How parks can help address social exclusion

Social exclusion can happen to anyone. A sense of being alone, without support, is a rising trend even in the most dense urban centres. But it’s more prevalent in less affluent neighbourhoods where limited access to education, poverty and mental health issues take a toll on people’s wellbeing. People lose self-confidence and become discouraged from taking initiative – the mental barriers that present the biggest obstacle to getting people involved.

In developing programming that meets community needs, Parole d’excluEs has reimagined and revitalized the interconnected courtyards of 16 midrise buildings in Montreal North with four more to go. Here are some of the things that they do—and lessons that they have to pass on vis-à-vis reducing social isolation among marginalized people.

 

Events that strengthen ties between park groups and Indigenous groups

The Toronto Island is a beautiful gathering place any time one’s lucky enough to visit. But there was a special feeling in the air when Toronto Island and Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nations (MNCFN) Friendship Group joined together for the first of three events supported through the TD Park People Grant program.

Effective outreach means turning outreach ‘inside out’

Outreach is a term that can be deceiving. It presumes an “insider” group that’s trying to reach people who are “outsiders.” A better approach, and one championed by Nawal Ateeq, Chair of Flemingdon Community Support Services, is to consider everyone in your community (and beyond) to be “insiders”–they just may not know it yet.

Nawal’s group is interwoven into the web of neighbourhood connections that help serve the needs of the many Toronto newcomer communities that call Flemingdon Park their home. Flemingdon is a highly diverse neighbourhood in Toronto’s North York populated by a number of tower communities. Here’s how Nawal turns the concept of outreach inside out and gets people to share green space in Flemingdon Park.

 

A community-first approach to establishing your park group

The scariest time for community park groups is the beginning. When you’re just one person with a good idea about the potential of your park, there’s no knowing whether other people will ‘show up’ to make it happen. Faced with this possibility, Ana Cuciureanu parked her park dreams in the background, and gave her full attention to connecting with her community. How she did this, and the underpinning convictions behind her approach, are worth sharing.

Engaging Seniors

Maybe you’re a community organization with a mandate to meaningfully engage seniors. Or, you’re a park group hoping to get seniors more engaged in your park events. Either way,  you’re right to recognize that parks are an untapped resource that can deliver multiple benefits for seniors in your community and that it requires unique strategies to get seniors to your events.

A recent national report cited that “The number one emerging issue facing seniors in Canada is keeping older people socially connected and active.” However, it’s not enough to assume that because your park or event is open to the public that seniors will participate. As we highlighted in our Sparking Change Report:

“Parks can be places of healing, exchange and dialogue–but only if we create the conditions for everyone to participate.”

How can park groups “create the conditions” for seniors to use the park and see it as theirs? To answer this question, we spoke to Iffat Malick, Seniors Program Manager at Northwood Neighbourhood Services where English classes, bingo games, light exercise and intergenerational programming all take place in local parks.

Inclusive cities

The Inclusive Cities panel features:

Growing diversity in a community garden

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