Jane’s Walk

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Jane’s Walks are free, locally organized walking tours, in which people get together to explore, talk about and celebrate their neighbourhoods. Since 2007, this homegrown phenomenon has expanded, now reaching 44 cities in Canada and 100 more cities around the world. In 2014, 157 free walks were organized in during the first weekend of May in Toronto alone with topics ranging from understanding the refugee experience to exploring urban history and architecture.

 

With Jane’s Walk, I was asked to create and facilitate a train-the-trainer program called Neighbourhood Choreographers. Participants from suburban neighbourhoods would be trained to encourage, support and “choreograph” their local community in the process of leading their first Jane’s Walk. The following year, I worked with the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, to develop the capacity of neighbourhood organizers in Halton Municipality to use public walking conversations as a way to engage with the Greenbelt and other issues related local sustainable development.

Position: Program Manager, Jane’s Walk (International Headquarters in Toronto)

Results:

  • Choreographer program guide and training curriculum developed with best practices and activities
  • 30 Neighbourhood Choreographers trained across suburban Toronto, Halton and Hamilton Municipalities in Ontario, who initiated 35 community Jane’s Walk activities
  • Initiated and coordinated partnerships and trainings with community-based agencies and funders including Action For Neighbourhood Change offices, Toronto Public Libraries, Toronto Community Housing Corporation, Community Health Centres, the City of Toronto and Community Development Halton.

Impact on Walk Festival

  • 300% increase in number of walks in the Etobicoke Lakeshore region due to the Choreographers
  • 25 total suburban walks inspired by the Choreographer program
  • 9 new community agencies recruited to organize their first Jane’s Walk
  • 75% retention of returning community agencies previously involved in Community Walks program

Website and Social Media:

Jane’s Walk Jane’s Walk: Neighbourhood Choreographer Program
Jane’s Walk: Highlighted Choreographer-led Walks
Choregrapher: Amitis Nouroozi

Press:

Spacing Magazine  How Jane’s Walk is engaging with suburban community “choreographers” (Summer 2014)

Partners and Friends: Tides Canada Toronto Community Foundation East Scarborough Storefront Bathurst – Finch Action for Neighbourhood Change Office LAMP Community Health Centre

Elysse Choreographer Still 8

 

Choreographer Certificates

How to Draw an Asset Map

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The first training session for Jane’s Walk’s new Neighbourhood Choreographers started this week.

We use the term choreographer as it relates to the ideas of urbanist Jane Jacobs who speaks about the “intricate ballet” of sidewalks with their “individual dancers and ensembles”.

Similarly, the sidewalk ballet needs choreographers to organize, direct and promote the preformance. Neighbourhood Choreographers in this way are ambassadors of Jane’s Walk in their neighbourhoods and they will support, recruit and “choreograph” their local communities to share their unique stories and lead their first Jane’s Walk. Over the next month, I will be working with 35 of these Choreographers in the three corners of Toronto: Kingston Galloway in Scarborough, New Toronto in Etobicoke and Bathurst Finch in North York.

But how to help people discover and explore local stories to share?

To answer that question, I introduced the participants to the idea of Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD), a concept coined by John McKnight and Jody Kretzmann at the ABCD Institute.[1]

An easy way to start thinking about ABCD is asking “is the glass half full or half empty?” A glass half empty represents the notion that communities are deficient and have needs. The half full glass represents the notion that communities (and the people who live there) have many strengths, capacities and assets that are already found in the community. [2]

ABCD asks everyday local people to identify their valuable relationships and existing assets (personal, social, physical, natural) and create steps to make those assets stronger. It recognizes the strengths, gifts, talents and resources of individuals and communities, and helps communities to mobilize and build on these for sustainable development.[3]

For our first Neighbourhood Choreographer session, I introduced the concept of ABCD with an accessible and fun exercise called Asset Mapping which you can try for yourself and friends, family and neighbourhood groups of all ages.

How to make your own Asset Map:

  • Using a flip chart paper and markers, draw a map of your local community considering all your personal and community assets (ex. stories, unique spots, groups, business, informal networks, schools, roads, nature, buildings, hangout spots, relationships, skills)
  • Use the following questions to guide you [2]:
    • What are the strengths and assets of your community?
    • When was a time you felt your community was at its best?
    • What do you value most about your community?
    • What is the essence of your community that makes it unique and strong?
    • What are you most excited about these days about your community?

Asset mapping is a tool you can use to document people’s understanding of their communities and neighbourhoods. Through these maps, it is likely that number of themes will emerge that can inform the direction of your Jane’s Walk.

During the Choreographer’s exercise, themes of nature, local business history, social services, community programs were clearly visible and will be discussed further at our next training.

What walk stories do you see?

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Look forward to more posts about the Neighbourhood Choreographers in the coming weeks!

@Nico Koenig

PS: If you are looking to discover more about Asset Mapping and ABCD, consider the following resources:

[1] The Asset-Based Community Development Institute http://www.abcdinstitute.org

[2] Sustaining Community Engagement, What is Asset-Based Community Development? http://sustainingcommunity.wordpress.com/2013/08/15/what-is-abcd/

[3] The Coady International Institute, About ABCD http://www.coady.stfx.ca/themes/abcd/

This post was originally posted as “At Jane’s Walk, the glass is half full” on the Jane’s Walk Toronto Page here: http://janeswalk.org/canada/toronto/toronto-blog/janes-walk-glass-half-full/ on March 14th, 2014.