September 10, 2004

Inclusive Cities Canada

The Inclusive Cities Canada project offers a model for analysis and collaboration that can be applied to inclusive destination development.

Project Description

The strategic direction for the cross-Canada work comes from a national committee with members drawn from the partners. The federal government’s Social Development ministry provides multi-year core funding, with supplementary start-up funds from the Laidlaw Foundation.

The first phase of the project involves research, analysis and reporting. The national committee has developed a common framework and methodology for the local research, including identifying the common dimensions of inclusion. Each city has established a Civic Panel to provide leadership and direction to the initiative locally. Civic Panels are made up of municipal and community leaders, to oversee local civic audits on social inclusion.

Local partners have already conducted community focus groups to explore the level of inclusion in a number of areas such as: public education, recreation, transportation, policing, local government, early childhood development, and community safety (See table at the end).

Civic Panels will produce civic audit reports early in 2005 with policy and practice recommendations and a description of what works and what doesn’t. A cross-Canada report will be the focus of a national symposium in April 2005 to develop and promote policies to strengthen social infrastructure and build inclusive cities nationwide.

The second phase will build on results achieved in the first. This will include strengthening and expanding the cross-Canada civic alliance, as well as developing local areas as civic centres of social inclusion.

The Dimensions of Social Inclusion

Community focus groups examined people’s perceptions of the ‘inclusivity’ of their city and communities along the following five dimensions:

Diversity - How well do public institutions, such as local government, the police and justice system, and public education, provide valued recognition and respond to diverse groups in the population?

Human Development - What opportunities exist for children and youth to develop their talents, skills and capacities to contribute to the community?

Civic Engagement - What are cities and communities doing to promote active participation in local government, community organizations and civic life?

Living Conditions - Are there significant differences in levels of income, decent jobs, safe neighbourhoods, and the availability of affordable housing among city residents?

Community Services – How well is your city served by important public services such as health care, crisis, and transportation services?

Community Focus Groups

Local partners have conducted 10 to 12 community focus groups of about 8 to12 participants to provide valuable qualitative information for the civic audit, as well as to identify areas that require further research.

Focus group participants acted as key informants who reflect the social and cultural diversities of the partner cities and communities. They provided strong insights from a wide range of experiences and perspectives, which will be explored more fully through a series of local soundings.

A trained facilitator employed a structured process that provided an opportunity for both individual and collective input. Participants were asked to identify what positive changes were needed at the policy and practice levels. The local civic audit reports will integrate the contributions of the community focus groups, local soundings, relevant statistical research, and key informant information.

Local Soundings

In addition to the community focus groups, informal local soundings are being held in all the partner cities to provide greater focus and understanding of issues facing diverse populations. The proposed questions for local soundings are below:

Describing the realities of exclusion

How do people in this group or community feel left out? Or, that they do not belong or are not part of the community? How do they experience exclusion or being “put at a distance” from others in the community?

Identifying the sources of exclusion

Why do people feel left out? What do they say is the cause of their exclusion? What do they point to as the problems?

Framing indicators or benchmarks of inclusion

How could the people affected feel that they were part of the community? What would give them a sense of belonging and recognition? What would have to change in the way that they experience life in the community and larger society?

Suggesting action to create inclusion

Where change should happen to make inclusion real in people’s lives? What kinds of action are needed? Who is responsible for making these changes? (e.g. leaders, organizations, governments, institutions – propose examples that tie back to their explanations of the causes of exclusion).

Furthr Reading:

"The missing voices in our cities" (Toronto Star)

Inclusive Cities Canada Project (Community Social Planning Council of Toronto)

Special thanks to Inclusion Daily Express for this news item

Posted by rollingrains at September 10, 2004 03:12 PM | TrackBack