Connect Call Series Launches with an Hour on Neighbouring

New technology mixes guest provocateurs with small group discussions

Yvonne Hollandy

Neighbourhoods are the building blocks of a community and are built on relationships. Just what sparks these connections and what can grow from them was illuminated during yesterday’s first “Connect” teleconference call of the Peterborough Dialogues.

Participants in the call held an hour-long phone conversation about neighbouring, one of the areas of interest emerging from the recent Dialogues series focused on cultivating a resilient and thriving Peterborough.

Two guest “provocateurs,” Peter Williams and Brianna Salmon, in short interviews with host Ben Wolfe of Axiom News, shared their experience at last weekend’s Tamarack conference in Hamilton on the best in neighbourhood-building, as well as their work in Peterborough with such initiatives as community-based conflict resolution and the Stewart Street Neighbourhood Association.

They and the other Connect callers, through MaestroConference technology, also broke into small groups to explore their hopes and dreams for their neighbourhoods and to imagine projects that could be a starting point for transforming where they live. Project ideas were typed into a shared document that participants could see on their computer screens via social webinar.

“The safety and well-being of a community can be measured by the strength and resiliency of its citizens.”
— Peter Williams

During the Connect call, participants described what’s happening in their Peterborough neighbourhoods and how seeds for neighbouring are planted in different ways. An active neighbourhood association, for instance, has developed from a small effort to create a community garden in an underutilized space. Another initiative, like a community-driven free library box on a single street, has spread around the city and engaged citizens as well as organizations.

As Brianna reflected, people tend to want to start big when it comes to community building, but it takes time and starting simple, with something like a community dinner. Growing a positive presence in the neighbourhood can engage more people and develop into significant work.

Yesterday’s interactive hour of sharing experiences, insights and ideas surfaced some themes that also threaded through the Dialogues series. For instance, a strengths-based approach to reimagining neighbourhoods or building community holds more possibility than a problem- or deficit-based approach, as citizens are engaged to discover and share their gifts, skills and talents. Cultivating social bonds from what already exists can create a sense of empowerment and common purpose that, in turn, can foster grassroots collaboration and shatter the silos of day-to-day life weighing down and separating people and organizations.

To quote a theme from the Tamarack conference, as shared by Peter: “Don’t do for people what they can do for themselves.”

He also notes that the safety and well-being of a community — a vital goal for him as the Peterborough Police’s community development co-ordinator — can be measured by the strength and resiliency of its citizens. And fostering positive relationships among citizens make for stronger and healthier communities.

“Neighbourhoods are the building blocks of the city and neighbourhoods depend on relationships,” Peter says.

The conversation on neighbouring will continue next Tuesday, June 23, when Peter, Brianna and other Tamarack conference participants share their learnings at a Seeds of Change public event at the George Street United Church.

A recording of today’s Connect call interviews with Peter and Brianna will also be available to Dialogues members.

More conversations on community-building themes with guest “provocateurs” from home and away are coming via Connect calls. Offered twice a month by the Peterborough Dialogues, Connect calls are a convenient and accessible way for members to share and learn on a range of topics explored in the in-person Dialogues series and tree-fort sessions that follow.

The calls will be opened up to wide participation in the very near future.

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