McConnell Foundation grant highlights effort’s possibilities
Michelle Strutzenberger

Four organizations working with people who have a disability have united to intentionally create and scale efforts to build social capital in Vancouver. A McConnell Foundation grant will support their efforts.

The organizations include posAbilities, the Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion, Powell River Association for Community Living and Simon Fraser Society for Community Living.

PosAbilities has already been working for the past year on unique initiatives to build meaningful, caring and reciprocal connections and relationships in neighbourhoods and communities.

The McConnell Foundation grant allows the organization to take what it has learned and invite others to join so that a larger network can develop the capacity to work in similar ways in neighbourhoods and communities.

PosAbilities director of innovation Gord Tulloch says he’s heard people claim to already be effectively building community but he’s convinced there’s ample opportunity to accelerate and bloom these efforts. “I think what we do is a very pale version, a very timid version,” of what’s possible, he says.

He points out that even with 40 years of talking about the importance of community integration and inclusion, “we still find it difficult to create meaningful places of belonging in neighbourhoods and communities for persons with disabilities.”

The new Include Me initiative with Community Living BC, which measures quality of life for people who have a disability, consistently shows that the weakest area, throughout the province, is in social relationships and connectedness.

Gord suggests a key barrier is that the tactics used by the social services sector have tended to be “ very professional, very service-oriented kind of models and they don’t work in community.”

In contrast, this new effort will involve hosting dialogues in neighbourhoods and communities. They will aim to distil the notion of neighbourliness and also explore “how we can transition from our nostalgia around that to practice.”

People will be coming up with specific, actionable ways to foster more care, inclusion and hospitality in their neighbourhoods. In another initiative, posAbilities partnered with Little Mountain Neighbourhood House, which provides a range of cultural and social program to the community of Little Mountain/Riley Park, to run a community camera project. Those living in the community captured images of places that represent community strength and safety, as well as places that could use some change.

Many such experiments will comprise the larger effort, with the intent of identifying strategies that can help grow and thicken the connections and relationships in neighbourhoods and communities, Gord says.

The McConnell Foundation grant is very welcome in supporting this effort, he adds, noting the foundation has been interested in social innovation, resiliency and sustainability for some time. “To get some acknowledgement from them is a big deal for us and also speaks well of the project, that it has some legs,” Gord says.

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