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Implementing City's Strengthening Neighbourhoods Initiative
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The March Christian Churches of London (CCNL) Leadership Breakfast was the first meeting with City of London staff members following the breakfast meeting with Mayor Fontana. At the meeting the Mayor discussed the City’s Strengthening Neighbourhoods initiative and how he wished to work in concert with CCNL to turn the initiative into reality.

Jack Baribeau, Director and Acting Chair of CCNL, opened the meeting with remarks about the cooperative relationship between the city and the Christian community. He said: "It is truly a blessing to have the city involved through a cooperative approach to the programs that are so important to us."

He talked about the success of the Cover the Streets with Prayer walks. Jack explained: "This ongoing program clearly illustrates the power of prayer. The police told our organizers: 'we don't know what you are doing but it's working. Crime rates in the areas you have reached out to have dropped to virtually nothing'. We know this is a wonderful roll to play in the City's Strengthening Neighbourhoods program."

Jack concluded his remarks by saying that so much of what the City wants to accomplish is part of what the Christian communities want to take to the neigbourhoods.

Jack then introduced Lynne Livingstone, the City of London's Director of Neighbourhood and Child Services Strategy.

Lynne's presentation began with her statement: "Because of our shared passion the Strengthening Neighbourhoods program is succeeding."

Lynne outlined the various components of the program first by setting the context of the City Council's Strategic Plan. She discussed the objectives, first and foremost being to build vibrant and diverse communities by investing in neigbourhoods and through community engagement

The "Caring Community" component of the plan is to increase health and well being of everyone. She explained that it is the goal to have everyone buy into supporting individuals at all stages of life and to promote safety in neigbourhoods.

Lynne pledged: "Neighbourhood and Children's Services work collaboratively with our colleagues and partners, bridging systems to improve the quality of life for all Londoners by creating opportunities for individuals to lead healthy, socially-active lives by leading the integration of community-wide initiatives. With the demonstration of your commitments already we all see how we are working towards making London the best place to live, work and play because we are all focused at the neighbourhood level."

She explained that neigbourhoods are about people and places and how they work in partnership to make neigbourhoods great. Strengthening Neighbourhoods is in the third year of the five year strategic plan and Neighbourhood Action Plans are in progress at a number of specific neigbourhoods including Kipps Lane and Argyle.

The actions include:
  • Neighbourhood Association sustainability
  • Exploring "free" community space opportunities (informal gathering places)
  • Promoting & showcasing uniqueness of London's neigbourhoods (Little Gems)
  • Growing London's Community Gardens Program
  • Neighbourhood specific signage
  • Grow Clean and Green - expand the number of neigbourhoods participating
  • Increase number of Londoners who car pool, walk and bike
  • Provide incentives for Londoners who do the "right" thing environmentally
  • Increase use of parks - "pocket parks"

Lynne said that the Child and Youth Network has over 150 organizations and more than 500 individuals working together to improve outcomes for children, youth and families.

The results are and will continue to be; Happy - Healthy children today - caring, creative and responsible adults tomorrow.

Lynne said: "The bigger challenges such as ending poverty. How? First we need to change the conversation and we start with the awareness and engagement campaign called Make Day to Day Life Better. We need to break the cycle. For example we have the Glen Cairn pilot project which was initiated to support at risk students to graduate high school and go on to post secondary school or employment."

She went on to say: "Next we must work collectively to make literacy a way of life by promoting literacy from birth. We feel the best way is to take a neighbourhood approach to literacy, in Huron Heights there are eight literacy projects which include our family literacy kits."

Lynne the explained the next part of the initiative: "The third pillar of the big challenges is to lead the nation in healthy eating and healthy physical activity. Again by raising awareness and engaging the community with campaigns such as the 'in motion® social awareness campaign' and the Menu Makers Meal Planning Tool and the Activity Tracker all leads to create healthy, active neigbourhoods."

Lynne went on to talk about the fourth goal which is to create a Family-Centred Service System that will raise awareness of services such as the four referral maps that have been created, the 211 Service that has been implemented. "We and you have successfully engaged the community. There are now 350 trained individuals in ACE Community Development & Integration Assessment Tool. The Community Development initiatives are now active in 7 of the City's priority neigbourhoods."

"I am pleased to report that the efforts to move organizations in London along the integration continuum has accomplished a 36% increase in organizations reporting cooperation and a 39% increase in organizations reporting collaboration." These figures are for the period 2007 - 2010.
Lynne's next topic of the presentation was the Youth Economic Development Framework. "Our young people within their neigbourhoods are having fun, building skills, completing school and seizing meaningful opportunities to propel them toward productive futures action at a local/neighbourhood level. They are focused on creative small scale measures related to education, leadership, employment, skill development and business incentives. These create the conditions for economic opportunity for youth by motivating and equipping them to finish high school and attend post-secondary education."

Lynne used the chart shown (below in the gallery) to further explain.

She concluded the presentation with thanks to the group for their attendance but more importantly in their commitments to the programs. "With so many tasks that need to be, I am very thankful of the efforts you have made so far and your commitments for ongoing involvement."

Lynne and a number of other City staff members were available following the presentation to take questions and to talk about the programs.

For more information about the London Strengthening Neighbourhoods Strategy and how you can become involved visit: www.london.ca/neighbourhoods