Late 2015, we had the privilege of meeting Jim Diers. Jim is a social activist, one that we badly needed to hear in Burlington. Over the course of his stay in Burlington, he speaks to a various group of people who wanted to know about his ideas but mostly we wanted to be inspired.
So, what is neighbourhood power? According to Jim Diers, neighbourhood power is about empowering an idea that is fully founded by the community. Build by the community for the community. It’s about conception of an idea, a group of people and typically involving a private or the public sphere which becomes a bumping place. It may be an activity or a mere chair (a symbol, if you prefer) that becomes a common denominator.
In a course of a day’s workshop, we conceived a total of eight different ideas. Love my Hood, No Socks for Ivan, Healthy Kids Community Challenge, Community Matching Fund and Neighbourhood Rink are some of those ideas. I was excited to be part of the Neighbourhood Rink. Not knowing how to skate and hoping that this will offer an alternate time and space for me to be outside of City’s facility to learn to skate. Leading the community engagement of the initiative, I was entrusted with getting the word out to the public. Our research shows that while skating is on the rise in Burlington, we were at maximum capacity. We were running out of space in the Burlington ice rinks. What better way to support this idea, than to extend the activity to the outdoor space?
Historically, winter outdoor skating was already supported by the Road and Parks and Maintenance department. Over the past few years, outdoor skating application has dwindled and almost come to non-existent. Our initiative, not only revived the idea but also expand the location and place a great deal of ownership and responsibility to the residents. It’s allowing them to manage the activities, any issues that may arise, and the overall maintenance of the rink. Again, build by the community for the community. One of the criteria for the Neighbourhood Rink is that it must be free for all the community to enjoy. The City have committed to set up and take down the boards, provide water supply in select parks and providing training on how to maintain the rink.
There were 12 parks identified with a suitable flat space on a baseball diamond or sports field around the City of Burlington. Various neighbourhood groups come together in many different forms and shape. Some created a Facebook group while other shun away from social media and prefer to reach out to their neighbour the old fashion way – face to face. And, that is the overall idea, for people to get together, work together on a common goal that will benefit everyone.
Writing this blog post as a City employee, hopefully, gives the public a glimpse of what the City strive to do – and that is sharing this noble idea of fostering the sense of belonging in the Burlington communities. That and of course, all we need now is snow!