Our Place: Inner City
Building on over a decade of community development work, Our Place will soon be launching the inaugural Our Place Inner City Assembly in five East Vancouver neighbourhoods: Strathcona, Hastings-Sunrise, Grandview-Woodland, the Downtown Eastside and Mount Pleasant.
Our Place: Inner City aims to establish a permanent mechanism in these neighbourhoods to empower local decision-making on an ongoing basis in order to improve the relevance, effectiveness, and sustainability of local policies and social services in a way that can eventually be replicated across the City.
Our Vision: Empowering Inner City Communities and Citizens
The Inner City Assembly is intended to provide a participatory and place-based approach to decision-making concerning neighourhood planning, projects, programs, and initiatives. This includes developing and reviewing initiatives and projects in the following areas:
- Prosperity and Economic Development
- Urban Planning and Land Use
- Urban Indigenous Inclusion and Representation
- Community planning initiatives, proposed developments, and projects in Vancouver’s Inner City.
Given the unceded Coast Salish territory in which the Inner City is located and the large Indigenous population, recognition of the rights of the Coast Salish peoples and engagement of the diverse urban Indigenous population are key goals.
Building the Governance Model
Based on input from community forums held in May 2018 and June 2019, and the subsequent work of a volunteer Steering Committee, a founding Terms of Reference for the inaugural Our Place Inner City Assembly has now been created.
Our Place: Inner City draws inspiration from models such as Portland’s Office of Neighbourhood Involvement, BC Community Resource Boards, participatory budgeting, and Indigenous governance systems.
How it Will Work
The Inner City Governance model will be launched in five neighbourhoods: Strathcona, Downtown Eastside, Mount Pleasant, Hastings Sunrise, Grandview-Woodland.
Decision making will take place at two levels:
- The neighbourhood level, with clear governance requirements and administrative supports for voting members and participating organizations
- The community-hub level, with an Assembly that addresses key issues that cross over inner city neighborhoods in partnership with members from the Coast Salish Nation and municipal, regional, provincial, and federal levels of government.
Stewardship Committee to set agendas, coordinate activities, and direct staff support
Voting members Approval of neighbourhood strategies and projects
Entire Assembly Deliberation, dialogue, and community consultation on neighbourhood strategies and projects
A Few FAQs
Most frequent Inner City Assembly questions and answers
We’re starting here because Our Place partners already work with local residents in these community hubs to identify and take on key local issues. Our Place is anchored in community centres and neighbourhood houses with sustainable core funding and existing connections to residents and community leaders.
Eventually we hope that this model will be replicated across the city. We will be documenting the pilot to demonstrate what participatory democracy can look like in practise and how it can be implemented in other neighbourhoods across the city and beyond. There will be many engagement opportunities that will be open to those from outside the geographic area of the pilot either as observers or participants.
City Council and other systems will still have final decision-making authority on issues that fall within their powers. However, the Assembly will work with the five neighbourhoods to develop recommendations for Council and hopefully have a greater influence in matters that are important to our community, acting as a unified and representative voice. We hope that Governments and Developers will come to the Assembly before going to City Council with new plans, strategies, etc. This is the shift that needs to happen.
While the short answer is yes, they will maintain their independence as non-profits with a mandate and responsibility to operate and deliver their respective programs and services, their role as part of the Assembly will hopefully mean that they make a commitment of accountability to the populations and communities they serve. This includes working to embrace vehicles for strong representative resident input that can support fundamental changes in the existing service-delivery model.
Delivering the right mix of programs and services in the area is challenging when non-profits are constantly having to navigate complex RFPs, funding cycles and grant streams that are highly susceptible to non-profit industry trends and government regime changes. As part of the Assembly, member organizations will also have the benefit of a strong resident voice and support to address these challenges.
There are criteria in place for voting members to promote diverse, local representation in organization membership and boards and each resident group casts only a single vote. A range of strategies will be used to outreach to and meaningfully engage those with barriers. We believe in the intrinsic value of civic engagement among traditionally underrepresented populations, especially those with a history of exclusion and ongoing barriers to participation.
While the April 23rd Launch Event has been postponed, you can still email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up for the mailing list to receive updates or contact us if you’d like to join the Steering Committee.
We are also seeking neighbourhood organizers! In order to bring this concept to reality, resources will be directed to support each neighbourhood to build their respective governance structure and processes, based on our shared principles and then work collaboratively with the larger Assembly. At the Launch, organizers for each of the five neighbourhoods will be elected to work on:
- convening local ‘tables’ or neighbourhood coalitions of organizations
- supporting residents to resident-based groups (the only membership category eligible to vote in the Assembly)