posting by Karen Gingras
There are various strategies for involving people in land development and at the Edmonton Community Development Company, we are taking instruction from people who reside in neighbourhoods to create effective community engagement.
For example, while data provides us with valuable information, understanding a neighbourhood’s history and culture is often best sourced from the people who live in the community. Sometimes, what could be viewed as a minor detail, becomes the foundation for community engagement. For example, representatives of the Fraser Community League and people involved in Communities United and C5 helped us understand that the Fraser neighbourhood has felt excluded from community engagement.
In Fraser, operating under this premise has led to a comprehensive community engagement strategy that, if mapped, would look like a giant web. Established through conversations with people who live in the neighbourhood, we have learned the importance of connecting with the schools in the neighbourhood and elsewhere, as youth must commute to other neighbourhoods for education beyond elementary school.
Because the general area lacks the resources of other parts of the city, whatever is built on the Fraser land will likely be of benefit to other communities. Therefore, connecting with other community leagues is important. Libraries are often overlooked as opportunities for community engagement and yet programs such as English Conversation Circle are natural gathering places. School principals are another excellent resource for understanding a community and how best to undertake outreach. How do we reach families through the schools? Do we translate materials? What activities occur at the school where outreach would make sense?
Each person we speak with has connected us with someone else. This end of the community engagement spectrum, where we are informing people about what we are doing, sets the stage for the next phase of hearing from people about what they want built on the Fraser land.
In contrast, in the McCauley community where a general consensus is that “we have been consulted to death”, a different approach has been undertaken. The Edmonton CDC recruited a concept design team, with members from the community, are working on three options for the Paskin site in McCauley. Be Bold is the mantra and they have tasked the Edmonton CDC to explore concepts that they have generated.
While the approaches are different, over the next couple months, each community will have the opportunity to share their perspectives on proposed ideas and from there, a development plan takes shape.
Two neighbourhoods, two different engagement strategies – same goal – people engaged in the development of land in their community.