More than 20 community members — ranging from city councillors to RCMP officers — met last week to discuss community issues and indicators.
The Castlegar Social Planning Society hosted the conversations at the Sandman Inn, along with the Social Planning and Research Council of BC.
What is an indicator?
As the research council puts it, “When we cannot measure something directly, we look for a proxy, a measure that provides and indication of the state or condition of something.”
An indicator points to, suggests, or shows something.
“I’m thrilled with the number of things people want to talk about,” said Sandi McCreight of the planning society, “and at the end of the day, with the three different topics we picked to discuss further, I’m excited.”
Many topics such as employment and waste management were brought up but the three that stood out and received significant attention were housing and homelessness, support services, and collaboration between sectors and the community.
“We’re hoping people will be motivated by this event,” said SPARC’s senior researcher, Robyn Newton, who was on hand to assist in the discussions.
The intent of this annual event wasn’t only to identify indicators, but for those in attendance to connect and hopefully collaborate outside the meeting.
“If they don’t have a social service network, participating here will hopefully help that,” Newton said.
“Larger communities may have many planners and such, but with [Castlegar] it’s often people doing things off the side of their desks. We just try and give them the tools.”
McCreight added, “What we’re hoping to get out of this is for more people to continue social planning conversations and actually move forward with some of the things people are saying.”
The first half of the event involved a slideshow that explained various indicators commonly found in communities, such as links between unemployment and economic health, and income gaps to inequality.
“We use indicators and data as a basis for action. What should our priorities be?” Newton asked.
Newton said the most difficult aspect to tackle is support services.
“We look at the number of services. Do they have wait lists? How much funding comes into the community for support services? Then we look at trends.”
After lunch, it was time for discussion and to search indicators within the community. Members from all walks of the community interacted with one another on the city’s major social issues.
Among them were Deb McIntosh, city councillor and head of the Community Harvest Food Bank, and Bruno Tassone, who is also on council and chairs the health and wellness committee.
“I think it’s important we have council engagement, and we always have,” McCreight said. This was her tenth year attending an event of this type.
“It’s very nice that we have some councillors here because they’ve gotten a feel for what concerns many citizens,” Newton added.
“I’m hoping that after this event,” McCreight continued, “we can talk to some of the people, have some specifics and maybe down the road have two or three more events throughout the next year that we can continue these conversations at.”
She plans to address council in full once all the stats from the meeting are put together.
“I will create something from this. I’ll make sure council knows what we did, what the outcome was and what we plan to do with this information.”
The Castlegar Social Planning Society exists to recognize the needs of the community and sustain and nurture the community’s social development. It supports community needs and interests in social, cultural, economic and environmental affairs.
For more information on the planning society or to get involved, contact Roberta Hamilton at firstname.lastname@example.org.