After five years of being at the table, CRIHI sees an area that we can assist in: Neighbourhood Conversations.
When a developer proposes affordable and supportive housing projects to a neighbourhood, too often the conversations go very badly. Sometimes the developer has a bad process for consultation, and that prompts a strong reaction from the community. In some cases, the neighbourhood response is charged with fear and anger. Both of these factors contribute to a very unhealthy conversation.
Our Housing Ambassador, Mike Van Boom is charged with building capacity in neighbourhoods for healthy and informed conversation on Affordable and Supportive Housing Developments. Simply put, our ambassador is sent to start the conversation early in order to give the community a chance to prepare for a healthy engagement with the upcoming housing project. In that conversation, we will provide some solid information, and give neighbours an opportunity to listen to each other on their fears and concerns, questions, thoughts and ideas.
We do not come to discuss the particulars of a project or to advocate for its acceptance by the community, but only to help a community prepare so that when the time comes, the neighbourhood is ready to engage in what we hope can be a healthy and informed conversation.
Our Community Conversation Toolkit
CRIHI has developed a community conversation toolkit to help neighbourhoods prepare. This toolkit lays out some options for styles of conversation along with some practical tips in how to plan well and ensure everyone has an opportunity to both hear and be heard.
Our toolkit recommends five basic conversation styles to consider as possibilities:
- Talking Circle
- Conversation Café
- Quaker Straw Vote
- Roman Carousel
- Consensus workshop
You can access the full toolkit by clicking on the following link: CRIHI Community Conversation Toolkit
What’s our plan when approaching a community?
Our Housing Ambassador is not simply here to lead a conversation or a workshop, but to help a community learn how to plan and lead one themselves. To get there, our ambassador invites participation from a healthy cross-section of voices in a community not only to participate, but also to help plan the conversation.
For the planning team, we invite the following:
- Two or three representatives from the local Community League
- Two or more representatives from local faith communities.
- One or two local businesses that are seen as a lead voice in the community
- One or two representatives from local housing complexes
- One or two neighbours at large
- One or two representatives from the local home-owner’s association (if applicable)
- Someone from the local school community (if applicable)
Then we invite contributions from different groups in the local neighbourhood, such as:
- A hall or community space in which to host the meeting
- Food and beverages.
- Help with advertisement (including the cost of flyers or other promotion)
- Volunteers: people to help host, lead or facilitate different parts of the event.
- Anticipated volunteer time commitment: six hours plus participation in the conversation itself. Two planning meetings at one to two hours each. Two hours of additional work assisting with one or more smaller tasks.
FAQ – A Frequently Asked Question we often encounter is this: “Does our community really need this conversation?”
Our answer: It is difficult to know how a community will respond to a new affordable or supportive housing project in a neighbourhood. There may be very little fear or concern when a new project comes, or there may be a great deal of worry. We are here because we believe some preparation is the best way to be able to have a healthy and informed conversation.
Additionally, the process we have developed is designed to help communities learn how to plan and lead healthy and engaging community conversations. We are providing a training and leadership opportunity here that we believe will enable greater neighbourhood cooperation, collaboration and inclusion. That’s a win for everyone!