One of our new projects for 2015 is helping establish the Jane’s Walk Connector Program in Burlington, Ontario. Jane’s Walk is a global community engagement project that encourages communities to self-organize neighbourhood walks as a means to explore and learn about local issues. The organization was founded in 2006 in memory of famed urbanist Jane Jacobs who always encouraged people to walk about and discover their cities.
Jane’s Walk hired us to assist with thinking through how to encourage local residents in Burlington to create more walks and promote community dialogue. Over the past few years, Burlington residents have only hosted a handful of Jane’s Walks and our goal is to increase this to 100 walks this year – a tall order – but definitely a challenge we were not afraid to be a part of! With project funding being provided by Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, our focus is also to help think about creating walks focussed on Ontario Greenbelt and environmental issues.
Organizing a neighbourhood walk is a great way to perform community engagement. Not only do you get great exercise and have a chance to discover your community, but it is a great way to connect with your neighbours and talk about things that matter to you and your community. Over the years, Jane’s Walk has been a very helpful tool for citizens to engage on controversial issues, help others develop empathy through seeing the city via another’s viewpoint and better understand local history. Today, Jane’s Walks are in over 25 countries and 134 cities.
During our first meeting with community organizers in Burlington, we were amazing by the amount of community love that existed and how there was a strong desire to get started on making more walks happen! The Connector program aims to train around 20 community Connectors on the key elements of organizing walks and these connectors in turn will help recruit 5 other walk leaders to host the actual walks. This “Train the Trainer” model should leave behind a great legacy and capacity for Burlington community leaders to continue to organize more walks in the future.
We are currently taking applications for the Connectors, whom we hope to train in late March 2015. If you live in Burlington and would like to apply, we’d encourage you to fill out the application here:
Applications are due on March 6th at 5pm.