Building Resilient Neighbourhoods at the Deepening Community Conference

Jul. 13, 2016 in Articles

Effective neighbourhood resiliency is created with a focus on building local capacities today. This is one of reflections gleaned by the Building Resilient Neighbourhoods project. These reflections and more tools for resilience were shared at the Tamarack Institute’s annual Deepening Community Conference in a session facilitated by BC Healthy Communities (BCHC).

BCHC Learning Specialist and Facilitator, Stacy Barter, was a speaker at the Conference held in early June in Edmonton, Alberta. At the event Barter facilitated a workshop highlighting the work of Building Resilient Neighbourhoods (BRN) project.

BRN is hosted by BCHC and developed in collaboration with Transition Victoria and the Community Social Planning Council of Greater Victoria.  In line with the conference’s theme of ‘Resilient Neighbourhoods – When People Care!’; BCHC shared what was learned during the first three years of the BRN project in a workshop titled “Bouncing Forward, Not Just Back: Lessons and Tools for Building Resilient Neighbourhoods.” At the event, traditional definitions of resilience were examined alongside a new definition. 

"True resiliency goes beyond responding to crises and focuses on building local capacities today so that communities can become thriving places of strong connections where issues are proactively addressed."

Typically, community resiliency is viewed as the ability of a community to respond and rebuild after a disaster or crisis.  However, as BRN collaborators learned, true resiliency goes beyond responding to crises and focuses on building local capacities today so that communities can become thriving places of strong connections where issues are proactively addressed.   

BRN defines ‘resilience’ as…“our ability to respond and adapt to change (to act) in ways that are proactive, that build local capacity and that ensure essential needs are met." The intention of the workshop was to provide practical tools for neighbourhoods to realize this definition or level of resilience.

At the interactive workshop, participants were guided through various tools to assess and build neighbourhood resilience; and shared the Resilient Streets approach to building neighbourhood-to-neighbour connections, block by block.  

The workshop and the larger conference both confirmed why resilient neighbourhoods and the BRN project are more important than ever.  Across the nation, communities are faced with issues such as deteriorating infrastructure, climate change, unaffordable housing and food insecurity.  These issues can often feel overwhelming to address, leaving people feeling directionless and hopeless.

Building resilient neighborhoods provides an opportunity for people to focus on what is attainable and right in front of them; it gives people the tools to begin to take action, rather than becoming paralyzed by the immensity of the larger issues. Individuals, alongside their neighbours, are able to build capacities through forming connections, assessing their strengths and creating support systems to take local action on large and small-scale issues alike.  As John McKnight, founder and co-director of Asset-Based Community Development Institute, stated in his opening address, “What we want is a neighborhood that calls everyone to be kind . . . Powerful communities are those where there are no strangers”.

Of the 160 conference participants, a number of the conference participants were local government representatives, including staff from BC municipalities such as Kelowna, Surrey and Kamloops. The presence of BCHC’s partners representing various sectors, including the Victoria Foundation, reaffirmed the importance of building neighborhood resiliency amongst BC’s communities. 

Moving forward, BCHC will aim to advance the learning and momentum that was built from BCHC’s involvement at the Deepening Community Conference.  By connecting with partners that were at the conference and looking for opportunities to implement strategies for building neighborhood resilience into other BCHC program areas, BCHC will continue to demonstrate its dedication to the building resilient neighborhoods movement.  

Credit: Katie Howatson