Bringing Home the Best of Neighbourhood Connections

Participants check out the lists of ideas they generated for engaging their neighbours at the recent Neighbourhood Connections gathering in Peterborough, Ont. They also created a checkerboard of Post-it notes describing community-building initiatives and organizations in which they’re involved.

Bringing Home the Best of Neighbourhood Connections

Peterborough conference goers try a collaborative experiment in knowledge sharing

A man enters the only store in a small town wanting to buy fishing bait. The merchant, perplexed, says he can oblige but suggests the man will find just what he needs outside by simply turning over some rocks.

This story was shared at what was called Neighbourhood Connections in Peterborough, Ont. on June 23. It was fitting and poignant to hear this story, reflecting the essence of the purpose- and possibility-laden gathering.

Neighbourhood Connections intended to share the learnings and experiences of Peterborough and area attendees at the recent Tamarack Neighbours conference in Hamilton, and to connect the diverse group of community members gathered at Neighbourhood Connections — active advocates, the curious and the caring — in hopes of building relationships which are called the bedrock of neighbourhoods and, by extension, a resilient and thriving community.

 
  Participants spent time exploring possibilities for their neighbourhoods in pairs and small groups.

About 10 conference participants shared their takeaways from the Tamarack event. They represented organizations and agencies such as the Trent Community Research Centre, Peterborough Police Service, Peterborough GreenUP, the local health unit, city council and the Peterborough Poverty Reduction Network. John McKnight, Vickie Cammick and Michael Jones were among the community development innovators who informed and inspired the Peterborough contingent.

John’s story about the bait — a resonating moment from the Tamarack conference for Jason Hartwick of the Stewart Street and Community Association — reflects John’s asset-based approach to community development.

“The point is, we’ve already got everything we need to do everything we need if you just look around,” Hartwick said.

Many nuggets of neighbourhood building were mined from the Tamarack conference, and Neighbourhood Connections became a golden opportunity for insightful interaction and reflection. It was created to be “a collaborative experiment,” as participants not only listened and learned with the Tamarack delegates but also engaged one another. They met in pairs and small groups to explore why they came to Neighbourhood Connections, and opportunities for citizen engagement in their own neighbourhoods and what gifts and passions they can bring to this generative work. In this inclusive space for listening and connecting, some may have realized their untapped potential to cultivate meaningful relationships or even found new and supportive connections they need to foster neighbourhood building.

“The safety and well-being of a community can be measured by the strength and resiliency of its citizens.”
— Peter Williams
 
   

During the morning event, participants also contributed to an asset-mapping wall, and generated lists of ideas for connecting neighbours.

Social networks or social infrastructure, in the words of some of the Tamarack conference attendees, had the opportunity to seed at Neighbourhood Connections.

Elements of the Peterborough Dialogues — a community-building initiative designed and hosted by Axiom News — coloured this gathering. The break-out conversations mirrored parts of the Dialogues process, begun this spring, which invites community members to connect with themselves, one another and the community to enliven their intentions for building a resilient and thriving Peterborough.

Some of the Tamarack participants had also engaged in the Dialogues, which may have helped foster the intention to share their learnings and experiences in a collaborative forum.

Information and resources will continue to be shared among the Neighbourhood Connections participants. Some are also pursuing opportunities to meet again, and to participate in initiatives presented at the gathering, including becoming champions of asset-based mapping to take into their neighbourhoods. This training is being made possible through the Peterborough Partners for Wellness steering committee, aided by a new grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Peterborough which was announced at Neighourhood Connections.

In the words of Tamarack and Dialogues participant Peter Williams, who hosted the event as community development co-ordinator for the Peterborough Police Service, Neighbourhood Connections was likely to be messy and chaotic as a first-time, collaborative experiment in knowledge sharing — but it represents another stepping stone for community development.

This blog was originally posted on peterboroughdialogues.media, the news site of the Peterborough Dialogues, a local engagement project designed and hosted by Axiom News.

You can comment on this story below, or e-mail lisa(at)axiomnews.com.

Writer Bio

Lisa Bailey

Lisa Bailey came to Axiom News with reporting and editing experience at newspapers across southern Ontario. She has enjoyed a new approach to journalism based in appreciative inquiry and asking catalytic questions, and the variety of interviewing people from sectors as different as long-term care and engineering.

“It’s important to record history as it is happening, and that’s what journalism does. But there can also be deeper meaning," she says. "You can be forward-thinking and try to facilitate change for the better."

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