GUEST BLOG - TARAH HODGKINSON
Tarah is a senior researcher in the Integrated Risk Assessment Instrument Research Group in Vancouver, Canada. She is a certified SafeGrowth Advocate and is completing her PhD in criminology at Simon Fraser University.
Two weeks ago, the ever expanding SafeGrowth program, in partnership with Louisiana AARP, held our third SafeGrowth Summit. Six teams from across the country joined us in New Orleans, including Chicago, Los Angeles, Birmingham, Baton Rouge, Los Angeles and of course New Orleans.
Our week included a very special visit from Nobel Laureate for Storytelling, Katrice Horsley from the UK, who was an incredible addition to our team (this will be the focus of an upcoming blog). Suffice to say, many of us walked away with a plethora of new skills for neighbourhood development.
As always, the search conference involves a stage of visioning. Sometimes this part is as important as the action plan. Participants envisioned a future where people could work, live and play in their neighbourhoods. They envisioned places that were no longer car dependent. They envisioned extensive public transit networks, renewable energies, and neighbourhoods full of festivals, diversity and acceptance.
The results of this session were inspiring and resembled similar results from other search conferences. We realize that today, when groups are asked to envision a desirable future, what emerges are ideas for walkable, diverse, multi-use, and sustainable neighbourhoods. The results of the planning stages of the search conference included numerous plans for changing each of the neighbourhoods represented at our event.
In one city, discussions focused around expanding community engagement strategies on a new metro transit system. In another, engagement included safety on possible shuttle service and a Rails-To-Trails project. On yet another, sidewalk and intersection safety initiatives are leading to the possible development of a cross-city neighborhood exchange program to help build social cohesion between different neighborhoods in the city.
By the end of the event the teams began to incorporate tactics to work with neighborhoods, residents, and stakeholders early in the planning stages. They saw the value in directly involving neighbourhood organizations before moving forward with any changes.
The concept small is beautiful resonated throughout. Finally, the conference highlighted the storytelling skills of Katrice who entertained with her unique way to share lessons of change and hope. We agreed that this will definitely become an important feature of SafeGrowth in the future.