Healthy neighbourhoods are more than just programs. There must be an increased focus on strategies that work directly with community members
The Program Response:
Traditional services and programs tend to address single issues in isolation – issues which are often symptoms of broader systemic problems like poverty and alienation. Research shows that these approaches continually fail to achieved desired outcomes and have not demonstrated any significant impacts in addressing complex problems, even in neighbourhoods that have received years of funding
Often services and programs are ‘parachuted in’, and use the social capital of existing community-based groups to get into the neighbourhood and reach their narrowly defined target population. They fail to account for the other variables that are impacting their ‘clients’ or any related community-led interventions they might be encroaching upon. They compete with local agencies, applying for the same funding (often employing dedicated grant writers) and duplicating the work of grassroots groups.
Sustainability of program responses is about money whereas in strategies it is about relationships. As soon as the program funding is gone, the programs and any positive networks that may have formed also become vulnerable or weakened.
The Strategy Response:
Strategies are responses with many actions and interventions that build interconnected pathways. Strategies bring on champions and realign policy, practise and existing resources to the community reality. In strategies, programming integrates supports and tools that accommodate a diverse range of individual and community needs, including differentiated ways of participation (eg. Inclusion of those with physical or developmental disabilities, accounting for cultural differences).