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Community Gardens: Supporting & Celebrating Civic Engagement

Calgary Public Library, AB

Innovation Summary

Working with municipal government, community groups, citizens and corporate partners the Calgary Public Library took a lead role in empowering community members to come together around a shared interest and a shared desire to improve their community.

Innovation Leader: Nancy MacKenzie, Customer Service Manager, nancy.mackenzie@calgarypubliclibrary.com

Problem Statement

Striving to support and improve the lives of individuals and communities the Calgary Public Library regularly identifies and initiates innovative activities that promote community discourse and people’s involvement in civic activities. The Community Gardens: Supporting and Celebrating Civic Engagement initiative addresses the following opportunities: •To demonstrate the Library’s capacity to support the community in realizing their goals beyond satisfying their expectations for collections, services and spaces. •To respond to articulated community need to support healthy communities, to provide community spaces, and to create meaningful and local opportunities for individuals to be involved in building community and civic pride. •To create a visible, community based lasting legacy for the Calgary Public Library’s 100th anniversary year. One that is a daily reminder of the power of a community coming together around something it cares about. •To provide meaningful opportunities to engage community groups such as schools, health care agencies, social serving agencies schools, senior lodges, and corporate citizens •To support intergenerational collaboration.

Innovation

Library Service/Opportunity is evolving in response to ongoing changes to information/communication environment. As we redefine the library’s value proposition it is critical that we demonstrate the contribution that the library brings to the community in new and innovative ways. Supporting civic action requires the library to be attuned to the evolving needs of individuals and groups and flexible in the support it delivers. The following is a summary of the Library’s evolving role in the civic process that led to the creation of the community gardens. Library responds to request by community to investigate community garden. Library leads initial discussion with a small group of community members, Calgary Horticultural Society to look at viability of project. Library facilitates a series of community conversations to inform community, build support, and determine the scope of work. A governance committee is established to lead the project. Library supports civic activity by: • Gaining support of municipal government • Using existing contacts to increase participation levels in the community including schools, health agencies and local seniors lodges • Securing multi – year corporate funding • Researching required permits and best practices of community gardens • Supporting the writing of permit applications • Ongoing marketing of initiative to the wider community • Harvesting and celebrating success.

Progress

In 2012 two community groups in two different areas of the City built garden boxes, planted, nurtured and harvested produce. Seniors and children worked together to harvest food to donate to a local food bank helping individuals with addiction. • Volunteers: Countless numbers of community members contributed their time and expertise to building boxes, buying supplies, participating on the governance committee, tending gardens. They continued to meet and plan over the winter and there is a waitlist for 2013 garden plots • Corporate sponsorship: $7500 for each garden including $500 a year over the next 5 years for ongoing costs • Municipal government: $5000 in-kind donation of dirt and mulch, rain barrels etc. • Local grocery store provided seeds • Calgary Public Library supplied the land, water, and insurance and the customized support to make it all happen. Library staff heard repeatedly that communal gardening provided an enhanced experience to backyard gardening with the enhancement being community contact and conversation. The community gardens are an excellent example of civic engagement in action. It all starts with an idea originating with a few community members interested in improving the situation in their community. In order to grow beyond a small group support is required and this is the opportunity for the library. To demonstrate a new and innovative approach to supporting community at their point of need. One that empowers and supports individuals in taking action to promote civic pride and enhanced circumstances for the entire community.