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Active Neighbourhoods Canada Update: Participatory Process & Professional Practice

July 14, 2015
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Active Neighbourhoods Canada’s (ANC) participatory planning projects have a goal to create green, active and healthy neighbourhoods in communities across Canada. We use participatory methods to improve the conditions for walking and cycling in ways that reflects the local communities. At the heart of this process is a belief that a closer and more equitable collaboration between citizens and planners will yield more legitimate results that better serve local residents. In addition to working towards changes to the physical form of the streets and public spaces, we are actively documenting how lessons learned in each project can provide direction to citizen engagement processes in formal planning practice, including documenting barriers to engagement that currently exist within institutions.

On June 18th, 2015 the Peterborough-based Active Neighbourhoods Canada project took steps to capture this learning in partnership with the Ontario Professional Planners Institute (OPPI). Over the course of a day long workshop local planners were immersed in the ANC process and the specifics of the Stewart St. project happening in Peterborough. Starting with a neighbourhood walkabout lead by different members of the diverse partnership undertaking the project, the local context was presented and enriched with additional presentations on process, data collection and the collaborative approach. This all built towards a dynamic discussion facilitated by our graduate student researcher Tessa Nasca, with the planners in attendance sharing their views on the value of the ANC participatory methodology, their thoughts ideal engagement processes, and finally on the barriers that currently prevent them from reaching this ideal. Through this close collaboration with professionals, ANC seeks not only to improve local neighbourhoods, but also to demonstrate and encourage the development of meaningful, transparent and engaged community planning.