Collective Community Action - Background
In 2012, ten communities from across Alberta were chosen to be a part of the Active Community Strategy (ACS) Development Initiative. Alberta Recreation and Parks Association (ARPA) partnered with Alberta Health Services (AHS) to secure funding through the Alberta Cancer Prevention Legacy Fund (ACPFL) for this initiative.
Using the ACE Communities ‘Planning Framework for Community Development’ (Herchmer, 2009) as a guide, they all took time to engage a variety of partners, built on strengths, and utilize existing knowledge, plans and research to inform priorities. All ten of the communities engaged community members, organizations and councils to determine priorities for building a more physically active community.
Each Strategy is distinctive based on their needs, resources and location. Communities linked their priorities to local Community Sustainability Plans, the Active Alberta Policy, Active Canada 20/20 and other relevant plans and policies. Identifying the linkages with local, provincial and national efforts provide opportunities to build collaborative partnerships that extend beyond municipal boundaries.
Included below are selected highlights from the active community strategies submitted by the ten ACS communities. These communities include: Airdrie, Calling Lake, Cardel Place (Calgary), Grande Prairie, High River, Leduc, Longview, Okotoks, Pincher Creek, and Sylvan Lake.
- Communication and Education
Theme: All ten communities tied the need for more effective communication and engagement around active living initiatives into their active community strategies.
When it comes to AIRDRIE’s active community strategy, their first goal is: “Educate the community on the various types of structured and unstructured activities in Airdrie”. Part of their plan aimed at making this a reality is the launching of a web-based tool that provides users with comprehensive activities based on their preferences as well as information about physical activity, healthy eating, and training opportunities.
While building the story piece for their active community strategy, HIGH RIVER interviewed multiple people on their roles in the community. Through this process, several interesting things were discovered. Information about programs, which were beforehand unknown, was shared. In addition, people of all ages were given the opportunity to share their opinions and thoughts, and doors to lines of communication were opened.
SYLVAN LAKE also cites community education as one of their top priorities. Their number one goal is to promote more active lifestyles amongst local citizens. They aim to accomplish this goal through the creation of a greater awareness of community opportunities. CARDEL PLACE (CALGARY), GRANDE PRAIRIE, PINCHER CREEK, LEDUC, and others all also cite the importance of creating community awareness of the importance of physical activity.
Theme: An interest in walking or active transportation was an item highlighted in many of the communities’ active strategies.
LONGVIEW plans to utilize their ACS seed funds as leverage for the greater cost of creating a walking/jogging path on the western edge of the community. This path, with historical markers, will link a variety of recreational outdoor spaces together making physical activity more accessible for Longview citizens. Their active community strategy highlights the steps needed to make this a reality.
In their active community strategy, OKOTOKS expressed their intent in using walking as a means to not only connect neighbourhoods but also build community. They state one of their priorities being: “connecting neighbours through active group walking, unstructured play, and other activities.”
GRANDE PRAIRIE, OKOTOKS, and LEDUC all cited Alberta Health Services (AHS)’s WalkABle program as a potential resource for maximizing their interests in active transportation. LONGVIEW also cited a future interest in tapping into AHS’s WalkABle program once their trails are in place.
- Partners and Collaboration
Theme: Many of the ACS communities expressed interest in multi-sector collaboration - working together with other organizations and community members to lift and leverage existing healthy, active living work in the community.
Like many of the ACS communities, CARDEL PLACE (CALGARY) expressed the need for partnerships. They formed alliances with partners like the City of Calgary and the 60 Minute Kidsclub. Cardel, however, also expressed interest in creating a Play Ambassador Program aimed at multi-generational collaborations both in the local community and in their facility.
GRANDE PRAIRIE, through its Grande Prairie Get Active Network (GPGAN), hopes to get continued input and greater support of the town’s active community strategy. One of their goals, to “Support Awareness and Collaboration Across Organizations”, means that all GPGAN members will continue to network with other community groups to make connections within the community surrounding active living initiatives.
A priority for LEDUC, as outlined in their active community strategy, is to reconnect existing partners and develop new working partnerships between the City of Leduc and community groups to create a more active community. Players at the table already include: Alberta Health Services (WalkABle), Ever Active Schools, and Healthy Hearts Leduc.
Theme: One repeated message within the ACS strategies was the importance of having town council and local government bodies endorse their policies.
In their strategy, LONGVIEW outlined its plan to lobby town council to develop policies officially supportive of community recreational opportunities by committing in-kind resources. An example of such resources would be: 1) the use of the village hall space to provide free exercise classes to the community; 2) the provision of a Village owned tent for shelter in the park during summer exercise classes; 3) or the request for free use of the gym space in the local school for recreational programming.
One of the first things the ACS team in OKOTOKS did was to officially approach their town council for support of their initiative. They believe that their initiative has been successful so far because of the unwavering support of their Mayor, Okotoks Town Council, and town staff. Communities like CALLING LAKE and GRANDE PRAIRIE also cited plans to seek official government endorsement for their activities.
- Community-based Leadership
Theme: The work of the ten ACS communities has demonstrated that, when it comes to building stronger and more resilient communities, community-driven leadership is key to creating community capacity.
Like many of the ten ACS communities, sustainability is a priority for PINCHER CREEK. To achieve this end, one of the community’s goals is to “build capacity and develop new leaders in the community to advance the Active Community Strategy and to create sustainability”. Their desired outcome is to have an abundance of competent and well-trained leaders, coaches and volunteers to offer community programs and services.
In HIGH RIVER, their Active Community Strategy acknowledges the need for youth to be a part of the community’s vision. The local ACS group has initiated action on this first goal through the successful recruitment of a local teen to fill the Youth Liaison position. The priority of this focus is to foster a sense of belonging, guide the new leaders of tomorrow, and to fill the cracks that the youth have fallen through in terms of active living initiatives in the town.
CARDEL PLACE (CALGARY) hopes to lead the charge in terms of championing the importance of active living. In their strategy they state: “We strongly believe that Cardel Place, and others like us, are uniquely positioned to have an impact in reversing the national challenge of physical inactivity and sedentary lifestyles. Starting with children and youth and then adults, we are getting people active to save lives, increase workforce productivity, foster innovation and strengthen community and neighbourhood connections. Cardel Place is creating a new model to show how Canada's public recreation sector can and must do more.”
- Unstructured Activities and Accessibility
Theme: One common recurring theme was the interest in unstructured physical activity opportunities and their tie to making physical activity more accessible for citizens.
One of the aims of CALLING LAKE’s active community strategy is to provide opportunities for all residents by identifying and addressing program interests and gaps related to family, adult, traditional, informal citizen-led activities, exploratory or introductory activities. These activities will range from those reflective of their aboriginal culture like teepee raisings to canoeing for elders on the lake.
Like Calling Lake, SYLAN LAKE wants their active community strategy to highlight: “the natural beauty of the lake… All neighbourhoods have attractive recreational and pleasure green spaces. The trails, parks, beaches, lake and facilities are clean and accessible…”. Their goal of: “Physical activities for all” taps into the inherent natural assets already found in their community and accessible by all of its citizens.
The number one goal for LEDUC is also accessibility. They hope to “Promote opportunities for individuals and families to access subsidies, programs and initiatives” with the ultimate outcome being that, with various barriers to participating in recreation and culture removed, more individuals and families in financial need in their community are getting active.
- A Holistic Approach to Active Living
Theme: Another common message was that many communities aim at integrating active living principals into all levels of their communities.
As part of CALLING LAKE’s planning principals, the community states that they seek holistic health by attending to mental, spiritual and physical needs. This statement is part of the ACS vision in Calling Lake:
“Just as the lake nurtures its fish, the land and its wildlife, the hamlet of Calling Lake nurtures its people by respectfully and mutually ensuring support for achieving their physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional potential.
By supporting residents to reach their potential, residents are empowered to serve as stewards of the past, as well as providers for the future.
As part of embracing the potential of becoming an active community, there is a growing understanding in Calling Lake that recreation, sport, and active living is but a means to a bigger end — the holistic development of spirit, mind, and body; helping people grow and be healthy, stronger families and a stronger community, meaningful and relevant leaders, and greater caring and respect for the environment.”
Like Calling Lake, AIRDRIE’s active community strategy expresses how more of an understanding among community members, about both the benefits of physical activity and where opportunities exist, can have a positive societal impact. They cite one impact of an active and engaged citizen is decreased crime (such as vandalism) rates.
GRANDE PRAIRIE also aims, through their support of neighbourhood associations, to create a sense of community spirit that not only elevates its citizens’ sense of wellness and well being, but also creates the capacity that will address issues like crime and isolation.
And a thank-you must go out to all of the hard working community members who took the time and committed to making their communities more active and more engaged. None of these above achievements could have occurred if it wasn’t for your hard work and dedication. Thank you Alberta and keep up the great work!