In May 2020, the Cities Deepening Community network welcomed Greenway-Chaplin Community Centre as a member. For over 30 years this organization, based in Cambridge Ontario, has been connecting community members to recreational, educational, supportive programs and volunteer opportunities. With the disruption of regularly scheduled programs due to COVID-19, they have responded by joining a collective of learners from across the country to reimagine their purpose.
As a member, Greenway-Chaplin Community Centre is working through a framework to develop a community plan. With the guidance of a neighbourhood plan, leaders at Greenway-Chaplin Community Centre are looking to create a plan to create both physical and social infrastructure. Social infrastructure is known as the places and spaces where people gather to connect, learn, and support each other. During a time of pivots and transitions, Greenway has focused on build on what is strong in Cambridge, online.
Innovative ways to engage community virtually
Building a community strategy during COVID involves redesigning community engagement efforts. Along with shifting programming and hosting leadership tables online, Greenway Chaplin Community Centre is looking for ways to stay connected with community members. Since joining the Cities Deepening Community network, Greenway Chaplin Community Centre has reviewed their engagement strategy.
Greenway Chaplin had to rethink their engagement strategy. They needed to think about what they are offering, the reasons why they are engaging with community members and see if it has changed. Then Greenway Chaplin had to think about the “how” they were engaging and this is what was truly disrupted by COVID-19. What worked before COVID-19, might not work now (see photo). With this new thinking and planning, Greenway Chaplin have come up with some innovative engagement techniques:
- June 2020, they started community conversations using phones, zoom and surveys
- They received 64 survey responses, including ideas about the strengths and future opportunities for the Greenway-Chaplin Community Centre.
- Youth were engaged in this process and they took time to reflect and provide their ideas.
- Greenway-Chaplin hosted a virtual project summary presentation in January 2021
As you work through your engagement planning during COVID-19 here are seven foundations for authentic engagement that you should consider:
- Be transparent
- Recognize all the expertise
- Understand power
- Establish ownership
- Ensure contribution
- Welcome diverse perspectives
- Close the loop
As we shift into 2021, there has been a need to pivot our engagement efforts and re-evaluate our capacity. With the intention to connect around a shared space, Greenway-Chaplin is one example of a member who is building the case for an inclusive, vibrant community centre in Cambridge.
How has your community been able to creatively overcome the barriers around community engagement during COVID-19? Share any insights with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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