Developing Innovative Approaches for Community Engagement In the Grand Falls – Windsor – Baie Verte – Harbour Breton Region

During a June 2011 session, the Grand Falls-Windsor – Harbour Breton – Baie Verte Regional Council identified the topic of community engagement in their region as important due to: small, ageing populations and volunteer burn-out in many communities, with a related need for greater youth involvement; prevalence of transient workers, who are often unable to be actively involved in community affairs; and the need for new ways to conduct engagement considering the importance of involvement to the survival of rural communities. Concern was expressed that the provincial government does a poor job consulting and engaging communities; however citizens are interested and want a voice in the formulation of policies and decisions that affect them and their communities. Further, the Regional Council relies on engagement as a way to make sure their “finger is on the pulse,” and as a validation of their ideas and recommendations.

As a result of that session, the Regional Council partnered with Memorial University to evaluate the types of community engagement used in the region in the past, and to research and propose innovative new techniques that could be used to more effectively engage residents in the future, giving them a larger role in the policy-making process. In order to explore the approaches and methods of engagement used in the past and to identify their strengths and limitations, the project set up a series of 34 interviews with members of the communities around the region and members of the Provincial Rural Secretariat who have been actively involved in community engagement activities throughout the province. In conjunction with this research, the team conducted a literature review—of engagement activities nationally and internationally—to identify some best practices, innovative techniques and methods of engagement that would be appropriate for application in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. Using the knowledge gathered through the interviews and the literature review, the project carried out two pilot citizen engagement activities in Grand Falls-Windsor in partnership with the municipality, the College of the North Atlantic and the Exploits Valley Community Coalition (EVCC). The Grand Falls-Windsor pilot project aimed to assess certain practices and methods that had been identified as successful elsewhere in engaging traditionally unengaged groups, namely youth and young families. Informed by these three phases of research, the project culminated in a series of recommendations for more effective public engagement in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Research Team

Project Resources