Using and developing place typologies for policy purposes


Department for Communities and Local Government, London, UK: 2011.  The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and its predecessor departments have actively promoted the use of such classifications for nearly 30 years, since the development of the Index of Local Conditions (later the Index of Local Deprivation and Index of Multiple Deprivation) in 1981. The department has made active use of these indices in targeting interventions, such as its Neighbourhood Renewal Fund, and in evaluating performance and progress, for example in comparing the performance of New Deal for Communities areas with other areas of similar deprivation. This toolkit is designed to provide an overview of the uses and limitations of the place typologies which underlie neighbourhood performance indicators in the UK.  Although there is considerable enthusiasm for place typologies and widespread use, applying these tools in policy is not straightforward. Different kinds of tools, and
different levels of methodological sophistication, will be appropriate in different circumstances.

Investing In Scarborough? Social Infrastructure? CBC Toronto, Metro Morning

Matt Galloway spoke with Deborah Cowen about her new report and the forum at which it would be launched. The report, “Toronto’s inner suburbs: Investing in social infrastructure in Scarborough,” by Deborah Cowen and Vanessa Parlette, was launched June 16, 2011, at Scarborough Civic Centre Council Chambers.  Toronto is a divided city. Social polarization and spatial segregation are clearly visible in the landscape, and our inner suburbs are home to more and more concentrated and racialized poverty. Investment in these suburbs is a key part of the solution, and yet its future is in question. How can we enhance investment in Scarborough when budgets everywhere are being cut? How do we unite across different issues and diverse communities? This forum provides an opportunity for community members to come together to learn from research about the big picture of urban change, and to take action for the future of Scarborough’s communities.  The forum was hosted by the Scarborough Civic Action Network, Social Planning Toronto, and Cities Centre, University of Toronto.

Inner Suburbs at Stake: Investing in Social Infrastructure in Scarborough

This report finds that some “neighbourhood strategies” are more effective than others. Drawing on a pilot study that contrasts the experiences of the Kingston?Galloway/Orton Park (KGO) priority neighbourhood, with Parkdale, a downtown community that faces similar social and economic challenges but which did not receive Priority Neighbourhood (PN) designation, the report demonstrates that how we diagnose the problems in neighbourhoods matters profoundly in how we respond. This research further suggests that there are different ways of understanding neighbourhoods active within the PN strategy. According to residents and community workers, some ways of making sense of neighbourhoods and making change in neighbourhoods are more effective and responsive than others, and this report explores these strategies and practices in some detail. It includes findings about both effective and ineffective strategies. Effective neighbourhood strategies cultivate social infrastructure. They stem from explanations for concentrated poverty that assign responsibility to government policy and economic change at the local, regional, national, and global scale. They restore investment in human services and facilities in areas that have been overlooked, but they also advocate change at scales much larger than the local in order to respond to social polarization, segregation, and the racialization of poverty. Effective strategies for neighbourhoods are tailor?made for local conditions by local communities. They are accountable and inclusive, provide meaningful skills development that responds directly to identified gaps and needs, and they explicitly address persistent inequalities such as those that are manifest along the lines of race, mental health, class, and gender.

Toronto’s Inner Suburbs: Investing in Social Infrastructure in Scarborough

Cities Centre, University of Toronto, June 2011.  Toronto’s inner suburbs are home to many poor households, including members of many racialized groups. At the same time, social services in the inner suburbs are few and far between. This study looks at one neighbourhood (Kingston-Galloway/Orton Park) in Scarborough, and its social infrastructure. Social infrastructure is not just the social services or programs available to residents of a neighbourhood, but the area’s resources and relationships, such as spaces for gathering, opportunities for learning, as well as partnerships and networks within and beyond the community level. Social infrastructure exists at the local scale, but relies on public policy, capital investment, and social networks that are not necessarily local. This report draws on the insights of residents, community workers, non-profit agencies and public sector staff who are committed to improving everyday life for people in Toronto’s low income communities.

Asset-Based, Resident-Led Neighbourhood Development: Action for Neighbourhood Change

Action for Neighbourhood Change is a learning initiative exploring ways to support resident-led strategies for strengthening neighbourhoods. A great deal has been accomplished in the short period of ANC’s operation. Over the course of 14 months, the initiative established the infrastructure needed to support its work, followed a complete cycle in the revitalization process (from neighbourhood selection through resident engagement, vision building and initial actions) and explored the implications for the policies and procedures of government, as well as for other structures wishing to support neighbourhood initiatives. Insights and experiences pertaining to neighbourhood revitalization have been documented throughout the process in an extensive set of papers, stories, tools and reports. This emerging body of knowledge constitutes one of the important ‘legacies’ from ANC’s first phase. It lays a foundation for the initiative’s continuing work and provides a substantial source of information and ideas for others interested in strengthening neighbourhoods. The aim of this final reflection paper is not to review all of the important issues and insights that have been documented elsewhere but to synthesize the findings and highlight key lessons learned to date, and their implications for ongoing efforts at neighbourhood revitalization.


Place-based Public Policy: Towards a New Urban and Community Agenda for Canada

This Research Report explores ideas and options for a new approach to urban and community policy in Canada. The analysis builds on the growing body of research demonstrating how “place matters” to the quality of life for all citizens and to the prosperity of nations. This Research Report calls for a place-based public policy framework. In so doing, it takes a broader view than is often the case in assessing the problems and prospects of cities. An urban perspective concentrates on physical infrastructures and the powers available to municipalities. A community perspective focuses on social infrastructures and the networks for democratic participation. The place-based framework recognizes the importance of both perspectives, and seeks their integration through a mix of public policies responding to the needs of cities of all sizes and locations.

A Brief Review of Neighbourhoods in Canada: Research Note

As the complexity and diversity of the contemporary Canadian city continues to grow, the appropriate level of social and political analysis is shrinking. Especially in Canada’s CMA’s, it is becoming increasingly important to acknowledge not just the city itself, but its component parts. Thus, the neighbourhood is emerging as a salient concept in analysis of the urban form as policy makers, urban planners, and the private sector attempt to uncover the variables that contribute to healthy and vibrant cities and communities. The objective of this research note is to conduct a preliminary review of research on neighbourhoods. The focus of the review is to identify the main thematic areas of research on neighbourhoods in Canada, as well as to examine how the concept of neighbourhood is defined in the literature.


Shared Space: The Communities Agenda

The goal of the communities agenda is to promote resilience – in order to build strong and vibrant communities. Resilience is the result of strategic actions taken in four independent, but associated, clusters. These relate to sustenance, adaptation, engagement and opportunity. The four resilience clusters comprise the substance of the communities agenda. The process of the communities agenda involves work in the shared space within and between resilience clusters. It is the space between citizens and organizations within each cluster. It is the space between clusters. It is the space between communities and government: the common ground in which private troubles meet public issues. The communities agenda is essentially about creating joined-up communities. Working in these areas of shared space is neither simple nor simplistic. Organizing for complexity is the first key step.


Action for Neighbourhood Change: Building a Neighbourhood Renewal Process

This paper was developed by a group of people brought together by the Action for Neighbourhood Change initiative. It presents an understanding of how change occurs in a neighbourhood which is based on previous and current community and neighbourhood revitalization efforts. Action for Neighbourhood Change (ANC) is a two-year neighbourhood renewal initiative that seeks to improve the quality of life for the residents of neighbourhoods in five Canadian cities – Surrey, Regina, Thunder Bay, Toronto and Halifax. Interventions undertaken since the project began in March 2005 were based on the medical axiom of doing no harm, knowing that in the complex system of a neighbourhood, it is impossible to anticipate all the possible outcomes of actions. Beginning with a clear goal – neighbourhood renewal – provided a wide enough target that virtually any activity or starting point could be shown to help move residents in a positive direction. The short duration of ANC, however, made it necessary to focus on achieving a critical level of support for sustainability. Ultimately, residents must possess the skills, organizational capacity and self-confidence to address challenges for themselves.


Canadian Social Policy in the 2000s: Bringing Place In

This article explores departures in Canadian public policy toward more “place-based” approaches to social development. Focusing on the federal government, it describes a series of recent initiatives designed to enable local actors to participate in policy development processes and take greater control of their own destinies. Using the categories of “municipal empowerment” and “community building” to map new patterns, the article examines innovation and learning across federal and local scales. The article concludes that Canadian governments have now joined a robust and evolving international conversation about leveraging local assets to meet significant national policy challenges, but that more work needs to be done to build high performing, durable multi-level partnerships.


Why Have Poorer Neighbourhoods Stagnated Economically while the Richer Have Flourished? Neighbourhood Income Inequality in Canadian Cities

Higher-income neighbourhoods in Canada’s eight largest cities flourished economically during the past quarter-century, while lower-income communities stagnated. This paper identifies some of the underlying processes that led to this outcome. Increasing family income inequality drove much of the rise in neighbourhood inequality. Increased spatial economic segregation, the increasing tendency of ‘like to live nearby like’, also played a role. It is shown that these changes originated in the labour market. Changes in investment, pension income and government transfers played a very minor role. Yet it was not unemployment that differentiated the richer from poorer neighbourhoods. Rather, it was the type of job found, particularly the annual earnings generated. The end result has been little improvement in economic resources in poor neighbourhoods during a period of substantial economic growth, and a rise in neighbourhood income inequality.


Food Insecurity and Participation in Community Food Programs among Low-income Toronto Families

Canadian Journal of Public Health 2009, 100(2).  Responses to food insecurity in Canada have been dominated by community-based food initiatives, while little attention has been paid to potential policy directions to alleviate this problem. The purpose of this paper is to examine food security circumstances, participation in community food programs, and strategies employed in response to food shortages among a sample of low-income families residing in high-poverty Toronto neighbourhoods. Results: Two thirds of families were food insecure over the past 12 months and over one quarter were severely food insecure, indicative of fooddeprivation. Only one in five families used food banks in the past 12 months and the odds of use were higher among food-insecure families. One third of families participated in children’s food programs but participation was not associated with household food security. One in 20 families used acommunity kitchen, and participation in community gardens was even lower. It was relatively common for families to delay payments of bills or rent andterminate services as a way to free up money for food and these behaviours were positively associated with food insecurity.  Discussion: While documenting high rates of food insecurity, this research challenges the presumption that current community-based food initiatives are reaching those in need. Public health practitioners have a responsibility to critically examine the programs that they deliver to assess their relevance to food-insecure households and to advocate for policy reforms to ensure that low-income households have adequate resources for food.