In his book Building Community, Paul Born reminds us that strong, connected communities do not occur automatically; rather, they are fostered by a “conscious, proactive, intentional effort to hold on to and build on the connections between us.”
When we thread all of what we do with an attention to the possibility of connection and care, over time we can embroider a tapestry of community into our life. Neighbourhood Small Grants (NSG) projects are weaving precisely such a tapestry. During my 2018 internship with the Vancouver Foundation, helping to prepare the 2017 NSG Evaluation report, I was amazed by the diversity and richness of the NSG projects your communities have been creating.
I was also deeply inspired by the Principles of Grassroots Grantmaking, developed by the Vancouver Foundation to guide NSG’s work as it expands across BC. Drawing from basic theories on community development, these six principles may act as a guide for any communal undertaking—whether it is planning a community event or tackling complex social issues. I welcome you to seek ways to implement these principles into the work you do at the NSG.
Some top recommendations shared by your peers and drawing from the Principles of Grassroots Grantmaking include:
- Help map local resources, including affordable spaces, equipment, and neighbours available to volunteer in NSG projects.
- Consider how to adapt the NSG to resonate with your community, such as by creating local granting priorities, or celebrating local stories and images in promotional material.
- Compare demographic data from annual NSG evaluation surveys with local benchmarks to identify gaps and priorities for outreach. For instance, across BC, the NSG is seeing less participation amongst youth, seniors, and new residents.
- With your committee, discuss the meaning of NSG goals and objectives to develop criteria and key indicators for granting decisions. Remember that committees are welcome to establish local goals and priority areas!
- Be an NSG mentor: individual feedback and project visits are very meaningful and helpful for Project Leaders.
- Draw on the strengths of your community: encourage neighbours to share their gifts, and consider what resources can contribute to your project, including community spaces and donations and loans of equipment.
- Engage your neighbours in discussing community visions and priorities, either while co-designing projects with your neighbours or within your event.
- Talk to neighbours and local organizations about potential barriers to participation for diverse community members (e.g. accessibility of venue, transit accessibility, or dietary restrictions).