By Amanda Boundris
Participants from across Hamilton explore current campus-community engagement activities, priority issues in Hamilton neighbourhoods, and develop guiding principles for working together effectively, on Mar. 1 – Day 2 of the Think Tank on Campus-Community Engaged Scholarship. The event, hosted by the School of Nursing, took place at the Perkins Centre in east Hamilton.
The McMaster School of Nursing hosted a diverse group from across Hamilton on Feb. 28 and Mar. 1 to explore current community engagement activities, priority issues in Hamilton neighbourhoods, and develop guiding principles for working together effectively.
The first two days of the Think Tank on Campus-Community Engaged Scholarship, held in partnership with the planning teams of the Crown Point, McQuesten and South Sherman neighbourhoods, took place at the Perkins Centre in east Hamilton. Participants included resident leaders from each of those three local neighbourhood planning teams involved with the School’s Health in the Hubs initiative, along with representatives from the City’s Neighbourhood Development Strategy; various service providers from across the city; and McMaster faculty, staff and students from faculties across campus.
The purpose of the event was to increase the capacity of Hamilton neighbourhoods and the University to work together for mutual benefit. Organizers said the discussions that took place were a vital first step towards the community and University addressing some of the needs outlined in the individual Neighbourhood Action Plans across the city – developed by citizens and providers in each priority neighbourhood – and enhancing the student, faculty and community experience through education and research.
The third and final day of the Think Tank will take place Mar. 27, where participants will refine the guiding principles and visions for moving forward in an effort to foster stronger campus-community collaboration on future activities.
Paul Johnson, Director of Neighborhood Development Strategies for the City of Hamilton, said events like the Think Tank are the "kind of activities and, quite frankly, the heavy lifting that is going to help us move forward on this collective agenda." He added: "Implementation is going to be our collective challenge, but it’s also going to be our reward."
Dr. John Kelton, dean and vice-president of the Faculty of Health Sciences, said "True community engagement is about partnerships, and that it is time to start this conversation so that the University and community are working for mutual wins."
Chase Collver, who is working on his Master of Social Work, said it is really useful to have everyone together under the same roof to discuss what people can bring to the Neighbourhood Action Plans.
"I want to focus my master’s work on the community hub system, but I also think it’s important for students to be engaged in the hubs. Just to help out in any way I can is important," he said.
Monika Ciolek, chair of the McQuesten Local Planning Team, said it is important for her to contribute to the conversation on behalf of her community because "It’s the responsibility of being the voice for those who can’t speak for themselves or for those who don’t believe they have options to have their voices heard."
Ruta Valaitis, Dorothy C. Hall Chair in Primary Health Care Nursing and lead organizer of the Think Tank, said: "While our campus and local communities are already working together in a number of areas, this Think Tank begins a process for us to work in a more coordinated and purposeful way. Finding common ground and gaining an understanding of each other’s worlds is not easy, but working through this process will certainly help us build stronger partnerships."
The Think Tank is supported by the McMaster University President’s Fund as it aligns with the vision of community engagement that is articulated in President Patrick Deane’s call to move Forward with Integrity.