As we approach summer, our many projects are heating up and taking off. We are finding creative ways to support municipal-led citizen engagement in communities across the province, building partnerships that will lead to a first-of-its-kind provincial Index of Wellbeing, and preparing for a robust Share Thanksgiving match-up and other activities this fall.
We look forward to seeing some of you during one of our upcoming community visits, and send warm wishes for a bountiful summer with friends and family.
—The Engage Team
Lochaber Community Centre, Antigonish County, May 10
Strong communities are vibrant and engaged, with citizens coming together to inform decisions, address issues and create opportunities. But it can be challenging to create and maintain the conditions for this kind of public participation.
That's why we invited Municipal Councillors and staff and community leaders from across the province to come together last month for a day-long engagement clinic. The idea was simple—to learn from each other what works and what doesn't, based on personal experiences across the province. We created an opportunity to learn from past mistakes as well as share and build on community successes. Everyone left with practical next steps they could take to kick-start and sustain grassroots engagement.
Here are a few key lessons, gathered from the day's sessions.
1. Kick-starting engagement (especially when trust and turnout are low)
- Get your whole Council committed and involved.
- Be creative. In Annapolis, people “voted” for their priorities with Monopoly money.
- Meet people where they are.Reach out to groups that don’t usually show up because it is NOT enough to simply say, “they were invited…” Meet with key stakeholder groups during the design phase and enlist them in helping to extend and diversify your audience.
On May 10 the Engage team was in Lochaber, Antigonish County, hosting an “Engagement Clinic” for Municipal Councillors and staff. We thought we’d be at a hall in downtown Antigonish, but it was booked, so we opted for the Lochaber Community Centre, 20 minutes outside of town. That meant more driving for our team, most participants, and the caterers. But we knew the Centre had been built out of the inspiration and support of the local community, making it a good example of what our event was about. Besides, we decided we could bring the food ourselves. We made the move.Read more
Welcome to our first quarterly newsletter, which complements the steady stream of Engage updates on social media. You may have noticed we've been on the road—shining a spotlight on people, groups and communities who are stepping up in all kinds of creative ways. We have also been partnering with municipalities to help build trust and set priorities across communities. And we've been preparing to launch Nova Scotia’s first province-wide wellbeing index and survey—a powerful new tool that will help focus resources and advance collaboration across sectors for years to come. For more information about this work and ongoing projects like ShareThanksgiving, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Municipalities have always engaged their communities in multiple ways—from sharing information to holding public meetings and officiating at events. As times have changed, so have needs and expectations. Here are six trends to pay attention to in 2017.
1. Governments having to work harder to earn and keep trust.
This is true at all levels of government, and not just in Nova Scotia or even Canada. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports that trust in government is on the decline in many Western countries, and a 2016 “Trust Barometer” found that 63% of Canadians blame government for their problems. How to win back trust? The OECD advises that “open government policies that concentrate on citizen engagement and access to information” as well as “inclusive policy making” can go a long way.
Bottom line: It is more important than ever for Municipalities to engage citizens in a way that closes communication gaps and builds trust.Read more
Engage Nova Scotia has been the subject of media attention in the past few days, calling into question the value taxpayers receive for the provincial government's investment in Engage Nova Scotia and whether our Chief Engagement Officer, Danny Graham, is receiving a political favour through our funding from the Provincial Government.
I responded to the Chronicle Herald today with the following op-ed piece. I encourage you to read this and share it. We welcome your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org and encourage you to continue to do what you can to build a better Nova Scotia.
As published on allnovascotia.com on March 23, 2017:
Your publication recently reported on suggestions that Engage Nova Scotia was over-funded and that our CEO was receiving a favour from the provincial government through his work with Engage.
This is false.
Engage is an independent, unaffiliated NGO. We are solely responsible for the hiring of Danny Graham and the compensation he receives. Danny has enjoyed the confidence of people from all political stripes and has a stellar record of success.Read more
As the days grow colder we rely more on the warmth in our communities, our homes and our hearts. Maybe that's why the Engage team has been so enthusiastic about a Thanksgiving season that continued into late November. We have been touched and inspired by the way hundreds of people opened their homes to newcomers in October, followed by another wave of hosts and guests who turned out for a lively community dinner at Pier 21 in November.
We can’t help but wonder what would happen if that welcoming spirit flowed into the holiday season, and then into the new year. And what if we didn't need to wait to host newcomers, but also reached out to long-time neighbours we haven't yet met?
We wish everyone a warm holiday season and look forward to the work we will do together in the new year.
As the days get shorter and the U.S. election reveals deep divides in that country, it seems like a good time to pause and reflect. How can we as Nova Scotians avoid going down a similar path? How can we be sure to find our way forward together, even when the going gets tough? The U.S. election and everything that led up to it reminds us that every small step we take defines us, as people and as communities.
At Engage we are taking this lesson to heart. We see initiatives like Share Thanksgiving as an example of positive "small steps." But we also know that it takes time and effort to build real relationships, especially with people whose background and stories are different than our own. If Nova Scotia is to become more vibrant, inclusive and resilient—as we like to promote—then our team also needs to take that time, walk that talk. In the coming months we will continue to widen our circle of relationships so that our 2017 gatherings more richly represent all of the people and communities that make up our province.Read more
The Engage team was out and about in September—talking to international students about Share Thanksgiving at the Mayor's welcome and the Dal Volunteer Expo, offering pumpkin pie tarts at the Halifax Central Library, joining a Welcome BBQ on the South Commons, and meeting with folks at the Office of Immigration, ISANS, Immigration Francophone Nova Scotia, the YMCA, the United Way, and Pier 21. Finally, we returned to the Dal campus to close out September with a series of events on the realities of “Tough Collaboration,” offered by visitors Adam Kahane and Ian Prinsloo.