Parkdale ED Roundtable: Starting community dialogue on decent work and healthy neighbourhood

In partnership with Parkdale Community Information Centre (PCIC), the PCED project co-organized a Parkdale Roundtable for Executive Directors.

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Parkdale Roundtable is a community gathering organized by PCIC on a quarterly basis. Parkdale Roundtable has been a vital venue for front-line staff from various agencies and groups in Parkdale to share information, build networks, and exchange ideas. And yet, there was no dedicated opportunity for organizational decision-makers – EDs and senior managers – to discuss emerging issues and opportunities that may be unique to organizational-level planning and neighbourhood-wide partnership. In response to the gap, PCIC and the PCED project convened the first Parkdale ED Roundtable, in which 17 participants from 14 organizations took part.

We began the roundtable with “asset mapping” by asking each participant, “What can your organization offer to build a healthy neighbourhood and decent work in Parkdale?”. It came with little surprise to some participants, but results demonstrate a wide range of programs and services – health, supportive housing, food, adult education, settlement services, and social enterprises – in Parkdale. This diversity of non-profit community organizations – neighbourhood resourcefulness – is one of the strengths in Parkdale.

At the same time, however, participants identified interesting challenges that prevent from maximizing full potential of these assets. For example, some organizations create employment opportunities through social enterprises and Investing In Neighbourhood program, but it is often difficult to find appropriate candidates for those positions from the neighbourhood – a challenge for local hiring. Many participants also acknowledged the importance of service coordination across the organizations to complement and reinforce each other, but how to actually do it remains as a big question. Furthermore, Parkdale is constantly changing as in gentrification and newcomer settlement. Are we ready to respond to such changes and emerging needs? How can we identify treads in the neighbourhood given the loss of long-form census? Questions of our readiness and responsiveness  was raised.

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How can we build proactive responses to these challenges? We discussed various ideas from collaborative policy advocacy from the neighbourhood-based lens to the SWOT analysis of the Parkdale neighbourhood. We also discussed two emerging opportunities for active collaboration and collective planning. One is the Toronto Strong Neighbourhood Strategy 2020 – South Parkdale is one of the Neighbourhood Improvement Areas. Currently, the city is undertaking some preliminary works and consultations with agencies in Parkdale.

The other opportunity – also a prompt for convening this ED Roundtable – is the Parkdale Community Economic Planning & Development project. The PCED project brings a unique opportunity for many organizations in Parkdale for conducting strategic thinking and planning. For individual organizations, the PCED can serve as “external” strategic planning while each organization can also do its own “internal” strategic planning. In fact, some of the organizations are about to and/or in the process of organizational planning (some organization is doing it as ‘sustainability’ planning rather than strategic).

A potential of the PCED project is its unique and comprehensive approach to ‘economic development’, and there are many key words that the project is touching upon: community shared wealth building, decent work, inclusive local economic development, social inclusion, and many others. Defining and owning these terms is identified as an important group activity to establish our shared vision and platform. Building a strong collaborative foundation can help us identify how the PCED work can be linked to opportunities brought by other policy development opportunities such as city/provincial poverty reduction strategy development.

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