Having a connected community means working together as a whole. A single person or organization cannot do it alone.
Engaging others across a variety of sectors contributes different parts and pieces. The end goal will be a stronger community team. This step covers the community engagement and multi-sectoral collaboration building blocks of the Healthy Communities Approach.
Remember – this step takes time, and a lot of it! It involves building relationships, establishing trust and learning about existing connections before you move on to the next step. Creating connections is important at the beginning and throughout all the other steps in the process.
Even though you may be just getting started, try to think ahead about sustaining your initiatives and your partnerships; do things that will continually improve a project’s longevity, and nurture your relationships!
Tips for building your community team
- Connect with key community organizations (e.g. interagency groups, service clubs, parks and recreation centres, community associations, interfaith groups, libraries and others)
- Take a “windshield tour” (walk, drive or bike around your community) to ‘check things out’; have conversations with folks you meet along the way
- Seek out the go-getters who have a passion for the community
- Post information in and around your community
- Attend a variety of community meetings to get to know the people and the issues
- Be sure to connect with your municipal government; find out which local leaders have an interest or sit on committees that focus on community building or healthy community work. Start with Family and Community Support Services, Recreation or Transportation departments
- Share your interests and ideas for a healthy community with other like-hearted people in your community
- Keep a list of contacts
- Get on the agendas of groups who share an interest in your ideas
Engage local administrators and elected officials; they can be natural champions for your healthy community initiative, with the added advantage of decision-making power. This can include municipal councilors, local leaders, elders, or administrators
Identifying community octopuses
The following infographic can help you think about people you know who are masterful connectors.
A key component of building community connections is networking. There are different networking styles, and each can be helpful in different situations.
Exploratory networking includes informal chats, listening to what people say, attending inter-agency or other meetings and gathering a perspective from people about the health of their community. This can happen anywhere and may lead to a more strategic stage of networking.
Purposeful networking involves more formal, planned contact that may include meeting with variety of diverse groups, or planned interviews to strengthen relationships and build trust with community members and potential partners. The group size doesn’t matter; more important is their representativeness of the overall community.
Opportunistic networking builds upon existing relationships and may include attendance at organization or coalition-based meetings. This can be an opportunity to add a health promotion lens to others’ agendas, while continuing on-going networking.
Successful multi-sectoral engagement requires continuous and timely contact. Also ensure that all information is conveyed to all interested parties. Remember:
- Be open to something you may not think is a priority.
- All information may not be relevant, but all information has a purpose.
- Being an active listener will help build trust amongst your team.
It’s time to bring your community members together to ‘converse’ about your community’s assets and what people view as a healthy community. Use an agenda to clearly state the purpose of each gathering. Conversations can take a variety of forms; the key is to create interest and interaction, while listening to the voice of the community. Share interests; encourage openness and remember KIS - KEEP IT SIMPLE!
Try these conversation starters:
- What do you love about our community?
- What good things already exists?
- What does it mean to ‘make the healthy choice the easy choice’?
- If the sky was the limit, what would our healthy community look like?
- What makes people healthy, or not? Think about the deeper factors that influence health.
Conversations are intended to stimulate interest and momentum as well as to inform, consult and involve. The result? Increased participation, collaboration, and capacity to take action on community priorities.
Check-in: Who is at your table? Review your contact list to see who is already on your team and who / what sectors are still missing.
The Connecting with Communities strategy will help you get started.
Community capacity building
Community capacity building is the process of identifying, strengthening and linking your community's tangible resources, such as schools, businesses and local service groups, and intangible resources such as community spirit. Community capacity is the infrastructure of individual skills and knowledge, organizations, businesses and community networks that enable the sharing of these skills, knowledge and resources1. Even when capacity is low to moderate, communities can still move forward by connecting with other communities, learning from those who have gone through the process. By bringing people together and collaborating, capacity will increase. Creating connections is an ongoing process.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has developed a comprehensive tool for understanding and developing community’s capacity. See what it might offer your group.
Check-in - Are you ready? Do you have a team in place?
Now that you have a team, focus your next conversation on creating a shared vision and purpose, along with ways of working together.
A downloadable template you can tailor to create invitations or announcements about community events
Community Capacity Building
Public Health Agency of Canada –an in-depth tool that helps you assess the many aspects of developing community capacity
BC Healthy Communities Society –an online resource to help local governments improve health and community well-being
See what other communities across Alberta have done to promote healthy living
Discover tools and resources that can help you create your own healthy community
Find tools, resources and learning opportunities to help strengthen your community.