Sustainable City of Sustainable Neighbourhoods

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Presenter at Symposium Friday event
Neighbourhood resident and presenter on theme of 'a neighbourhood isn't sustainable without...' at symposium event.

The Symposium

The culmination of the outreach and project development process was the two-day symposium for community organizations on April 8 and 9, followed by an action planning meeting on June 1. For links to materials and reports, click here.

Part 1: Setting the Framework, April 8

At the public Friday evening event, over 100 participants were invited to share what sustainability at the neighbourhood level means to them, using as a springboard the high-level concepts produced by the United Nations in 1983and by the City of Vancouver in 2002. (Video of sustainability presentation)

Ten speakers representing their neighbourhood organizations spoke to different themes ranging from ‘community building through the arts’ to ‘schools as neighbourhood hubs.’ Audience members were wrote their ideas on sticky notes and posted them around the room. A list of the topics and videos of the neighbourhood presentations are accessible here.

Part 2: Identifying Strategies and Actions, April 9

On the following day, 80 neighbourhood and community organizations representing a wide diversity of the urban community, gathered to identify strategies and actions.The day started with inspiring presentations from representatives of four neighbourhood organizations sharing success stories in neighbourhood/City collaboration: car free days, farmers’ markets, collaborative community planning, and preserving heritage and affordable housing.

The participants spent the rest of the morning developing strategies in response to 8 questions, and the afternoon discussing the major strategies into directions for action.

Top Strategies

At the end of the day, participants voted on the strategies discussed to identify the top priority areas for action:

  1. Invest in building neighbourhood capacity* and empowerment.
  2. Involve neighbourhoods/residents from the beginning and throughout the process.
  3. Need overall sustainability goals for the city developed and articulated in collaboration with neighbourhoods.

Next Actions: Survey

The all-day event did not allow enough time to refine the top strategies into actions, so Commissioners reviewed the documentation from the discussion groups to identify priority areas for action. The five broad areas were included in an online survey to participants inviting their importance.

The top three action directions or themes selected were:

  1. Convene a meeting to develop a practical action plan for building capacity and representation in neighbourhoods (including review of possible organizational models, successful practices and resources).
  2. Organize a workshop to scope a process for establishing sustainability goals for neighbourhoods and developing neighbourhood-based sustainability plans that could help to shape a city-wide sustainability strategy (including review of current city-wide and neighbourhood policies and frameworks and of other jurisdictions).
  3. Establish criteria for improved consultation processes (including review of past and current consultation practices and of other consultation models, and consideration of new approaches in City/neighbourhood/developer relationship).

It was interesting to note that the three action directions selected were fully consistent with the strategy priorities above, although with a re-ordering of the second and third choices in the actions.

Input from neighbourhoods was essential to the shaping of the planned city-wide dialogue event. In order to invite participation from each of the city’s 23 neighbourhoods or local areas, the Commission developed objective criteria for the neighbourhood engagement component. The project was officially launched in July 2010 at a meeting to which the Commission invited one representative from one neighbourhood group in each of the local areas. This proved to be more of a challenge that anticipated for reasons outlined in the meeting notes for the July meeting and in the project report.

Action Planning Meeting June 1

As the conclusion to the symposium process, the Commission convened an action planning meeting on June 1. The 10 participants broke into three groups, each focused on an action direction identified in the survey:

  1. Capacity and representation in neighbourhoods
  2. Sustainability goals
  3. Consultation processes

It was revealing that the groups developing an action under the building capacity and representation in neighbourhoods theme and the sustainability goals for neighbourhoods theme, identified similar actions as essential first steps:

  • Develop a comprehensive list/profile of diverse neighbourhood activists/organizations/advocates.
  • Build a map of community/sustainability projects in neighbourhoods across the city.

The third group working on the improved consultation processes theme focused on an initiative that is already in early stages of development in one neighbourhood.

  • Establish a liaison advocate in each neighbourhood who is well connected with the City, and well connected with the neighbourhood [pilot in one neighbourhood].

While all the groups wanted to see work on these actions continue, we heard from these citizens that most of them are over-stretched and not able to be the leaders on carrying the three actions forward on a city-wide scale. At the conclusion of the evening, the discussion returned to the idea of a city-wide meeting for neighbourhood groups, at which they could begin a neighbourhood-led process to build neighbourhood structures, perhaps learning from those that exist in other cities. (Meeting Notes)

 

More on the Sustainable Neighbourhoods project: Observations, Lessons Learned, and Next Steps


*Neighbourhood Capacity

*In the context of this report, the term ‘capacity’ as it relates to neighbourhoods, organizations or the Commission refers to a range of infrastructure items necessary for a project or initiative to be successful. These will vary by situation or group but may include:

Human resources
Material resources (i.e., space, office equipment)
Financial resources
Policies/procedures
Organizational structure
Systems (IT, communications, etc.)
Partnerships, collaboration, community connections
Skills and training
Community support
Leadership
Vision/strategy