CDLI Big Meet Up 2018 - Supporting resident-led community change


Despite the snowy weather some eighty Calgaryians, comprising students, resident leaders, practitioners and community volunteers gathered at the CDLI Big Meet Up, Nov 24, to explore the theme of supporting resident-led community change in Calgary. The meet up had four main objectives:

 1.    Facilitate opportunities for new connections and relationship building 

2.    Share learning and insights from resident-led initiatives

3.    Explore tools & skills to improve community development (CD) work 

4.    Encourage and support resident-led CD initiatives

 The day began with a panel discussion to learn about resident-led community initiatives in Calgary. The discussion was moderated by Ali McMillan (Planning and Development Director of Bridgeland Riverside Community Association) and the panel helped set the tone for the day. Five amazing Calgarians shared what they learned from co-leading community projects with other residents in Calgary. The project examples shared included:

Soap & Suds – an initiative that gives individuals free access to safe and clean shower facilities along with a shower care package and information on local resources based on their needs.

The Free Food Pantry – think little free libraries except the books are replaced with food. People are free to take and/or leave food from these free food pantries. The Free Food Pantry project has been going for about a year with high approval ratings from the community. 

Haysboro Natural Playground – the first of its kind in Calgary the Haysboro community developed a natural playground within a community park. The community members provided input and ideas, participated in numerous fundraisers, organized a parade to celebrate the design and volunteered over 500 hours to build the new park. The project helped rejuvenate the community, and provided a vibrant, nature filled, high play-value outdoor space for the community preschool, the community of Haysboro, and the city of Calgary.


Pay if Forward – on a quarterly cycle, volunteers in a Northeast community of Calgary gather household supplies and other gifts and surprise community residents by offering them a small package of household items. In return residents are asked to pay the act of kindness forward to other neighbors around them.

Multi-Cultural Games – once a year in a Northeast community of Calgary community residents gather to share and take part in different cultural and traditional games to build bonds of friendship and celebrate community diversity. This fun community gathering is a source of joy and community building for the residents who take part.


By mid-morning everyone broke out into learning sessions to explore tools & skills for community development work. Eight (8) amazing facilitators (mostly residents) led sessions on:

1.      Technology and community development work – this discussion focused on exploring: how much technology influence and affect community life; when technology could be a barrier; and examples of how technology could be used to influence or shape community building efforts. It also explored local community connecting platforms in Calgary such as BlockTalk.

2.      Indigenous community development approaches – led by an indigenous elder, this discussion explored: the ongoing efforts around reconciliation and persistent discrimination (societal and systemic) faced by indigenous communities; and the impact and inter-generational damage done by residential schools. All these factors effect and influence relationships with indigenous community members. In working with indigenous communities, one of the first things you can do is build genuine friendships with indigenous community members and find out their ways and customs. From this foundation you can co-develop and partner on multiple community development initiatives together.

3.      Practical cd tools & skills – this session looked at tools from CDLI Community Development Curriculum (Boost Your Chances of Success in Community Action) and focused Mindset Shifts; Leadership Approaches & the Nature of Community Development work; Working with Allies to Opposition; Mapping Root Causes; and how to lead Generative Conversations.


4.      How can agencies and programs better support resident-led community initiatives – co-led by resident leaders, this discussion explored: the need by agencies to build relationships with residents and find ways to support resident initiatives with grants; facilitating promotions and access to communication materials; the need to have fun, enjoy working with residents; to make initiatives inclusive such as making use of tools like community conversation circles for sharing ideas; empower residents (teach, coach, guide); agencies should ensure they hear & incorporate the voice of residents, listen to passions and interests; to be process focused; and to offer capacity building opportunities (training, certification, etc.).   

5.      Creating community hubs – co-led by resident leaders, this discussion explored hubs such as: Sunalta Community Association, Bowness Community Association, Fuse 33 Makerspace, The Alex Community Food Centre, Village Square Leisure Centre, and 1000 Voices at Genesis Centre which are supported by the City of Calgary, Rotary Clubs of Calgary and United Way and Area. Community Hubs are welcoming neighbourhood gathering places that local residents visit to connect with each other and their community. They are places to relax, chat, meet up or work. Community Hubs provide residents with a central access point for a range of health and social services. Learn more about the Community Hub initiative.


We ended the day with a Pro-action café discussion where 6 Calgarians asked for support from the room to discuss and brainstorm making action plan for their ideas. There project ideas included: 

Project 1: Starting a Peer Support group that is inclusive and welcoming of children, seniors, etc. and creates an opportunity for learning.

Project 2: Implementing a community-wide skill sharing program (e.g. snow shoveling, plumbing, etc.)

Project 3: Teach people how to harvest and use fabric, break the cost barriers of sewing and playing with fabric!

Project 4: Including men in ending domestic violence

Project 5: 12 Community Safety Initiative to increase safety and engagement of citizens. Ideas what people would like to change in their community

Project 6: Bridging relationships between generations and create a sense of safety with a safe/ community house in each neighborhood where people share their gifts. Giving seniors a purpose!