by Stephane L. Pressault

Barrhaven Civics Talks

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01 December 2017

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Bringing people together creates magic.

Earlier this month, I facilitated our Barrhaven Civics Talks with a group of passionate and diverse people in the Loblaws Cooking School. I left feeling that CityMaking not only brings people together, but creates a sense of stewardship amongst neighbours.

The stories shared on these two nights were revealing. If you live in Ottawa’s urban core, you may assume that Barrhaven is nothing but a “bedroom community” we’ve all heard of “Farrhaven”! Yet the CityMaking passion is all-too-present.

We hosted two sessions: on the first night, we explored how diversity makes community. We had all sorts of people from all over the world that now call Barrhaven ‘home’. Recognizing this means that even if we come from all walks of life, a shared place and sense of ownership can go a long way.

A sustainable community is co-created.

This is why I asked the group to imagine what Barrhaven will look like in twenty years. For some, this is a very difficult question. “Do you imagine yourself in the same place in the future?” People in our cities are increasingly becoming more transient. This was obvious as most of our participants didn’t grow up in Barrhaven.  How can people become stewards if they don’t grow roots in their neighbourhood, ultimately developing a sense of place? Yet our participants are creative and imagine a Barrhaven with a small-town feel, with mainstreets, strong community ties, and local artisanal shops. We even had a participant imagine a local trolley that would take people to different destinations across the ward. Others talked about a strong and meaningful relationship between government, non-profit organizations, local businesses, community associations, etc.

There are always barriers to CityMaking. Barrhaven, like Ottawa, is growing. The ward is welcoming more and more young families and local events, community initiatives, and festivals are certainly catering to those newcomers. These are well attended, but some of our participants, especially those without young families, expressed that these events didn’t attract them. They felt the need to go downtown to be amongst their peers.

Every community has barriers and the first step to CityMaking is to identify them. Once identified, these barriers can easily be broken.

We had an interesting conversation about the local Santa Claus parade. I asked the group: “What would make an engaging parade that still attracts young families, but also involves others?” Participants shared simple and easy solutions such as food trucks and a Christmas market to diversify participation. These are very easy to add, and often all it takes is asking people to co-create events.

Our second session focused on increasing community engagement by highlighting the work that is already going on. Our participants proposed a captivating volunteer fair , with local artists, businesses and food trucks, attracting more than the usual suspects. Finding creative ways to engage a diverse population takes work but it is totally doable!

I’m thrilled to hear that so many of our participants have committed to keep meeting with one another. New friendships and strong neighbourhood ties are forming. I know on my end, I see so much potential for Barrhaven. I hope that the culture of CityMaking continues to grow.