City Centre Early Childhood Development Coalition
Many social development pilot projects have come and gone in Edmonton City Centre over the years. When ECMap initially met with organizations in this community, the first question they asked was whether residents would welcome — or even tolerate — another project after so many other ones failed to create lasting change or to represent local voices.
Community at a glance
City Centre is a diverse community. Central McDougall and Queen Mary Park, for example, are home to many new immigrant families. Rossdale and Riverdale are coveted addresses for upscale professionals, and Oliver is a mix of lower- and middle-class residents. Some neighbourhoods are experiencing rapid redevelopment and gentrification, especially the poorest communities closest to downtown. The demographics of low-income areas such as Boyle will change as more affluent newcomers move in, perhaps displacing long-time residents.
EDI baseline results
A large number of children living in Edmonton City Centre are experiencing difficulty or great difficulty in communication skills and general knowledge (43 per cent), emotional maturity (37 per cent), and physical health and well-being (37 per cent). Forty-three per cent are experiencing great difficulty in one or more areas of development.
- Redevelopment brings resources and investment from the city into the community.
- The coalition has a committed core team with a clear sense of direction and a plan, realistic expectations, a respectful, collaborative approach and strong community connections. A good documentation and record-keeping system is in place, which makes it easier to integrate new members and groups and track activities and processes.
- A number of neighbourhoods struggle with complex issues, including poverty, violence, addiction, and safety concerns. Residents and agencies in these areas are accustomed to having their neighbourhoods seen as “problems,” which can make it harder to engage them.
- New Canadians can experience a great deal of stress in navigating an unknown culture and language, finding housing and jobs, facing isolation and racism, and sometimes coping with pre-immigration trauma.
- Public awareness about the importance of early development may be lacking. Cultural perspectives on early development may differ and need to be acknowledged and understood.
- Since the spring of 2013, the coalition has focused on collecting the stories of families in Edmonton City Centre to better understand their needs and experiences. It has been looking at five areas in particular: 1) family socio-economic contexts and pre-immigration circumstances, 2) cultural perspectives and understanding of early childhood development, 3) family experiences with services and resources, 4) services that are wanted and needed and existing gaps, and 5) parents’ aspirations for themselves and their children. Instead of holding formal focus groups, coalition members are meeting families in natural gathering places, such as local cafés, houses of worships or playgrounds. Particular efforts have been made to engage different cultural groups in order to capture the multicultural diversity of the community. As of early 2014, the coalition has spoken with about 70 people. The results will eventually be shared with the participants.
- The coalition’s first newsletter was launched in early 2014. This quarterly publication is mailed electronically to agencies and organizations such as Edmonton Public Library, day cares in the area, The Norwood Child and Family Resource Centre, Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers and Multicultural Health Brokers.
- A "Together we Raise Tomorrow" conversation was organized during the Norwood Child and Family Resource Centre’s 50th anniversary celebration in September 2013. Participants attending the event were asked to provide their feedback on existing early development supports and services and what they felt was lacking and needed.
"Many projects have tended to focus on 'getting the message out' with promotional materials, brochures and posters. But that's a one-way exchange. It doesn't help us understand what's really going on in the community. You get so much more from having a conversation."
Bev Parks, coalition chair and executive director,
Norwood Child and Family Resource Centre
Norwood Child and Family Resource Centre
Updated: April 28, 2014