Last week I joined city employees, service providers and other citizens/community association members at a 3-day event hosted by the Tamarack Institute in Kitchener called Neighbours, focused on the power of neighbourhoods and citizens in creating community.
The event was hosted at the Pavilion in Kitchener’s Victoria Park. This was the first time I had spent much time in Kitchener, and was amazed at everything I saw there. Though the event was framed around the Institute’s typical conference format, the gathering was the first time that they had brought people together in a park. The Pavilion was a beautiful space, and being in the park gave us many places (including picnic shelters, a large gazebo, and the Boat House bar) to meet together for small group discussion.
Each day we met in the morning for opening thoughts from one of the Tamarack leaders, followed by discussions in small group “pods” that were a blend of citizens, city and public sector employees, before listening and sharing thoughts in a discussion lead by the leaders. Each afternoon was concurrent workshops on varied topics followed by walkabouts in different communities in Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge reached either by walking or school buses.
I found the discussion very interesting and illuminating as we dug into what community means for everyone at the gathering and how we can build stronger communities across the country and the world, but I found the walkabouts especially valuable as we examined what the region has been doing to build and grow.
On the first day I chose to join the downtown Kitchener walkabout, exploring how the city has revitalized the urban core. We walked around the Victoria Park neighbourhood, a place called TreeHaus and the Tannery District (pictured above) for examples of inventive co-working spaces and King Street to see creative uses of the downtown streets.
On the second day I joined the walkabout of the Lang’s Farm Village community in Cambridge, visiting the Village Association Youth and Teen Centre and their brand new regional community health & wellness centre (pictured above).
For the next three days I’ll share my thoughts and experiences from the event in a series of posts. I hope that I can convey the various elements of the gathering well, and take away from it some goals and actions we might be able to take in London to strengthen our communities both separately and united as parts of our great city!
Next post: Tamarack Day 1: Community Assets