Community Development as defined by the UN is a process where community members come together to take collective action and generate solutions to common problems. While this appears to be simple, not everything that is simple comes easily. It takes work, coordinated work, and resources, mostly human resources. I have come to understand that collaborative work between residents, neighbours and partnering organizations is extremely satisfying work and it contributes to innovative solutions to a variety of community challenges.
For Sandy Hill Community Health Centre’s team lead, Gerald Dragon, “Residents are meant to be the driving force when designing initiatives aimed at responding to identified needs.” And this is exactly what it is. Understanding that, while we may support community members and associations in the development of different initiatives, they are instrumental because the value of their lived experience and understanding of their neighbourhood is incomparable.
Ottawa Community Health and Resource Centres have agreed on four guiding principles to define how community development agents, often called community developers, can inform their work in the community. We must be Responsive to Community as well as Challenge Systemic Inequity, Power Dynamics, and Support Empowerment of the individuals we work with. We do this through Partnership and Collaboration, keeping in mind we aim for Transformational Practice.
While SHCHC has been involved in community development since its inception, its department of Community Development and Engagement was initiated in the early 2000s. Through the years it has been involved in multiple projects to improve the health and well-being of residents. Currently, the CDE team is made up of four members. I am Malika Séguin-Gervais and I am the latest addition to this formidable team and I am happy to present the team to you via IMAGE.
Our team lead, Gerald Dragon, has been with SHCHC since 2011. Over the course of 10 years, his role has changed significantly from initially focusing on child/youth programming to ensuring certain services can be accessible to residents and engaging residents in capacity-building activities where they can take the lead and develop initiatives to make their neighbourhood better. These experiences and more have helped prepare him for his current role working alongside colleagues who are equally committed to making sure that SHCHC is responsive to the needs expressed by residents.
Sylvie Roussel is our program assistant and has been a resident in Strathcona Heights since 2004. Sylvie volunteered on multiple community development initiatives such as arts and crafts groups and Ottawa’s Cleaning the Capital program. She was hired in 2014 by SHCHC as the Good Food Markets site coordinator and became program assistant in 2018. Her strong connections with residents make her instrumental in increasing residents’ participation in numerous programs. Her role is to act as a liaison between residents and multiple community programs offered by both SHCHC and other service providers.
Annabelle Gisanza joined the CDE Team in May 2021 as community services coordinator. With over ten years of relevant professional experience, she says she is honoured to be the first to hold this new position, which Strathcona Heights residents have long advocated for. Her role includes establishing relationships with the community, responding to emerging needs, and facilitating service navigation. In addition to coordinating services with our network of partners, she hopes to offer a wide range of services to residents by using various pre-existing communal rooms in the neighbourhood.
Finally, there is me. I joined the team in June 2021. I have professional experience in strategic and action planning, community development project management, advocacy efforts and a passion for social justice. My role is to collaborate with individuals, community associations and city-wide partners on various initiatives with the objective of making our city more just by effecting initiatives to tackle inequities.
As a team, our work is grounded in community development principles, and the voices of residents, clients and patients are the building blocks of all our work. Do you have a resident-led project you would like to see implemented in your neighbourhood? Concerns about lack of services or barriers to access services? Do you see something unjust or something missing in your neighbourhood? Do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your views and ideas.
A short list of projects the CDE Team is, or has been, engaged in.
Lees crosswalk implementation
Speed bumps throughout Strathcona Heights
Movies in the Park
I Love to Dance
Girls Night, Let’s talk
Springhurst Park renewal
Paint it Up!
Youth Active Media
Ottawa Public Library Bookmobile