between. The ability to do this is what marks out ‘horizontal’ leaders -- those who are capable of stretching their imagination to lead from these third spaces that are impossible for any one organization to see or handle on their own.  Read more
Kitchener Festival of Neighbourhoods Chalk3 Kitchener's Festival of Neighbourhoods was founded by John MacDonald Architect, the Social Planning Council of Kitchener-Waterloo and the City of Kitchener. The Festival of Neighbourhoods' mission is to foster connections between neighbours by asking individuals and organizations to:
Think of themselves as the centre of their own geographic neighbourhood Organize inclusive activities that bring their geographical neighbours together face-to-face to get to know one another better Attend the Festival Finale in October to share and celebrate with the entire community Register their gathering with the Festival of Neighbourhoods The Festival recognizes and rewards those who reach across diversity in this way through a supportive program of encouragement and award. Festival of Neighbourhoods has recently updated their Neighbourhood Activity Trunk (NAT) and booking process. The NAT is available for all community members to rent out and to encourage youth leadership, these are offered for free. Read more
Discover 21 Neighbourhood Tools
Community_Images-cropped By: Christie Nash As a follow up to our Neighbours Gathering, we have been collecting neighbourhood tools from participants to share with you. Last month we launched our #21Tools Campaign sharing one tool each day on social media for 21 days.  From creating a labyrinth to sketching your network, organizing skillshares or facilitating a conversation cafe, these tools are innovative, helpful and fun. Discover our online Neighbourhood Tools Library Follow us @CommunitySeeker on Twitter; #21Tools Like our Deepening Community Facebook Page Please share these tools and think about which tools of your own you may be able to share to help us grow this neighbourhood toolbox.
Upcoming Events
CIS-2015-sm FACE-TO-FACE EVENTS Collective Impact Summit September 28-October 2, 2015 in Vancouver, BC Be part of a dynamic group of practitioners who are discovering new ways to lead, engage, and transform communities by tackling our most complex issues.
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Neighbourhood Activity Guide

Take a look at our Neighbourhood Activity Guide http://www.waterlooregion.org/sites/default/files/NeighbourhoodActivityGuide.pdf. We hope to hear back from you once you tried some of the activities. What we would like to hear most is how you organize your favourite neighbourhood get togethers so we can grow the compilation and share with others!