Community Stories

The Edmonton West Early Childhood Development Community was one of the first to receive its Community Information Package (CIP) as part of an ECMap pilot release to four communities in May 2011. The coalition was also one of the first to be approved for a $50,000 seed grant from Alberta Education.

Allen Balser, co-chair of the Discovering West Edmonton coalition, says it’s tempting to charge full steam ahead and start looking for concrete, measurable results, especially given the two-year deadline for the seed grant. But the coalition sees a benefit in taking the time to form a strong foundation before moving the project ahead. “The process may very well be the product,” he says.

Co-chair Adine Shuchuk has similar thoughts. “One of the biggest things for us is that in developing a coalition … we’re finding we really need to take our time and build our relationships. That’s what building community is all about. It also takes time to be able to work as a cohesive group.”

Edmonton West is diverse in its landscape and demographics. The community encompasses many of the city’s wealthiest neighbourhoods and those with some of the lowest incomes. It includes high-density highrises, blocks of multi-family walkups and single-family homes; tree-lined mature neighbourhoods and developer-built suburban communities; semi-rural settings and wide stretches of industrial zones.

Childhood development in the eight subcommunities varies dramatically. CIP results show  43 per cent of children experiencing great difficulty in at least one area of development in one subcommunity, and 5.93 per cent in another, for example.

Strategies:

The coalition hopes to address the diversity in several ways:

  • It is using $20,000 of its grant to encourage smaller groups in the community to develop micro-projects. Each group will define its needs. “We want to make sure we’re completely inclusive,” Shuchuk says.
  • The coalition aims to function as a guiding group, or steering committee. Once groups come forward with micro-projects, they will be encouraged to participate in the steering group to broaden its scope.
  • A subcommittee is developed a communications plan for presenting the CIP information to different audiences.

Edmonton West has the advantage of learning from a 2005 pilot project involving Lymburn, a
neighbourhood southwest of West Edmonton Mall. Lymburn was one of 29 Edmonton neighbourhoods to participate in the Early Childhood Development Community Mapping Project. The Lymburn coalition had great success using Appreciative Inquiry, first developed in 1987 in the U.S. as a positive, asset-based approach to organizational development.

Balser says that asking residents to focus and build on their community’s strengths encourages more people to get involved and contributes to a more cohesive, connected community. Taking a positive approach to CIP results will spark a non-judgmental curiosity rather than defensiveness or reactivity.

“It’s very, very exciting to have something concrete in our hands that we can take forward,” Shuchuk adds. “Now we have something very strong that says, ‘Look at how important the early years are.’ ”

Source: Early Child Development Mapping Project, https://www.ecmap.ca/Community-Development/Community-Stories/Community-Stories-for-Central-Alberta/Edmonton-West/Pages/default.aspx,  accessed July 2013.

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Discovering West Edmonton visited the Callingwood Farmer’s Market in early July to hear how families in the west end of Edmonton are feeling about the early years. We asked them what was working for  young families, and what is
needed to continue to support them.  We used the theme “Children are a Treasure” and promoted early learning by giving out bubbles to families interested in providing feedback.  On the bubbles was the link to our website with some activities for families to do that enhance learning through bubble play!  It was a huge success, with dozens of families
interested in sharing their experiences raising small children in the west.

Here are the questions we asked…

  • If you were to view your community through the eyes of your child, what
    would you see that excites them?
  • What is it that challenges you the most as a parent of younger children?
  • What I think would really help/support families with young children and
    toddlers would be…
  • When I am out with my children, my favourite west Edmonton destination is…
  • West Edmonton is a great place to raise small children because…
  • When you were the parent of younger children, what challenged you the most?