3rd Annual Waterloo Community Action Forum
The 3rd Annual Waterloo Community Action Forum, Focus on Inclusion was held in April 2010 in partnership with the City of Waterloo's Mayors office. The final follow up session from the 2nd community action forum was held in January 2010. Over 60 people participated in the 3rd annual forum where the space was re-opened. Emergent themes and action were related to inclusive planning and action processes, crime prevention through environmental design, immigrant skills, isolated newcomer seniors, barrier free housing, living way/low income, one step stores in Uptown, and edible school yards. We continued to maintain a record of action that people planned to take and did take - many small action steps were taken to support change.
Festival of Neighbourhoods
2010 marked the 17th season of the Kitchener Festival of Neighbourhoods. This initiative encourages individuals to think about their community and get to know their neighbours by hosting simple get togethers. This allows an opportunity for neighbours to get to know one another. This initiative helps us to achieve our goal of increasing citizen participation and building social cohesion through relationships. There were 89 registered activities in the 2010 Festival. The activities ranged from simple street clean ups, book exchanges, potlucks to larger park events. We supported the Lakeside neighbourhood group through the 2009 Neighbourhood Connections Award by assisting them in reviewing the Kitchener Parks Master Plan and making recommendations for what they should emphasize in achieving their priorities for their neighbourhood park. Summer students worked to develop games that could be used to engage all ages and abilities and then they pilot tested these games in six neighbourhoods that were identified as potentially benefiting from proactive engagement.
Disabilities and Human Rights Group
In keeping with our mission to cultivate community knowledge to advance social justice and in response to interest from the community we have been investing in a Disabilities and Human Rights Group. This group is guided by principals of inclusion, capacity focused, authentic experience, improving leadership and maintaining a pace that fits all participants. The DHRG members have provided feedback that has supported and guided the Social Planning Council in a reciprocal, capacity building process. In recognition of the United Nations International Day for Persons with Disabilities on December 3, 2010, the group organized a mini-rally at Speakers Corner to raise awareness of progress toward achieving the UNs Millenium Goals.
This community initiative brings together 19 local partners to provide 33 internet access points across Kitchener Waterloo. The Social Planning Council believes that this is a cost effective way to reduce the inequitable access to knowledge resources that has resulted from emerging technology. In 2010 we delivered even more workshops/training sessions aimed at older adults to assist in their learning of new technology. We also provided a cybercamp for the Southern Sudanese community children and over the summer assisted KW AccessAbility to present a series of integrated cyber camps. These sessions allow people an opportunity to learn and explore. In 2010 well over 200 people were served through these opportunities.As technology develops many who have no access are left behind to wonder what these technologies are all about. In 2010 we undertook two studies to explore how well the ConnectKW sites met the needs of those affected by the digital divide. This included the accessibility of ConnectKW sites to the populations most vulnerable to the digital divide, creation of social profiles for each ConnectKW site and did the planning work for interviews, focus groups and a survey to assess how important this service is to the community. The projects will be completed in 2011.
Poverty Reduction - Put Food in the Budget Challenge
We participated in the Social Planning Network of Ontario poverty reduction campaign to 'Put Food in the Budget' which has asked that social assistance recipients get $100 per month as an immediate measure to supplement their basic needs amount. This campaign is seen to be a contribution to economic development as well as we know any money put into the hands of our lowest income earners will be spent and spent locally. As part of this campaign we brought local activists to provincial planning meetings to give input and we met with local MPPs to engage them in completing the Do the Math exercise to determine what it costs to live in our local community. We also engaged local organizations to join us in hosting a Put Food in the Budget Challenge - 10 local residents from all sectors took on the challenge to eat on a food budget they might have if they were on social assistance: $20 per person or $35 for a couple. This challenge was launched at the Waterloo public square and wrapped up with a community dinner at the Dream Centre in Kitchener. This was a tremendous learning experience for all of us.
Engaging Marginalized Communities in Health Promotions
In 2010 we undertook the K-W field work for this Social Planning Network of Ontario project funded by the Ministry of Health Promotion. The overall purpose of the project was to engage marginalized community members in community planning in relation to health risk factors. In Waterloo Region we worked with the Social Planning Council of Cambridge and North Dumfries and coordinated focus groups with newcomer women. We organized six focus groups with women engaged through Focus for Ethnic Women, Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre, the KW Muslim Women's Coalition.We also hosted a focus group with youth to explore in greater detail some of the issues raised by mothers.
Livable Communities for Aging With and Into Disabilities
In 2010 we started the 2nd phase of this project in partnership with the Canadian Centre for Disabilities Studies from Winnipeg. We engaged working groups who might be interested in planning processes related to aging with and into disabilities. The groups established each had a focus that we thought would be of potential benefit to those aging with and into disabilities. In this early stage of the project, we were able to compile a library of planning documents at local, provincial and federal levels. We have also been able to enlist working groups to give input into current planning processes - e.g. City of Waterloo official plan update in which we worked with city staff to include the concept of 'visitable housing' and the Region of Waterloo strategic planning.
Women's Groups Networking
In 2010 we started an initiative with the KW Branch of the Canadian Federation of University Women to engage KW and area women's groups to meet and explore the potential for establishing a network for these groups. Background work done in the fall found over 80 such groups and a community networking breakfast is planned for winter 2011.