Ottawa Community News by Laura Mueller – A new initiative of the Sandy Hill community association is looking to enlist a wider swath of residents to define the future needs of the neighbourhood.
Action Sandy Hill’s new Vision Sandy Hill initiative has spawned an idea to conduct a community-wide survey or needs assessment.
Suneeta Millington, a recently elected member of Action Sandy Hill’s board, launched the initiative along with 14 people who attended an Aug. 14 meeting.
Millington said she was inspired by a Vital Signs survey that took place in her hometown neighbourhood of Bowness in Calgary, which she left last year to move to Ottawa. Vital Signs is a standardized “community checkup” conducted by community foundations across Canada.
To her, the survey initiative is twofold: engage Sandy Hill’s diverse community and gather reliable information to shape a collective vision for the community’s future.
While the discussion on Aug. 14 initially revolved around how to gather information about the population and characteristics of Sandy Hill, participants eventually moved in the direction of a needs assessment for the neighbourhood.
“It’s fine to point to facts, but then let’s ask what the needs are arising from that,” said Sharon O’Sullivan.
“It’s about people really shaping their community and giving the advice to the community association,” said Leeanne Moussa, who is leading the effort to convert the Carriage House into a space for the Bettye Hyde daycare and other services. The group has been in touch with the Ottawa Neighbourhood Study team and plans to further investigate what kinds of demographic information already exists.
One way O’Sullivan thanks about it is in terms of the reasons she feels the need to use her car. She and others agreed that surveying people about things like what resources/services they enjoy in the neighbourhood and how often they use them, as well as what types of businesses and services they would like to see added.
One recurring point that was made was an interest in investigating whether there is a desire for a volunteer group in Sandy Hill to offer more recreational programming in partnership with the city – something that’s done in other neighbourhoods, including nearby Old Ottawa East’s Community Activities Group.
Engaging people in a survey might help ignite community activism, or at least provide an opportunity to collect and distribute information about what’s already available in the community.
But some people in attendance at the meeting cautioned that the project must be approached in an inclusive way from the start. Christine Aubry, a board member with the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre, wondered if the term “permanent residents” used in an email Millington sent to interested participants could be considered exclusionary. “Like it or not, students are a big part of our community,” she said.
Millington said the terminology will have to be finessed as the initiative moves forward because her email was meant to be inclusive.
“Just because you’re a tenant, doesn’t mean you are not a permanant resident,” she said. “It was meant to capture people’s connection to the community and … whether someone feels vested in the community.”
Outreach with students and tenants of multiresidential buildings will be the trickiest part of the survey, but a critical part, Millington said.
The format of the survey, what information will be collected and how the group will promote and engage people in the project are yet to be determined. Timelines for the initiative weren’t set out at the first meeting.
Anyone wishing to connect with the Vision Sandy Hill survey project can connect Millington via Action Sandy Hill on the web at www.ash-acs.ca and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.