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Action 3: Community Engagement and Capacity Buidling

Why are community engagement and capacity building important?

  • The community is an important resource to help achieve mutual goals, and community engagement increases municipal capacity. Municipalities can leverage the expertise and knowledge of community members on a volunteer basis.

  • Community engagement provides the perspectives of citizens, both as individuals and collectively.

  • Engagement and participation are vital in creating effective policy and programs for community health that are inclusive and holistic. 

Huron County: Case Study

  • Jane’s Walk was a community-organized event where residents walked around downtown Goderich and discussed design elements that could improve the community.

  • Jane’s Walk was innovative for a rural community because it originated as an urban idea and was implemented in a rural downtown area.

  • Jane Jacobs, an urbanist who helped to protect neighborhoods in Toronto and New York, provided inspiration for the walks, which are held around the world. Jane was an activity for people people and wrote about how cities can function as spaces for people. 

Recommendations for rural municipalities:

  • Use creative ways to engage the public in the planning process in addition to the Planning Act requirements. As an example, Haldimand County hired a skateboard professional to give credibility and information on public spaces for youth.

  • Leverage non-traditional organizations as partners involved with public health, recreation, engineering, business and youth.

  • Seek additional funding and foster public and private partnerships.

  • Tips from practitioners:

    • Develop safe spaces where people can engage with each other.

    • Build council support through education and awareness. This helps new projects acquire public funding and encourages fundraising and private donations.

    • Engage champions for projects – a dedicated individual who is willing to see a prject through contributes significantly to a positive outcome.

    • Employ creative approaches to encourage citizen engagement which could include informal public gathering mechanisms, such as coffee shop setting and design charettes.

    • Use social media to connect with a wide range of citizens. Social media tools can include: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.