Vancouver Foundation

Spring 2013

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Smart and Caring Communities Initiative a case for a caring community A call to metro Vancouver residents to bring out the best in our community by faye wightman In this issue of Vancouver Foundation magazine, you'll find a recurring theme of transition – whether it is a life transition, a physical move or a change in one's environment. With every transition, we leave a mark in that space of time, signifying a shift – like a landmark on a journey. In reaching any landmark, the natural inclination is to ask ourselves, "Are we where we expected to be?" This is the position we find ourselves in at Vancouver Foundation. This year, we mark 70 years of existence. And we find ourselves reflecting on our journey – on how far we have come and what's in store for the journey ahead. It has been 70 years since a woman named Alice MacKay inspired the beginnings of a more caring community here in the Lower Mainland. At the end of her life, MacKay wanted to leave something to support a vulnerable population in Vancouver. Her gift of $1,000 in her will inspired 10 wealthy businessmen of the time to contribute to the cause as well, and Vancouver Foundation was born. Alice MacKay's story is the inspiration for our work here at Vancouver Foundation. It reminds us of how a single, simple act of caring can proliferate – in dollars, and in acts of kindness, support and generosity. It also reminds us that the money she designated for the poor was a symbolic gesture of trust and hope that future generations – today's generation – would make things better. So where do we find ourselves today? We learned from our Connections and Engagement Survey of metro Vancouver residents that there is a growing sense of loneliness and social isolation, an overall civic malaise that is pervading the region. People said they felt disconnected – that they wanted to become more involved in their neighbourhood, but didn't think they had much to offer. This same research also showed that when people feel connected to others and engaged in the life of their community, there is less crime, depression and suicide, and people are healthier, bouncing back more quickly from setbacks such as illness, job loss and divorce. When people know and trust each other, it creates shared values and vision, making them more inclined to tackle larger societal issues, such as poverty and homelessness. At Vancouver Foundation, we know we can't tackle these issues without a caring and involved citizenry. That's why we commissioned a further study of the Connections and Engagement Survey results to understand what we as an organization could do to help build a more connected and engaged community in metro Vancouver. We wanted to get at the heart of what it takes to change people's attitudes and influence their actions. Based on a "Caring and Involved Residents" scale developed to analyze the data, our research showed that less than 30 per cent of survey respondents scored high in their level of connections and engagement. This group was likely to be most optimistic about their neighbourhood; to feel their neighbours would work together to solve local problems; and to participate in neighbourhood and community projects, attend a neighbourhood or community meeting, or volunteer. So how do we as a community foundation help move residents from being isolated and disengaged in community life to becoming caring and involved citizens? These are some of the same questions posed by Canada's Governor General, the Right Honourable David Johnston. In the lead-up to Canada's 150th birthday in 2017, the Governor General is challenging Canada's 180 community foundations to mobilize citizens, organizations and resources to create a smarter, more caring nation. His vision is a Canada where, by 2017, every community is served by a community foundation, engaging citizens to contribute, develop their talents and realize their full potential as Canadians. Our response to this national movement is a Smart and Caring Communities Initiative for metro Vancouver, supporting connected, engaged and thriving communities across the region. Through this initiative, we will focus our programming and fundraising efforts on: connecting and engaging citizens at the neighbourhood level through an expanded Neighbourhood Small Grants program available to page 8 I Vancouver Foundation l Spring 2013 p8-9 Smart & Caring.indd 8 13-05-22 12:34 PM

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