Archive for ‘Social Capital’

April 7, 2011

Saunders: The important functions of receiver communities (and how we get in the way)

Doug Saunders ARRIVAL CITY

Image by Jenn Farr via Flickr

Doug Saunders, author of Arrival City, spoke last week to the School of Public Policy and Governance at University of Toronto’s Munk Centre. His presentation flowed over description of the functions of communities which act as the first landing zones for urban migrants, describing the ambitions.

Arrival city neighbourhoods, or what are sometimes called receiver communities, are often found at the end of a transit line or in some other inaccessible corner of a city.  There, often a cluster of people from a similar place or the same village will have settled. In whichever urban area they are found, these are places of social mobility and change or they are places of failed dreams.

Having just returned from the Libya-Tunisian border for the lecture and book tour, Saunders began with “the Arrival City at the centre of the Arab Revolutions,” the neighbourhood of Bulaq in Cairo. It’s a place, he said, most people from Cairo would avoid. This was, though, the first neighbourhood into Tahrir Square for the rebellion against Mubarek. It had a history of such movements. Bulaq was a neighbourhood which, cut off from opportunities in the main parts of the city, had developed its own middle class, one which collided with the established Cairo middle class. It was, Saunders explained, a place of thwarted ambitions.

These receiver communities are found in the west, and the east, and the south, Saunder explained, like the French banlieux today at the edge of the capital; South Central Los Angeles, where the Hispanic residents have settled and invested in their new neighbourhoods; and Dhaka”s “place of the fallen” where the city’s “housecleaners, servants and prostitutes,” who serve the middle class, live. There are more, he said, like the “arrived overnight” neighbourhoods of Turkey, Brazilian favelas, and the neighbourhoods in Iran which fomented the 1979 rebellion. Saunders even described the historical neighbourhoods of 1789 Paris, where French villagers had settled, pushed there from the subsistence farming they had left behind, tipped quickly into early support of the French Revolution.

Receiver communities vary in their stability, but the trend of migration to urban areas is international.

Citing Professor Ronald Skeldon‘s work, Saunders explained how migration from rural to urban areas evolves from a rural family with an urban income source inevitably, although not always linearly, towards an urban family with rural roots. Education, he explained, is a key to this transformation.

It’s a mistake to see these places as static, as places which support a vital settlement function, Saunders said.

The state, Saunders explains, began to invest in these neighbourhoods after 1848 and into the 20th century. However, their role as places of transition is misunderstood, governments may interrupt or even damage their core functions.

We must think of these places as sets of functions rather than simply as locations, as places which, if they work well

  • foster networks, and act
  • as rural development support systems
  • as integration mechanisms,
  • as urban entry platforms,
  • as a social mobility channels, for the creation and distribution of social capital.

Within Toronto, Saunders has profiled Thorncliffe Park, but Parkdale, Crescent Town, Rexdale, or Scarborough Village could also all stand in. At one point, Kensington Market, or the Danforth, or Little Italy all served these functions, providing a landing place for city newcomers and now where social mobility has transformed them into desirable neighbourhoods. They are places where newcomers are able to get a foothold, and if it function correctly, connect to the rest of our city.

The drive for success is something North Americans, as the children of immigrants understand.

Saunders cited an example of how people from the same Turkish villages settled in Berlin and London and Istanbul with very different outcomes, because each of these areas offered different possibilities for integration. Understanding these complex dynamics can be challenging. Unlike the simplicity offered in a Millennial Village, it is harder to track the educational outcomes or the impact of remittances.

If an arrival city fails, isolation occurs.Rebellion bubbles up, informal economies thrive, and, as things worsen, crime, gangs and poverty emerge out of the “impediments to the natural ambitions” of these places. Protective conservatism can emerge, explaining how some immigrant communities are more conservative than the source villages from which residents emigrated. In another example, Saunders showed the audience pictures of a Dutch neighbourhood. Immigrants had settled here away from the city core, in low-rise apartments, where “it was easier to communicate with North Africa than with other Amsterdam residents.”

“It was a bottom rung, without the next two rungs,” Saunders said. So the grassy verges were converted, and the bottom floors of apartment buildings became retail and industrial working spaces. Densities were increased. It looked a lot like Spadina Avenue or New York’s Lower East Side, he explained. Regulations were pushed aside, and now they have become places where the rungs are visible, places which are succeeding. This Dutch neighbourhood has even created its own community police force, which includes a truancy patrol, unheard-of in laxer parts of the city.

Saunders warns that we are doing arrival cities wrong around the world. We need to do a few things to make sure these places work, he said:

  1. Start with the physical structures. As Jane Jacobs said, get planners and government out of the way of residents. Link these centres to other places. Transit is key to accesing the main city’s labour market, customers, and educational opportunities. Street lighting and home addresses raise property values (something residents monitor, he said, as closely as your average Torontonian obsesses over house values).
  2. Removing “bureaucratic” barriers is also key. Requirements for licensing hinder the emergence of small businesses. (The recent GTA Summit Alliance heard that 19 separate licenses and permits are required in Toronto to open a bakery.) Bureaucratic racism also hurts these communities. Black American settlements in northern states, for instance, had highways landed in the middle of their arrival cities.
  3. Citizenship barriers must also be lowered, not simply at the national level, but within the city. Postal code racism by employers is well-documented. If a large population of people sees no pathway to full citizenship, than they will see no reason to buy a house, to pay taxes, to send their children to higher education, because they see no future. Instead, newcomers will find a way to survive outside these structures, and sometimes outside the law. Countries, like Canada, have to be “very, very careful,” with reliance on temporary, foreign workers who cannot access full citizenship, Saunders warned.

Saunders concluded saying each of these have to be done in concert. No matter if it seems costly, Saunders said. Building the infrastructure to support them, including such basics as childcare, will save greater expenses later.

Arrival cities have the potential to be the next middle class or to be a continual source of problems.

His analysis and solutions, Saunders acknowledged, would be unsatisfactory to those people seeking a market solution and, also, to those looking to state actors to solve societal problems. It is, probably, why his solutions will work.

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February 11, 2011

A successful city

It had been a long day at the Civic Action GTA Summit of, as Ursula Franklin calls it, “awfulizing.” Transit woes, labour market mismatches, social inequities.

Then the final speaker, Carol Colleta, the Chief Executive Officer of CEOs for Cities, arrived. Coletta is  a city builder a few times over, an advocate for the creative force of cities as described by Edward Glaeser and Richard Florida.

“With cities, there is no permanent success, and there are no permanent failures,” Coletta, in a rousing speech, told the 700 delegates who had been there since early morning.

The success of cities, she explained, is directly related to a city’s:

  • quality of talent
  • quality of place, and
  • quality of opportunity

Toronto, Coletta said, has to be a place where talent sticks, and to make talent stick, a city needs each of these.

Investments in quality of place last a very long time, and so, she reminded the crowd, it is important to get them right.

Opportunities have to be apparent and good, so that people see a future for themselves.

Getting all these things right means tapping into wider knowledge circles. This means finding creative ways to invite those who aren’t in the room to be part of city-building. She pointed to Give A Minute as an example of a new crowd-sourcing initiative already in a few American cities.

So how then to move towards success? Long-terms goals are not achieved without short-term behavioural changes. Colleta outlined three steps:

  1. Have a measurable goal. It drives behaviour;
  2. Have an achievable goal. It gets buy-in; and
  3. Have a short-term goal. That drives short-term behaviour.

All of this, Coletta explained, is propelled by a final element: quality of leadership. She left the crowd with a final question, “Does Toronto have the leadership in place to make this happen?”

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January 10, 2011

Canadian immigrants, housing and social relationships

A few years ago, Dr. Sutama Ghosh presented the results of her freshly minted thesis at a CERIS seminar on the housing of 30 Bangladeshi immigrant families in three Toronto neighbourhoods. She described one highrise tower she visited where children ran through the apartments of their neighbours, giggling, peeking into the fridge, and playing. Doors to the hallway were unlocked so that the children could have free-run. Mothers watched over each other’s children or visited in the laundry rooms. The community had created a “vertical neighbourhood” in the same way that suburban children might scamper through a set of backyards. Ghosh also described other families living in buildings where they were isolated, walled-off and alone. These apartment buildings, where many new immigrants first settle are, as she phrased it, “vertical neighbourhoods” and “spaces of hope and despair.”

Short and tall

Image by Loozrboy via Flica a few years ago kr

It’s a timely topic because later this week, United Way Toronto should be releasing an in-depth study looking at Torontonians who live in high-rise towers across the city, their well-being, their challenges and their communities.

Canadian geography professors, Brian Ray and Valerie Preston have also looked at the social isolation immigrants and found that building form is vital in explaining how connected immigrants are to their communities. Where Ghosh found hope, Ray and Preston found that isolation was more common, de-bunking the myth that immigrants live in inward-focused ethnic enclaves.

Poor social integration, if it is indeed a problem, may be much more a function of housing than the ethnocultural composition of neighbourhoods.

Those who rented or lived in apartment buildings were less likely to know their neighbours than other immigrants or Canadian-born because the places they lived did not necessarily provide the spaces to meet others. The ability to meet through chance encounters offered in “horizontal neighbourhoods,” ones with sidewalks and nearby stores, is often limited in apartment buildings. Neighbours may see each other in mailrooms or elevator rides. Building lobbies commonly lack a place to sit and socialize.

In a nice contrast, the new buildings in Regent Park have been designed to include common bulletin boards, laundromats with nearby play areas, rooftop garden plots and exercise and party rooms, normally a feature of condo buildings.

However, Ray and Preston also found that immigrants who lived in apartment buildings were just as likely as others to:

  • express a sense of belonging, even through the fleeting interactions with their neighbours, and
  • to have a majority of friends from other ethnic groups, a telling rebuttal to the idea that diversity dilutes trust in others.

They concluded that more thoughtful building designs and public policy would improve the social isolation that many immigrants — and apartment–dwellers — experience, making better neighbours.

Ray also be presents later this week at York University CERIS seminar on a related topic. It’s going to be a good week.

My thanks to blogger Kevin Harris, Neighbourhoods, for referring the Ray, Preston article to me.

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September 6, 2010

NIMBY – hear the middle-class roar

They came with their hairy dogs, determined looks on their faces and helmeted children scootering ahead of the adults holding picket signs. The people of the Beach and Birchcliffe had come to protect the Quarry.

A former dump, at one point, the Quarry is roughly 50 undeveloped acres southeast of the Main subway station. Environmentalists sing the praises of the wildlife. However, the area was zoned in the 1960s for highrise development, and the developers are exercising their legal rights. So, the community was out to defend it.

I happened on the protest by chance, with a friend. We had to stop. The banners said “Save our neighbourhood” and “1960s planning is bad planning.”

The proposed 7 twenty-story buildings would provide 1,455 units of housing, at a density 7 times what the surrounding area is now with its detached, single-family homes.

“Affordable housing!” I whooped. No one took up the call.

It’s hard to know what to think about these kind of events.

People were rising to the defense of the community, but against whom? The developer. Yes, probably. The newcomers (interlopers) – new renters or condo buyers.  Perhaps some of them.

It was easy to see what we were against, but what were we fighting for? About every person here probably has a different reason, my wiser friend explained.

It reminded me of other protests I’ve seen. The outrage against the possible arrival of big box store in South Riverdale pitched local residents against each other, often split along ethnic and income lines. The Salvation Army and Seaton House faced fierce community meetings when they moved to house homeless men in other neighbourhoods, even if only temporarily such as on Pape Avenue. (The Sally Ann, bless its soul, has a webpage on the topic of NIMBY-ism.)

These debates too often deteriorate into a debate about who is moving in, or they erupt, under a more politically correct guise, such as “Social services should not be concentrated here. We have our fair share already.”

Another recent example close to home was the call from near-by residents to have Felstead park’s playground equipment upgraded – something already on the schedule, but not soon enough for their liking. They too used the blind that as a mixed income neighbourhood, they had been ignored to the benefit of richer neighbourhoods near-by. However, as a gentrifying neighbourhood, the press was on.

Or more recently, neighbours to the south of here, feeling protective of their “own,” confronted members of a church congregation for bringing their faith to the streets, unfortunately by a fire hydrant where a gay couple live. This well-meaning crowd ended up as a “Was my face red…” front-page story in the Toronto Star.

Within the past year, another of my neighbours closed down his family restaurant when he heard an apartment building next door to him was being built to provide supportive housing to people with mental health problems. More plain in his prejudices, he refused to stay near “crazy” people.

Examples from other parts of the city include the conversion of the “Entertainment District” to a residential area and almost any neighbourhood where condos have been built close to a slaughterhouse or other industrial area. If the City of Toronto mapped out where building orders occur, they are in concentrated in the areas with higher and mixed-incomes – the gentrified and the gentrifying areas of the city.

What under lies all these is fear. People don’t want to lose what they have. When people (re-)act from a fearful place, any larger vision gets lost.

But the reality that the neighbourhoods with the highest complaints are not the places with the most problems, but rather places with the most privilege. These are the neighbourhoods where the “sharp elbows of the middle class” claim the resources seen to be due to them.

Flawed as the Priority Neighbourhood Areas were, what they did do effectively was to re-focus resources away from the noisiest, squeakiest parts of the city, to areas that hadn’t had any attention for a very long time. This leveling of the playing field probably led to some of the strongest critiques of the mayor, David Miller, that he had let things slide in the areas where, frankly, people are more likely to vote.

Instead, the Strong Neighbourhood strategy has evened some things out. The new Community Partnership Strategy is also building an evidence base so that neighbourhood comparisons can be done more accurately.

These strategies show we are a more generous city than these other NIMBY stories tell about us. When given a chance, we can dream of a common good.

But, until we Torontonians see our backyard as the entire city, inequality will continue to split neighbourhoods, into “good” and “bad’ places to live, into places where we fight each other.

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August 10, 2010

Sidewalk exchanges

When the small piano on my front porch begins to tinkle, I know a neighbourhood toddler has ventured up from the sidewalk, tired parent in tow. I keep it there just for that. In the winter, we meet out there when we are shovelling. Or we see each other early in the morning when we are running out with our smelly green bins. Clusters of us appear along the street as we return from our workday, visiting those already on their porch.

This, like any neighbourhood, is a neighbourhood where our sidewalks are important.

Our sidewalks also serve a trading function. Old bookshelves, dishes and lamps are regularly laid out well before garbage day in the neighbourhood for perusal and collection by others.  I recently met a new neighbour and realized I had her discarded lamp in my living room. (In my first house, most of the furniture “free-cycled.” My partner and I even learned the garbage collection schedule of several of the upscale areas around us—sadly, something I would be less likely to do now with the urban spread of bed bugs.)

These outdoor activities have grown out of the density of our neighbourhood where we live cheek by porch, exchanges which occur by design, by happenstance, by tradition and by local culture. They have made our neighbourhood a better place to be.

Flag of Portland, Oregon. Designed by Douglas ...

Flag of Portland, Oregon. Image via Wikipedia

Word now from Portland, Oregon, where a few neighbourhoods have formalized the opportunities for these daily communal interactions, including setting up a local outdoor tea cart and building neighbourhood “sharing posts.” Mike Lanza at Playborhood.com posted  on the this development after he took a trip to the west coast.  When Communities take over their own streets includes pictures of these great communal creations. Read it to enjoy!

Using the same creative approach, Neighbourhoods blogger Kevin Harris was one of the initiators of  a new, fun Facebook group called 50 ways to meet your neighbours (“Give a nod on the bud, Gus”). The group sprang out of a meeting Harris attended and some recent research he described that showed that Brits are shy about meeting one another.

Sounds familiar. Sidewalks are a low-risk way for us all to get to enjoy a little musical (or other form of) interchange.

July 14, 2010

Racialized poverty & academic performance: A tentative exploration of the latent effects of social capital on educational achievement

The power of a strong research report is the way it changes our civil discourse. In Toronto, Poverty by Postal Code, the Strong Neighbourhoods Taskforce Report, MISWAA, and University of Toronto/St. Christopher House research reports on neighbourhood change have all played a robust part in recent public policy discussions. Such reports re-frame the way we think about our city and each other.

So, when the TDSB’s Inner City Advisory Committee (ICAC) asked the board’s research staff to do a comparative analysis tracking students’ academic achievement patterns against the Neighbourhood Change CURA’s “Three Cities” report, it seemed like a good idea. The Three Cities report had splashed over the front pages of our daily newspapers and underscored the growing inequality and geographic separations within our city. ICAC expected the results would provide further insight into schools in low-income neighbourhoods.

On first analysis, however, the results were disappointing.

Several measures of educational achievement were tested, including:

  • EQAO Grade 3 Math scores
  • EQAO Grade 6 Math scores
  • Grade 9 science results
  • Grade 9-10 Academic program
  • Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT)
  • Access to Ontario post-secondary institute

Yet, the correlation between the “Three Cities” and students’ academic performance was weak — likely for two reasons: first, the Neighbourhood Change/Three Cities analysis used average incomes in its comparisons of neighbourhoods, a known, weaker predictor of academic performance; and, secondly, almost half of the TDSB’s highest-need schools are actually located outside the areas identified as the “third city” or lowest-income areas.

Nevertheless, the school board’s researcher charged with the task, Dr. Rob Brown, persevered in his analysis.

The “three cities,” described by Dr. Hulchanski et. al., break down into further categories. For instance, high income areas are comprised of Elite neighbourhoods which were rich and have remained rich and Gentrifying neighbourhoods which have become high-income in recent decades.

Poor areas of the city break out into four main areas:

  • Youngest suburbs (Lower density, homeowners, larger families, white-collar jobs, high visible minority population, higher Chinese population)
  • Older suburbs (Lower density, more seniors, lower education levels, higher White population)
  • Renters (Immigrant reception areas, highest density, apartment towers, high levels of education, low incomes, more South Asian)
  • Lowest incomes (Highrise rental and social housing, low incomes, lower education, manual labour jobs, higher Black population, more single parents)

So, when Brown looked to see whether academic achievement tracked with these categories, the patterns were more interesting. What he found gives new insight into some of the debates at the school board around race and poverty.

Predictably, the highest performing students were almost consistently the students who lived in the Elite neighbourhoods. However, in two instances they were beaten, in Grade 3 Math and Grade 9 Science — both times by students, in the “third city,” from the Youngest Suburbs. In fact, in all but two of the measures, students in the Youngest Suburbs also out-performed the Gentrifying group of students in “city one”: Taking academic program in Grade 9-10, and the OSSLT.

University admissions tracked a similar path. 53% of Elite students confirmed attendance at an Ontario university, followed by 49% of students in the Youngest Suburbs. These two groups were also the most likely to have applied to post-secondary education. Students in every other neighbourhood type lagged behind in the 33% – 36% range, except for high school students in the Lowest-income neighbourhoods, where only 25% confirmed university attendance (and where 57% did not apply to any level of higher education).

In comparison, students from the other parts of the “third city,” Older Suburbs and Renters, were often within a few percentage points of each other and approaching, or occasionally surpassing, the performance of middle-income students in “city two.” The lowest academic performers were the Lowest Income, except in the case of Grade 3 math, where they beat the Gentrifying neighbourhoods.

So, the analysis shows that while income, or the lack there-of, can be an important predictor of students’ academic performance, it is not a determinant. While Brown himself doesn’t speculate, the interesting part of this work is to imagine what protective factors might be helping some low-income students to compete.

A perfunctory analysis might note that the distinguishing factors between the different “cities” are the racial and ethnic compositions of them. Buttressing the weight of this is the first release of the TDSB’s Student Census which made headlines when it was published because of the analysis which how students of various ethno-cultural backgrounds were performing in school. But that initial report stopped there at these correlations, ipso facto, not looking to control other factors, such as poverty, lone parent status, low education levels and other risk factors found in each of these neighbourhoods.

I would argue a deeper, more nuanced picture emerges from Brown’s ICAC study, one which outlines the structuralist nature of educational achievement. Because the neighbourhood categories were more homogenous, it was possible to examine some of the complex interplays of income and race and, more importantly, the social capital students were able to access.

Within the context of the City of Toronto, these factors play out along a racial dimension, in other places, they may play out along other lines of identity, of accent or class or another form of “othering.” We need to think though the root cause of the barriers. For instance, racism, rather than race, per se, may be a barrier, but so is limited access to social and economic capital or access to strong, supportive social networks. Race, ethnicity and culture are the shorthand for a much more complex picture, which encapsulates access to resources and opportunities, individual and systemic racism, community expectations and a wide range of other social determinants.

So, for instance, students in the Youngest Suburbs were part of a cultural heritage that holds scholarship in esteem, where white-collar jobs were more common, and where family structures were wider. In contrast, students in the Lowest Income neighbourhoods were more likely to live in low-quality (rental, crowded) housing, with poorer job prospects, fewer family supports, and fewer role models who had attended higher education. Students in the Youngest Suburbs and the Renters have also more likely been exposed to a second language, which can improve learning.

These apparent racial divisions are the evidence of deeper divides within the city. They represent the unequal division and distribution of resources among us. These racial divides allow the easy concentration of resources within family, kinship, and friendship networks, encasing the economic and social capital that families and neighbourhoods bring to bear on its own young. The result is that those with the fewest resources are least likely to apply to university, whereas those who still have a strong sense of aspiration, positive supports, and role models are more likely to have better outcomes.

This peer effect is underscored by the work of David Harding at the University of Michigan. He found that “disadvantaged neighborhoods exhibit greater heterogeneity in college goals and that adolescents in more heterogeneous neighborhoods are more likely to change educational goals over time and are less likely to act in concert.” Essentially, more kids in richer neighbourhoods attend university because they are expected to do so.

What Brown’s research underscores is that poverty is about more than income. It’s about the inoculative supports which many lack.

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May 30, 2010

An agreed-upon description of poverty

When older women on the Isle of Mann were polled as to whether dressing gowns are a basic life necessity, their agreement was nearly unanimous. If someone who couldn’t afford a housecoat, they were poor. However when young men were asked the same question, their response unsurprisingly was almost the mirror opposite. À chaque son goût?

Defining poverty is a difficult task for government statisticians and policy wonks, never mind the rest of us.

Two of the best thinkers on the topic, Richard Shillington and John Stapleton, recently published a Metcalf Foundation-funded paper, Cutting through the Fog: Why is it so hard to make sense of poverty measures? In clear language, they explain how some basic assumptions shape how poverty is defined in Canada. Therefore, because each definition of poverty leads to different policy resolutions, the authors conclude that, without an agreed upon definition of poverty line, Canadians will continue to be stymied in our actions to solve poverty.

Over the course of the past two years, taking a leaf from the British and European work on social exclusion, Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank took a stab at improving our income-based definitions of poverty. Together with Caledon Institute for Social Policy, they built an Ontario Deprivation Index, and then, piloted it with Statistics Canada through the Labour Force Survey.

The new index developed a common list of ten items which are most likely to distinguish the poor from the non-poor. The work now stands as a key part of the Ontario government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy. The first provincial report was released last December and found that one in eight children live in a deprived situation. By its own reports, the government is committed to lowering this number.

The Ontario Deprivation Index will let us know if we have made a difference.

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March 26, 2010

TDSB ARCs may push out the poor

Recommendations from the Toronto District School Board’s ten Area Review Committees (ARCs) are beginning to emerge, and some communities are looking at school closures.

When the TDSB set out to evaluate “which locations should be closed, consolidated or upgraded,” some wondered how equitably this would all play out in the course of these difficult conversations.

Were the schools in poor areas being singled out first?

Parents in some Toronto communities said so. Reporters poked at the story. Some trustees grumbled.

And, it turns out, they were right.

Twice as many schools under review are in the bottom half (the poorer half) of the school board’s Learning Opportunity Index (LOI) as compared to those in the top half. And, of the 16 schools being reviewed in the top half of the LOI, they are all less vulnerable to closure because they have higher enrollment and utilization rates.

The numbers don’t change much however you slice them, by quartiles or quintiles.

But, of course, it’s more complex than that.

The schools under review are grouped with others from across the range of need.

While four of the ARCs contain schools from only the bottom end of the LOI, five other ARCs have poor schools grouped with richer schools. (Only one ARC (at Yonge and Davisville) is reviewing schools from only the top half of the LOI. Perhaps, not surprisingly, because they had higher enrollments, they have recommended no closures.)

Schools which are able to mobilize their parents to attend numerous evening meetings have actively participated in the process, printing buttons and flyers. Other schools, where parents may work additional jobs or evening hours or not be able to afford child care, have not been not in the room, to describe their vision for the future.

By reports, the dynamics at many of the ARCs have not been not great.

What started as a democratic and inclusive process has turned into a long, drawn-out, and divisive process. Staff at one community agency reported to a recent Toronto Neighbourhood Centres meeting how committee members were told they could not speak at a public meeting. Trustees complain openly about each other where ARCs cross ward boundaries. Blogs have been set up. One ARC has moved from outright hostility to a sullen withdrawal from the process.

So, poorer schools have faced a double jeopardy: more poor schools are under review, and they are also far less likely to be participating in a process which requires a strong and active participant voice.

Before the ARC recommendations come up for adoption in May, someone should review the decisions, with an equity lens, to ensure that those with the fewest resources aren’t being cut again.

December 2010 post-script: Schools which were announced to be closed from this round of ARCs are:

  • Brooks Road Public School
  • Heron Park Junior Public School
  • Peter Secor Junior Public School
  • McCowan Road Junior Public School
  • Pringdale Gardens Junior Public School
  • Silverthorn Junior Public School
  • Arlington Middle School
  • Kent Senior Public School-Alpha II

No schools in the Top quintile were closed; two in the Upper income quintile, one a middle school and one an alternative school; one school in the middle-income group; three in the lower-income quintile; and three in the Bottom (closing in the Jane-Finch neighbourhood have been postponed pending further review).

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January 20, 2010

Community vitality in Transitions

Community vitality is in focus again, in the current edition of the Vanier Institute for the Family‘s Transition.

Writing the lead article in VIF’s quarterly publication, Katherine Scott provides an overview of the concept of community vitality, describing the evolution of the idea, growing from ‘competent communities’ in the 1960s, through 1990s ‘social capital,’ to present-day’s emphasis on ‘social networks.’

In other pieces in the issue:

Barry Wellman et. al. writes a great piece on internet and communication technologies, arguing that rather than isolating individuals, these technologies are more likely to enhance social relations. Using the example of parents and their children, the authors the tension between connectivity and surveillance which this new technology enables.

Monica Patton, president and CEO of the Community Foundations of Canada, also writes a piece in the issue, selling the strengths of the Community Foundation brand.

The very excellent Katherine Scott, of the venerable (and now seemingly vulnerable) Canadian Council of Social Development (CCSD), has recently moved into her new role at the VIF. [Conflict of interest declaration: decades ago, my uncle headed VIF, an organization which brings a very non-American connotation to the word family].

These national research, policy, and advocacy organizations, such as VIF, CCSD, The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and Kairos among others, are all an important part of our civic dialogue and worth supporting.

Buy a membership today. Keep this work rolling.

January 14, 2010

Healthy People, Healthy Places: Stats Can update

This week, Statistics Canada and the Canadian Institute for Health Information have released a retrospective look in the latest issue of Healthy People, Healthy Places to mark the 10th anniversary of the Health Indicators project.

The retrospective look at a range of health determinants. Two quick highlights relevant to neighbourhoods:

  • Canadians’ sense of community belonging has grown over the past decade and now about two-thirds of us report a strong or very strong sense of community belonging. Teenagers reported the highest levels.
  • 13.7% of Canadians lack access to acceptable housing. This is defined mainly as affordability. The stats are broken down by
    • place of residence (by province – Ontario was second worst),
    • housing tenure (owners/renters – renters do the worse) and
    • demographic status (seniors, immigrants, single parents and individuals living alone all faced the most challenges).
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