Webinar Insights on Park People’s Community Resilience Program
Discover the 7 key insights from our webinar “Park Animators: How to Inspire Safe, Community-led park animation and build community resilience”. This webinar is part of our series 7 Questions: The Future of Parks and Public Spaces.
On November 10th, Park People hosted a webinar titled “Park Animators: How to Inspire Safe, Community-led park animation and build community resilience.” This webinar sparked the key insights listed below which we hope will get communities and organizations excited to explore and activate their own communities.
The webinar is part of our series 7 Questions: The Future of Parks and Public Spaces. The webinar featured Park People’s Community Resilience Project and panellists included Reiko Ema, Community Resilience Project Coordinator at Park People, Abdul Rashid Athar, Park Animator for Park People at Flemingdon Park and Hanbo Jia, Park Animator for Park People in the Agincourt neighbourhood in North Scarborough, Toronto. This webinar was moderated by Stephanie Stanov, Program Coordinator at Park People.
People living in underserved neighbourhoods, which are often COVID-19 hotspots, are rightfully concerned about venturing outdoors. As a result, they are experiencing an increased risk of social isolation and related mental and physical health challenges.
In an attempt to address these challenges, and get more people active and outdoors, Park People launched the Community Resilience Project – a pilot program to help people living in underserved communities safely access the outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Getting Active - Safely!
Community Animators identified activities that get people outdoors and active. In many of these neighbourhoods, people were rightly wary to venture outside during COVID-19.
Working with community partners and group leaders, community animators worked to understand when and where the community would be most likely to engage, activities that reflected community interests and offered safe ways for people to get outdoors and active.
First Step, Engage Community
The Community Resilience program is built on a set of community-specific initiatives to get people out and active in their communities.
In developing a new community-based project or program panellists highlighted the need for community consultation and participation in the initial program design and to identify project ideas to get people outside.
To engage the community and increase program participation, panellists suggested tapping into personal and professional networks, consulting with community partners and, if resources allow, hosting a community engagement session.
For the Community, By the Community
When designing a project idea, an understanding of community interests, needs and values can go a long way. Each community is different and coming up with the idea is hard, especially on a short timeline!
Support and talk to people and align the project idea with the community. If it isn’t common practice for people to go for a walk in their neighbourhood - a walking program may not be the perfect fit.
Build the right relationships
Panellists spoke to a key aspect of the Community Resilience Project - relationships.
When starting out, community animators can use their personal networks, community events and organizations to identify community leaders and partners. Put in the time and effort to build relationships with community members, leaders and agencies. Expand your network and keep the network - keep in touch!
Community Group Leader Structure
Another key aspect of the Community Resilience Project is the Group Leader Initiative - a component of the project where Community Animators engage community leaders to lead outreach efforts.
Panellists spoke to the importance of building group leader capacity and giving leaders a sense of ownership over the project and providing incentives or an honorarium for their time. The introduction of a weekly step counting competition worked to get more people out for Abdul’s Step Walking Program and honorariums engaged group leaders in Hanbo’s community and motivated them to continue engaging their networks.
Supported by Technology
Panellists highlighted the importance of making the most of communication platforms and technologies.
Again, developing an understanding of a community can help you understand what networks or platforms community members already use to communicate - in Abdul’s community it was WhatsApp and in Hanbo’s, many people used WeChat. In Abdul’s Step Program, group leaders helped community members by downloading the step counting app that made it fun to report on weekly steps.
In addition, the community animators invited participants to take photos and videos and gathered data on the number of participants, the number of hours logged and, in Abdul’s project, the number of steps walked. This helps Park Animators report back to the community and help the program grow in future.
The Community Resilience project has been extended into winter 2021. In the planning process right now, panellists spoke to the challenges surrounding winter activation during COVID-19.
These include severe weather, limited access to sidewalks, closed washroom facilities and poorly maintained park paths. In addition, many city-supported winter activities, such as outdoor fire permits and skating, have been cancelled or severely restricted.
Panellists spoke to the need to find project ideas within the community and work with group leaders to understand community preferences, relay information to the right city partners and explore if some summer project ideas can be transitioned to winter. Then, their plan is to test ideas with a small group of people public in alignment with public health guidelines. Snowsuit Tai Chi anyone?
Watch the full webinar
Thank you to our generous supporters
Funding for this webinar was provided by the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program.