My work as program coordinator for the Downtown Neighbourhood Alliance has provided the opportunity to support many creative and fun classes offered to the community, including monthly youth board game nights (led by youth), free parent and child cooking classes, and drop-in sports such as basketball and dodge-ball. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed helping residents bring enjoyable programming to the Downtown Community Centre.
I have seen the benefits of free access to community space at the Downtown Community Centre as part of the Victoria Park Neighbourhood Association as well. Whether we need space for our monthly meetings, hosting events, or offering classes, we are able to book this space at no cost to our association. Given that neighbourhood associations are volunteer based and tend to run on a limited budget, free community space is a huge benefit for our neighbourhood.
However, it is only affiliated community associations that currently have access to this free space. Individuals and groups can of course book space in the city’s community centres for a rental fee. However, this cost can be a barrier. I know of 2 groups that have identified this need and are creating solutions: Marit Collective and the Social Development Centre.
Marit Collective is a social organization that brings people together to engage in important and thoughtful conversations. They “create space for respectful discussion … to foster more empathy and awareness of each other.” Their hard work this summer to prepare their recently-acquired space culminates in their grand opening on October 2nd. Marit Collective is exploring ways for individuals and groups in the community to utilize this space in an affordable and accessible way.
Likewise, the Social Development Centre Waterloo Region is a “learning organization that supports all voices in the creation of community-wide solutions ensuring that lived experience is the basis for collective action.” They have been connecting with groups and individuals in the community to discuss ways to bring together small non-profit organizations in an affordable and accessible way, referring to it as the Civic Hub.
I have had the opportunity to connect with both of these organizations and I’m encouraged by their work. Though they have different approaches, they have both identified a pressing need in our community for shared space to use for events, meetings, or collaborative projects. As councillor, I’d support these creative solutions as well as actively seek additional ways to provide affordable community space.