We focused the majority of our efforts in one pilot neighbourhood over two years (2013-2015).

To learn about what it takes to build neighbourhood resilience, we focused the majority of our efforts in one pilot neighbourhood over two years (2013-2015): Victoria West in the municipality of Victoria, BC.

Victoria West Resilience Assessment:

Beginning in 2013, we partnered with residents and organizations in Victoria West for an intensive process. We collectively assessed, planned and took action on neighbourhood resilience.

As a first step, we invited residents, neighbourhood groups and organizational leaders to help assess the resilience strengths and vulnerabilities of their neighbourhood. We explored how Victoria West responds and adapts to change in four main dimensions of neighbourhood resilience: attitudes and values; resources and infrastructure (built and natural environments); local economy; and leadership, engagement and community-wide planning.

Statistics Canada data

During this process, we drew on Statistics Canada data and engaged with close to 180 Victoria West residents through a series of surveys, interviews and workshops, including “Neighbourhood Living Rooms” set up at various events and venues to engage citizens in conversations about their neighbourhood.

The result: A detailed document of data and analysis – a “Resilience Snapshot” of the neighbourhood. Residents and champions were then gathered together for a “Resilience Assembly,” where the Resilience Snapshot was used to guide discussions and the setting of action priorities to strengthen resilience in the neighbourhood.

Vic West Street Fest

Poster for Vic West Street Fest

One of the key resilience priorities identified through the Victoria West Resilience Snapshot and Resilience Assembly was an interest in bridging across the neighbourhood. Many neighbourhood groups and organizations were interested in coming together to build networks, collaborations, and a more “joined up” approach to neighbourhood development. Many also identified concerns about growing economic and geographic divides among Victoria West’s “sub-neighbourhoods.”

With these and related resilience interests in mind, the Resilient Neighbourhood Resource Table decided to undertake a tangible project together which would enable them to foster greater collaboration between groups and organizations:

They collaboratively coordinated the first-ever Vic West Street Fest.

“I think the experience of diverse groups working together to create a neighbourhood event creates bonds that will likely last. Hopefully those bonds can be reactivated to address the community vulnerabilities.” – Vic West Resilient Neighbourhood Resource Table member

In June of 2015, the outdoor festival took over a prominent street along the downtown waterway, showcasing and celebrating the groups, organizations, businesses and people of the neighbourhood, and drew an estimated 2,500 visitors over the course of the day. The event occurred again in 2016 without any involvement from BRN.

“Laughing Allowed”: Community Theatre & Arts-based Engagement

As part of Building Resilient Neighbourhoods’ pilot project in Victoria West, Victoria, BC, a group of people who shared both an interest in their community and a quirky sense of humour were trained in theatre and physical comedy techniques by community-based theatre director Will Weigler. They then collaboratively developed a short comedy show called Laughing Allowed! – The Slapstick World of Neighbourhood Activism that explored the “rewards, pitfalls and pratfalls” of neighbourhood volunteering. During the training period, show, and post-show conversation with the audience, people continually remarked on their renewed sense of the vital roles of artistic creativity and humour in building resilience. After it was over, one participant even took clown noses to give to everyone to wear at the meeting of their community organization to liven things up!