How can formal government agencies support and amplify the work of existing and informal resilience-building initiatives emerging from civil society? In this webinar, the panel discussed a “connected community approach” which frames the work of two grass-roots neighbourhood champions. The connected community approach seeks to build community-centred resilience and a sustained place-based commitment to building resident change-making capacity and impact, as well as system responsiveness.
Shakhlo Sharipova, Local Champions Network, Thorncliffe Park, discussed the “Free Ramadan Meal Project” (April 15-May 22, 2020) which addressed issues of food security during the initial weeks of the COVID-19 lockdown; the initiative was funded from donations collected during the month of Ramadan. The project delivered free halal meals to vulnerable populations and anyone else that may be facing challenges to preparing a meal in the Thorncliffe and Flemingdon Park area. The project served 500 recipients and provided emotional support during the difficult time. Sharipova concluded by emphasizing the innate resilience of communities during a crisis and stressed the need for formal institutions to trust community leaders and provide more support for community well-being.
Ismail Afrah, Local Champions Network and Regent Park Neighbourhood Association, discussed the Regent Park Social Development Plan (SDP) Stakeholder Table, which engages a range of stakeholders on the social development and cohesion in the neighbourhood. The SDP working group comprises of several working groups, such as a safety network, community building, economic, and employment that ensures social development is taking place. Afrah stressed the importance of collaboration that lies at the heart of the SDP and noted the tendency for municipalities to exclude grassroots voices in times of crisis and potential crisis-related decision making.
The preliminary findings from the connected communities study reinforced existing linkages between the pandemic and inequalities, as well as reoccurring issues of food security, internet access, precarious income, and community. The study noted the extensive mutual aid possible at the community level, often against great odds. However, the longevity of the projects is uncertain, as there is a lack of adequate support (financial or other) for citizen-led responses. Key takeaways included the importance of connecting universities and community, but centering community in knowledge production, and the community as a complex ecosystem.
The Building Resilience Initiative will be hosting regular webinars to further explore resilient supply chains, Mondays 4 - 5 PM, register here.