Community Engagement

2016 Action Recommendations

1.0 Community Engagement: Building Bridges Between Community & Campus

A major focus of discussion at many of the roundtables focused on how we can better foster connections, relationships, and opportunities for collaboration between students, residents, and community organizations. There were clear calls to improve awareness about how to build bridges between campuses and Hamilton-area communities, with the ultimate goal of strengthening students’ connections to the community in multiple ways.

1.1 On Campus

  1. Create a community engagement “front desk” at big institutions where people can go for guidance if they have a good idea or want advice on who to connect with. Overall, improve the doors that people use to access different institutions.
  2. Organize a Hamilton display on campuses to introduce students to the City and to different community organizations and neighbourhood groups.
  3. Raise awareness on campus about connection points and people who build relationships between community and campus. Create an “ambassador” toolkit that can be shared with campus partners and promote existing resources that help community to navigate campus.
  4. Campus-based campaign to spread knowledge about how students can get involved in community engagement.
  5. Create a database of community engagement databases and opportunities.

1.2 In the Community

  1. Create time and space for events off campus that specifically target getting students into the community, while acknowledging different schedules and time constraints.
  2. Host events and conversations in different spaces (e.g. coffee shops) so that people become more familiar with different areas of the community, both in terms of spaces, but also geographically (e.g. Stoney Creek, Hamilton Mountain, Dundas). For example, Mohawk City School goes to 541 Eatery and Exchange for 3 hours per week to chat with people.
  3. Reach out to different local businesses and Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) to explore whether they could offer different student deals each month as a way to encourage students to explore different parts of Hamilton.
  4. Align a community event with Supercrawl and community spaces on James Street North (e.g. McMaster Downtown Centre, 294 James St. N.).
  5. Create an app that is targeted towards encouraging students to explore the community. This could include daily challenges or “check ins” and could be promoted by radio stations and newspapers on different campuses and in the community. Align any app development with existing app projects (e.g. MacQuest).
  6. Student groups should be involved in planning new downtown student residences.
  7. Explore opportunities to create and/or expand downtown campuses to provide more space for student-community engagement.
  8. Create orientation programming that dispels myths and gets people into the community.
  9. Create opportunities for students to support cultural spaces in Hamilton (e.g. Micha House).

1.3 Strengthen and Align Community-Campus Relationships

  1. Build direct relationships between neighbourhood hubs, educational institutions, and specific programs or courses to inform their work, evaluate directions, and work together where appropriate.
  2. Give people different entry points to engage acknowledging that not everyone learns from meetings (e.g. Neighbourhood Leadership Institute Lantern Festival).
  3. Communicate effectively about events and opportunities through a common newsletter or other media.
  4. Continue creating regular interdisciplinary networking opportunities for community campus connections to take shape both on campuses and in communities.
  5. Align programs on each campus so we are not exhausting resources or constantly contacting organizations that already have partnerships.
  6. Continue a collective effort to coordinate efforts across institutions by increasing awareness and engagement between institutions of who is doing what, while also facilitating regular opportunities to work together.
  7. Focus conversations on Hamilton places and Hamilton issues so that students can learn about the Hamilton community.
  8. Foster connections between students and community leaders and change makers to improve connections to Hamilton.

1.4 Continuity

  1. Identify programs or long-term projects that students could be involved in at the same time each week while also identifying ways to fill gaps in the calendar when students get busy (e.g. exams).
  2. Consider early interventions for students so that they can be involved in a project or with an organization over multiple years.
  3. Learn about continuity from existing initiatives through a workshop or presentation for groups who are interested in building long-term relationships (e.g. Student Open Circles).

1.5 Curriculum-Based

  1. Create a course on community-based economic development that is local case-study based and ask the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce or Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton to provide neighbourhood hubs with data on neighbourhood demographics and local economy.
  2. Tie community engagement initiatives into the new Community Engagement Minor at McMaster that is launching in September 2016.
  3. Develop supports to help incorporate community engagement into more courses, including lessons and resources that reinforce how long change can take, reminding students that many timelines exist outside of academic routine.
  4. Provide training for instructors who want to incorporate community engagement into their courses.
  5. Create a competition that challenges student to address a problem we face with aging population and consider possible rewards of an internship or placement for the winning team.
  6. Create a list of courses that have students work with community partners (e.g. LIFESCI 2AP3 at McMaster).
  7. Connect more course-based opportunities to local organizations and businesses (e.g. marketing).
  8. Create more job shadow courses (e.g. ARTSSCI 3CU3 at McMaster).
  9. Placement navigation puts the onus on the student. There is need for someone to help navigate opportunities though there are currently not enough staff to support this. Courses that include community-engaged components need to provide points of contact to make connections with the community.
  10. Incorporate reflection into community-engaged education opportunities
  11. Create a standardized teaching module for community engagement open to the community and everyone on campus.
  12. Community Engagement course at McMaster is an important step and should be a requirement as part of a 4 year degree—fostering a continuum of community connection.

1.6 Integrate Research and Academic Expertise into Community Planning

  1. Use evidence-based research to inform lobbying or campaigns on current issues in Hamilton.
  2. Involve more experts who have knowledge of best practices in urban planning decision-making, thus encouraging more third party objective opinions on infrastructure projects.
  3. More formally include expert knowledge at decision-making tables (e.g. West Harbour).

1.7 Mentorship

  1. Identify projects and initiatives where college and university students can mentor high school students.
  2. Create a mentorship program for people soon to retire & those who are students or in their early career.

1.8 Volunteering

  1. Create a student-led volunteer program that students could be part of to support marginalized children and youth in Hamilton.
  2. Encourage opportunities for longer-term volunteering while students are in Hamilton (e.g. Big Brother, Big Sister).
  3. Create a website that connects student skills to opportunities (employment and/or volunteer) and align the website with existing initiatives (e.g. McMaster student skills matching database).

1.9 Foster Connections & Community Pride

  1. Encourage and facilitate ongoing relationship building between and with neighbourhood hubs to improve partnership opportunities.
  2. Create a Hamilton brand about positive spaces (waterfalls, unique views).
  3. Create a website for everything taking place across the educational institutions and within community, including details on how to navigate onto campuses and off of campuses.
  4. Increase awareness on how students can get involved in supporting initiatives such as Syrian Refugee Settlement.
  5. Sponsor an Our Future Hamilton cleanup.
  6. Host a multi day event to celebrate diversity (Hamilton wide) that invites families and people of different demographics and includes food, music, and games—bringing people together to celebrate what we are inspired by in our City.
  7. Celebrate and encourage art as a form of public engagement.