By Ciara Farmer and Yasaman Mohaddes

Ciara and Yasaman were the authors of the 2019 Neighbourhood Small Grants Annual Report.

Neighbourhood Small Grants hinges its programming on the principle that small projects can be profoundly impactful and meaningful for local communities. These community-level impacts in turn contribute to a healthy and thriving broader society. For the last three years, Neighbourhood Small Grants has set aside portions of their funding to grant projects with a lens on youth or Indigeneity. These two realms, along with the broader societal eye on the socio-economic inequities that impact equity-seeking communities, guided the focus of our evaluation of the 2019 granting year.

NSG Cover

Read the annual report here.

While the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic were not yet apparent during the 2019 granting year, our evaluation, completed remotely due to the pandemic, inspired us to take a closer look at how community organizing can occur at a time when gathering together with neighbours is no longer possible.

On a personal level, we were struck by the creativity and diversity of projects completed by community members across the province and were inspired to tell the stories of these project leaders, in their own words, as much as possible.

I appreciate that even as we celebrate successful projects, Neighbourhood Small Grants is committed to creating further space for equity-seeking communities that have been underrepresented and gave me and Yasaman the space to offer suggestions for ways that NSG can be more equitable. —Ciara Farmer

Thinking beyond the block party, we were drawn to projects that reflect British Columbia’s diverse communities and sparked our imaginations about what diverse and inclusive community-led projects could look like. The individuals that do the work that Neighbourhood Small Grants facilitate are the heart of enacting these meaningful and long-term grassroots, community-level impacts.

Simultaneously, we identified spaces within Neighbourhood Small Grants where there is room to work towards an increased representation of diverse communities and develop more inclusive programming, highlighting a myriad of people who are integral parts of our communities but are underrepresented in Neighbourhood Small Grants’ programming, including racialized individuals, people with disabilities, people who are low income, people of all ages, and people of non-dominant religious and cultural groups.

With this lens in mind, we offer recommendations based on the data from the 2019 granting year. These recommendations—broken down into “Project Leaders” and “Granting Committees and Program Coordinators,” because our data for granting committees and program coordinators were very similar.

What do project leaders need?

  • Workshops/resources that guide project leaders to create inclusive and accessible events that go beyond free admission or events in public areas. 
  • Workshops/resources on writing a successful grant application or seek to find new ways of applying for project leaders who may face language barriers and other barriers to effective written communication. This would make the application process more equitable for people who do not speak English as a first language or have experienced barriers to literacy.
  • Resources for event promotion including how to promote events across various platforms (social media, in person, flyers, etc.). This was consistently cited as a challenge for project leaders—both generally and in terms of fostering inclusive events by reaching more community members—and is an area that NSG can seek to address for the upcoming granting year.

What do granting committees and community coordinators need?

  • Partnerships with community organizations that work with marginalized groups, racialized groups, and low-income members of the community in order to increase the diversity of applicants to the program.
  • Focused recruitment of new members, especially youth and racialized individuals to join committees to facilitate diversification of NSG at the programming level and mitigate the impact of bias in the application review process.

Ciara:

After spending the last five years in academia regularly discussing equity in hypotheticals, it was an absolute joy to work on this project and see how striving for equity looks in practice. The opportunity to deepen my own understanding of inclusion, diversity, and equity in the non-profit sector is invaluable for me.

Further, the compatibility between my role at Neighbourhood Small Grants and my research assistantship on a knowledge mobilization project called Supporting Transparent & Open Research Engagement & Exchange (STOREE), has been an exciting opportunity to put my knowledge about effective communication–like infographics–into action.

The huge variety of projects that community members applied to have granted alone was impressive and the outcomes even more-so. I appreciate that even as we celebrate successful projects, Neighbourhood Small Grants is committed to creating further space for equity-seeking communities that have been underrepresented and gave me and Yasaman the space to offer suggestions for ways that NSG can be more equitable.

Yasaman:

In my studies, we have been encouraged to find ways to turn our knowledge into action in order to create more inclusive and diverse cities. Often, this can seem challenging when in the confines of a classroom environment, the theories we learn can often seem abstract, and not related to the real world struggle of individual people.

This evaluation gave me the opportunity to learn from individuals making real world, long term impacts in their community, and just how little money and large institutional support is needed to have positive outcomes in a community.

Neighbourhood Small Grants proves that regular people can have a large impact on community well-being and I was delighted to be given the opportunity to learn from the triumphs and challenges of project leaders and committee members alike and hopefully provide areas to make Neighbourhood Small Grants even better in years to come.

Written By:

Esther Tung

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