Pathways to Success
2,150: That's how many community conversations the North Rocky View County coalition has tallied. And the number doesn't even include the informal chats coalition members have had with community residents in parks, elevators and grocery store lineups. Grasssroots community engagement has been a pririty for this coalition.
The community at a glance
North Rocky View County borders Calgary to the south and has a aview of the Rockies to the west. It encompasses Airdrie, a fast-growing 'young' city of about 44,000, the towns of Beiseker, Crossfield and Irricana, the hamlets of Balzac and Kathryn and rural areas. Parts of the region enjoy a healthy economy, based on oil and gas and agriculture. Many resdients commute to jobs in Calgary, Red Deer (125 kilometres to the north), and surrounding areas. Urban sprawl has spilled over into some rural areas and driven up property values. Other rural areas are fighting decline.
EDI baseline results
- Much of the community is growing and vibrant, and has a booming economy.
- Some parts of the community are well served with high-quality programs and resources for children and families.
- School board officials and other key decision makers have been strong supporters of the coalition and of positive early development.
- Multi-generational families are common.
- The community is widely diverse in its demographics and challenges. Residents range from farmers to urban commuters. Many areas are booming; others are struggling to survive.
- Resources are strained by population growth. The availability of family-focussed programs and services can vary a great dealt hroughout the community.
- Many commuters drive long distances to work
- The community has been flooded with newcomers in the past five years. Many lack family and social connections.
The EDI data was released in several stages to a widening audience to build momentum and excitement. Coalition members met face-to-face with 26 key people in the community, from mayors to heads of school districts, public health authorities, libraries and service organizations. These key people were then asked to invite other people they felt should hear about the information to an EDI data launch at City Hall in Airdrie. Presentations were also made to about 20 service organizations, school parent councils, library boards and moms’ groups.
A community survey was developed to identify community strengths and gaps in supporting young children and families. Parents were interviewed one-on-one. Feedback was solicited from people who attended the Airdrie City Hall EDI launch. Community residents were also invited to write their comments on a large canvas illustration of the community that was created by a local artist. Issues and concerns varied in different parts of the community, from a shortage of licensed child care to a need for more leisure family time.
A No Distracted Parenting campaign was launched to encourage parents to log off their mobile devices and focus on their children. Posters were designed with a special logo and physicians and public health nurses were involved in the campaign, urging patients to turn off their cell phones and iPads in office reception areas.
A Family Play Date was organized at Airdrie’s recreation centre on a March (2013) Saturday morning. About 350 people participated in activities that promoted the five areas of development, and learned more about early development and EDI results. ‘Swag’ bags filled with free swimming and library passes, skipping ropes, garden seeds, family cookbooks and information on community resources were handed out, as well information sheets on a variety of parenting and child development topics. (The coalition has also piggy-backed on numerous community events, offering draws and prizes to attract parents, in order to raise awareness about EDI results and the importance of early development.)
In terms of structure, the coalition has no chair. Responsibilities are delegated among members to encourage participation and commitment.
"I like the fact that there is a valid, credible tool to measure how our children are doing and whether we are using our resources wisely. You're much more likely to have community and parent buy-in if what you are doing is relevant and credible to people."
Debbie Fasoli, coalition coordinator
Updated: April 28, 2014