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Connecting Lakeside: A Deepening Community Initiative

Posted on March 10, 2017
By Tamarack Institute

In the spring of 2016, The Regional Municipality of York partnered with Tamarack to launch a Local Deepening Community Initiative called Connecting Lakeside at its Lakeside Residences Building in South Keswick. The conversations hosted as part of the Connecting Lakeside Initiative helped neighbours get to know one another; discover their shared hopes for the building that they call home; and, discover the gifts, knowledge and talents they each have to share.  It also created an opportunity for Region staff and community partners to get to know and work with Lakeside residents to facilitate linkages with the broader community, and to support resident-led projects that have made the building an even better place to live. 

Connecting Lakeside engaged more than 60% of Lakeside building’s residents and has sparked the emergence of resident leadership from across the building.  One shining example, is the formation of a monthly breakfast club.  Not only does it help promote healthy eating, and connection that is FREE for everyone, financial contributions by participants have been collected and donated to a range of local charities including a $500 donation to the local Sutton Youth Shelter. As another example, two residents contributed the gift cards they won at the building’s Master Chef competition to host a free Thanksgiving Dinner potluck for all.  A total of 31 residents – including 5 new faces – attended this event.   

The Connecting Lakeside Initiative has been credited with contributing to a 28% increase in tenant engagement between 2015 and 2016 at Lakeside.  This includes a significant increase in participation at Housing York led meetings and reflects the increased level of trust between the residents of the building and Housing York this project has fostered.  The project has also generated other tangible benefits to Housing York.  These include: a reduced call time in the building’s units; a reduction in neighbour-to-neighbour complaints; enhanced communication with residents; and a savings of cost and resources because of more resident-led initiatives in the building. 

By initiating this project and connecting the residents of the Lakeside building in a positive way, the Connecting Lakeside Project has also led to the formation of two resident-led Action Groups to enable residents to work together on two community issues that were identified in the conversations.  These are: A Resident Communications Group that is exploring ways to welcome new tenants to Lakeside and encourage neighbours to look out for each other; and, An Enhancing Accessibility Group that wants to explore opportunities to improve physical accessibility in the neighbourhood.  More than 26 people attended the Enhanced Accessibility Group’s first meeting – including people from three neighbouring buildings – who share the same concern.  The group’s next steps include hosting a meeting with their Mayor, local councillor, the Town’s Accessibility Committee and representatives of the BIA to brainstorm opportunities for collective action. 

The Connecting Lakeside Deepening Community Initiative has created an opportunity for Region staff and community partners to get to know and work with the residents of Lakeside to facilitate linkages between building residents and the broader community, and to support resident-led projects that have made the building an even better place to live.   It has also effectively demonstrated how positive changes can occur in a short period of time by investing in meaningful community engagement and creating partnerships between organizations and citizens. It has shown that the answers to many of our complex community issues are often best addressed locally with different sectors working together. 

This blog was written by Heather Tillock and Erinn Jay and was featured in Tamarack's Engage! March edition

Learn More:  

Neighbourhood Strategy, Cities Deepening Community

Tamarack Institute

By Tamarack Institute

The Tamarack Institute is a connected force for community change. We work with leaders in non-profits, governments, businesses and the community to make work of advancing positive community change easier and more effective. We do this by teaching and writing about collective impact, community engagement, collaborative leadership, community development, and evaluating community impact. We host two learning communities Cities Reducing Poverty and Cities Deepening Community turning theory into action.

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