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Archive for January 2015

Communities that make change happen

I think a lot of us have seen exciting initiatives for the community fizzle out. There’s a burst of enthusiasm at the start, but taking ideas and maintaining momentum to translate ideas into actions can be a major challenge. Sometimes it’s hard to get Council or Board support. Sometimes the community is either ambivalent or critical. And sometimes there just isn’t enough time in the day to branch out into special projects.

Gaining support from Council is clearly the first essential element for any project. That’s a given. But finding the other elements in a formula for successful projects isn’t always as clear. What does it take to move ahead with something like a downtown revitalization? In Ideas that Ignite Downtown Revitalization, three communities share their experiences. The outcomes of their success in terms of significant investment and the change in their downtown core are proof that they are on the right track.

They all made ongoing community engagement a priority, and they applied some creative approaches to engage their community members rather than just using traditional tactics. They took their community’s priorities and translated those ideas into achievable actions, and they have delivered some quick wins for their community to show early success. Based on their outcomes, it would appear the second element to success is engaging the community (even after you have their support for the project), and the third element is having some quick success stories you can showcase to keep your community and your elected officials on board with the project.

Taking on projects that may not have been on the radar of local government a decade ago can also pose challenges for local government. Food security is one of those areas that is gaining interest and support at the community level. As citizens push for more measures to increase local food production, local governments are finding themselves tasked with looking at how they can facilitate these types of projects.

A number of communities have found that they have a valuable role to play in removing impediments to local food production and have become a key partner in promoting food security in their communities. Their advice and experiences shared in Food Security: A Growing Imperative show how making a few regulatory and zoning changes along with working with partners in the community can help support food security initiatives.

There’s definitely a community appetite for food security to support being more self-reliant locally, and creating opportunities to ensure that local, healthy food is available broadly in the community seems to be a growing trend (and yes, I’m having too much fun with the puns). It’s also becoming increasingly apparent that we should not assume that we’ll always have a reliable food source from external markets. Both factors suggest that food security will continue to be something local governments need to take on for their community’s quality of life in future.

In a sense, the theme in this edition is about taking care of our communities – either through creating a safe, attractive and vibrant downtown or by establishing policies and partnerships that protect and expand our capacity to produce a reliable source of healthy food locally. These are important goals for many communities, and I hope the experiences and insights shared through Exchange add value that can be applied throughout the province.