In 2017, New Dawn Community Engagement (CE) continued helping to build a critical mass of people working together to create a desirable future for Cape Breton Island/Unama’ki. Often, the work of the Community Engagement division extends over multiple years. This is the case with recent efforts around community and public transportation in which CE has helped to lead a multi-year engagement process involving citizen study circles, a stakeholder forum and discussions with CBRM Council and provincial officials.
This work paid off in late 2017/early 2018 with the announcement of a million dollar cost-shared two-year pilot that aims to make tangible improvements to Transit Cape Breton (hours/days of operation, frequency of service, operating efficiency, quality of rider experience) and track benefits to individuals and the community to help make the case for continued investment.
A second provincial government funding agreement also stemming from the work of the CBRM Community Transportation Working Group will support a Transportation Innovation Lab. This lab will identify and test other strategies for enhancing public and community transportation with a particular focus on meeting the transportation needs of jobseekers and employers.
Island Food Network
Over the last number of years, New Dawn Community Engagement has worked to support the development of a local food network focused on the CBRM. In 2017, this network expanded into the Island Food Network. The Network’s goal is to foster a vibrant, healthful, just, and resilient food system that serves as a lever for transformation in our communities. With part-time coordination provided by the Ecology Action Centre’s Our Food Project, the network’s activities this year have included regional planning meetings, local food asset mapping, Upskilling Food Festival and Conference, an Island-wide ‘Kale to Action’ gathering, the Community Food Leaders Certificate Program, and an inaugural Farmer-to-Farmer Retreat.
Since February of 2017, CE has helped to facilitate the Inspiring Communities initiative on the Northside. Inspiring Communities is a provincially-funded program that supports local communities in tackling their complex social issues. In partnership with Community CARES Youth Outreach and Inspiring Communities staff, CE has helped to design an engagement process to identify issues of concern to people on the Northside and mobilize a collaborative community response.
More than 550 community members responded to a resident survey and dozens participated in community conversations and interviews. An initial plan of action is now being developed for the next phase of the newly named Northside Rising initiative. Eight provincial departments have come together to support the Inspiring Communities initiative and the provincial government has committed three years of funding to these Northside efforts.
Community Data Portal
Beginning in September 2017, CE has begun leading efforts to create an Island-wide community data portal and consortium. The aim of the portal is to enhance access to and use of data for understanding and addressing issues of concern to local communities. Doug Foster, former Director of Planning for CBRM, was engaged by New Dawn to guide the process. Through discussions with partners including CBRM, Inverness County, Cape Breton University, the Cape Breton Partnership, and the Eastern Planning Commission a demonstration portal is now available and offers user-friendly access to local data for both the general public and researchers.