Looking Back

This final blog posting revolves around our group’s collective reflection of what we have accomplished during the last few weeks of the term in a unified effort to conclude our community project. As we complete our last deliverables and research survey to identify community members who are interested in providing workshops for Riley Park, each one of us was given the opportunity to take on specific, contributing roles in which we all were able to gain invaluable learning experiences. Looking back on it as a whole, however, we agreed that one significant moment we faced was analyzing the data that we have gathered from our survey.

Fig 1. A sign at the Vancouver Farmer’s Market near the Nat Bailey stadium.

Our group organized both in-person and online surveys among various community members. After formulating what we thought was a decent list of interview questions to ask, three of our teammates set out to conduct in-person surveys at the Vancouver Farmer’s Market on March 11th, 2017. As we analyzed our initial set of data from the farmer’s market vendors, we realized that the possible answers we had anticipated to receive were too narrow in scope of the vendors’ actual, real-life replies. Our three expected responses regarding workshop provision interest (“I am interested”, “I am interested but unable to set up a workshop at this time”, “I am not interested”) did not accommodate a sizable amount of merchants who couldn’t provide a direct answer straightaway. As we pondered on this later, the situation became understandable as the people we interviewed may have needed much more time to think and consider a final decision.

Further data analysis of our farmer’s market responses also allowed us to discover a particularly important bias. Since most of the sample population we asked in the Vancouver Farmer’s Market were, unsurprisingly, farmers; we ended up identifying significantly more barriers for holding workshops due to long travel distances. As a lot of the farmers we surveyed actually live outside the boundaries of the Lower Mainland, a huge proportion of them were discouraged from providing workshops due to the long commute they would have to make.

In the end, our group was able to compile a set of data that will be helpful for Riley Park to gain insight on the interest of community partners to hold workshops. We obtained a total of 30 responses from both our online as well as in-person surveys. From those responses, the total number of barriers (which include time, travel distance, equipment, funding, experience) that were collectively identified amounts to 39, as one community partner could identify multiple barriers per survey. The aggregated results showed that a lack of time was the most common barrier for community members to provide workshops. We were also able to determine that even though our in-person survey yielded a greater number of replies, there was a relatively higher positive response rate (those who responded with ‘Yes’) from our online e-mail survey.

Fig 2. Our team in the process of interviewing and taking notes from vendors.

Moving forward, we hope that our community partner would be able to utilize the data we gathered to effectively assemble greater public interest to hold workshops for their education program. As our results suggest, it would be beneficial to target local community members (specifically those who reside in the Lower Mainland), place greater focus on an online surveying method (as this will likely lead to a higher positive response rate) as well as devise useful strategies to eliminate the barriers identified.

The unexpected answers and biases that we encountered during the farmer’s market matter greatly to our project and learning as they provide an opportunity for us to remodel our research methodologies and familiarize ourselves with uncertainties. Since we sent out our online surveys 10 days after our in-person interviews, we were allowed some time to regroup and critically think on our first survey experience. While the interviews at the farmer’s market was definitely a valuable time to study and further understand our project, it was even more satisfying to apply what we have learned by later remodeling our second, online survey: we included a “Maybe” response to accommodate survey participants who were undecided on their final answers and sent surveys to (and later received responses from) a wider range of community members by sharing community contact emails with Joanne, the Riley Park Collective coordinator. While implementing these changes represented a significant project shift, we felt that it was an opportunity that was worth pursuing (Session 7 – Indigenous Food Sovereignty + Moments of Significant Change | Land, Food + Community || (LFS 350), 2017).

Although it may be slightly frustrating to change an initial plan, we realized that it is an important opening for any kind of project/research to grow. According to Shulman, professional work is seldom accomplished with merely following the set concepts of proposition, operation or correct moral codes (2005). It was actually the crude, uncertain initial interviews we conducted that allowed us to learn from our flaws and yield a much more effective second survey. Accomplished work is most effectively achieved through experiencing uncertainties; the latter being a crucial ingredient through which one can acquire new skills and knowledge (Shulman, 2005).

Over the long haul, we felt great gratitude in our opportunities in being able to recognize the assets offered by our community partner and combine our academic knowledge with actual community experiences in a joint effort to develop “capacity building mindset[s]” (“Module 5 – Capacity building for sustained change”, n.d.). As a group, we conclude our time in LFS 350 by leaving the idea that different people/situations we come across with in school, work and the community will be clear-cut and predictable. In doing so, we would be able to readily embrace inevitable changes, exercise flexibility and acquire learning experiences in a wider range of settings. This notion is particularly exemplary for students and academic professionals to follow as it could help us to let loose, have fun and enjoy our future projects even more.

Fig 3. Little Mountain Neighborhood House volunteers, UBC’s International House of Scholar students and our three LFS 350 group mates (from far right to left – Catherine, Dean, Rachel B.).

 

References  

Module 5 – Capacity building for sustained change. University of Memphis. Retrieved 9 April 2017, from http://www.memphis.edu/ess/module5/page3.php

Session 7 – Indigenous Food Sovereignty + Moments of Significant Change | Land, Food + Community || (LFS 350). (2017). Lfs350.landfood.ubc.ca. Retrieved from: http://lfs350.landfood.ubc.ca/session-notes/term-1-session-notes/session-7-indigenous-food-sovereignty-moments-of-significant-change/

Shulman, L. S. (2005). Pedagogies of uncertainty. Liberal Education, 91(2), 18–25.

The Homestretch

As we race towards the finish line of our project with Riley Park, we aim to finish strong in these last few weeks, with the hope of attaining a graceful dismount upon completion.

In this week’s group work, we reflected on the progress so far on our project and what we have left to do. In identifying moments of significant change individually, and then by comparing as a group, we discovered commonalities in the highs and lows of our attitudes and feelings of certainty (or, in many cases, uncertainty) at different times through the semester so far. As we are past the halfway point now, we also laid out plans for wrapping up the project with a graceful dismount.

Moments of Significant Change workshop

During our tutorial session last week, each person was asked to answer the question individually, and silently “What are my Moments of Significant Change?”. After some time had passed to reflect and write our individual moments, we were then asked, to reflect on the change in the following over the course of the semester and the project:

  1. Facts, Knowledge or Skills,
  2. Emotions, Values, Attitudes and Beliefs

 Upon evaluating these variables, we were individually asked to chart a graph over the shared x-value of Time, the variables outlined above as functions of y. 

After this time of silent reflection and answering, we were asked to regroup with our teammates, share and discuss each of our Moments of Significant Change. Following that, we worked together in a group activity, to superimpose our individual graphs onto a group graph, and compare the trajectories.

 

Graph 1. Group chart for Time vs. “Facts, Knowledge or Skills”.

 

Graph 2. Group chart for Time vs. “Emotions, Values, Attitudes and Beliefs”.

In the process of identifying significant moments, our group realized that we had similar feelings over the course of our project. In general, our group fell into a cohesive rhythm upon getting together at our first LFS 350 group meeting; we foresaw that our group would work well together based on identified individual strengths and weaknesses, and thus confidence in ability grew in our team.

After our first  Community Partner (CP) meeting, however,  we collectively experienced feelings of uncertainty and confusion as we realized the project proposal provided on the LFS 350 website was significantly different than that which Joanne provided us. Deciding to roll with the punches, we clarified the best we could the deliverables that the community partners wanted to gain from this project, and set out as a group to draft our proposal with this new information.

Meeting as a group to discuss the draft proposal increased feelings of understanding of the project and solidarity amongst group members, leading to a growth in positive feelings. Increasing feelings of confidence and assuredness of plan continued as we discussed our proposal and project development with Carrie, our TA, as we felt supported in our ideas for the project that would suit our needs and requirements for the course. This feeling was validated upon receiving a decent grade (32/40) and feedback for our submitted proposal. 

Feelings of positivity took a slight dip after our second CP meeting, whereby we once again felt confused at the changing priorities of the community partners, a phenomenon we now know to be ‘scope change’. Attempting to intake new information and goals from the community partners in the moment, and attempting to individually process  how these new goals could fit into the developing project proved challenging, as we could not discuss this information as a team, and thus, faced moments where a team member said something such as,”yes, this is something we could possibly incorporate into the project”, only to be followed by a rebuttal by a fellow teammate that said “well given x,y, and z, I’m not sure it is feasible to incorporate this aspect into the project”. Such moments proved difficult to work out as a team in front of the community partners, whom we were trying to accommodate as much as possible. At this meeting, we were also confronted with different communication styles between our LFS 350 team, the International House of Scholars students, and the community partners, where much adaptation and clarification was needed to fully understand new proposals.

 

This exercise in graphing the change in our feelings and knowledge and skill base helped unify our group and provide each other with confidence that difficult moments were not faced alone. We also discovered that we have similar expectations for the outcome of our project, making success seem more attainable and giving us a chance to discuss what we thought success would look like.

Weekly Objectives

Week 7, February 26 – March 4:

    • Submit Blog post #2 on Feb. 26.
    • Discuss Moments of Significant Change in tutorial, as a group.
    • Revise Blog post #2, based on feedback from TA, Carrie.
      • Achievement: We improved group communication and noticed similarities in our attitudes toward the project so far. Identifying moments of significance helped us in understanding the project’s direction and struggles we had faced. Reflecting on these moments of shared triumph and tribulation, we felt ready to participate in our next meeting with Joanne with a sense of direction and to build off of previous achievements we had accomplished over the semester thus far.

Week 8, March 5 – March 11:

    • Monday March 6th: attend third meeting with Joanne and community partners to discuss project progression.
    • Friday morning, March 10th: submit to Joanne an information poster for the Education Plan, to be displayed at LMNH farmer’s market.  
    • Friday morning, March 10th: submit to Joanne the final revisions of information sheet and application form for potential workshop hosts.
    • Friday evening, March 10th: submit Blog post #3.
    • Saturday March 11th, 9:30 am – 2 pm: plan for three of our group members to participate in LMNH farmer’s market, at Riley Park, to aid in donation station and to survey community members about interest in leading a workshop.
    • Continue to add to contact list of community members whom could potentially host workshops.
      • Achievement: Upon reflecting on the critiques given by our TA, Carrie, for Blog post #2, we were able to come together as a group through our private Facebook group page and brainstorm ideas for the revision of Blog post #2. In doing so, we were able to vastly improve our grade for Blog post #2, from an 8/16 to a 14.5/16.
        • In facing this failing grade, we connected particularly to the example of the Chinese firm’s internal “stock market”, where the infrastructure of this stock market allowed the firm to learn the true opinions and trajectories of the launch of their new store, where overwhelmingly project leads of the firm believed that the store would not open on time. This internal infrastructure is analogous to the chance for our LFS 350 group to revise our blogs for the final grade–allowing us to “fail” (e.g.receive an 8/16 score) without actually failing.  
        • Another idea from this podcast that rang true for our group in the face of this poor grade was the quote by Gary Klein, “the standard line is that you fail often to get smarter, and you fail in productive ways, as a way to build mental models” (Cohn, 2015). In much the same way as the internal infrastructure of the Chinese firm, we believe this quote captures the meaning behind the revision process of LFS 350 blogs, whereby we are allowed to “fail” in such a way that will enable us to grow.
      • Achievement: Five of our six group members attended our third meeting with Joanne and two community members that are involved in the Riley Park Project. After the meeting, our group discussed the success of conversations we had just had and we all agreed that it was our best meeting yet. We were able to discuss all items on our agenda without getting sidetracked, and clear communication was a trend throughout.
        • In reflecting back on previous meetings, we realized that although we may have struggled with communication at the beginning, the different perspectives of members at meetings gave rise to more meaningful conversation and connections. K. W. Phillips discusses this phenomenon in Scientific American (2014), recognizing that although diverse groups may be more challenging to work with at the start of a project, frequently displaying a slow up-start, these diverse groups lead to more productive discussion later on. The various perspectives offered at community meetings allowed us to find solutions to problems that we would not have found by ourselves. Problems with communication that we had faced at the beginning had smoothed themselves out with practice, and the resulting conversation was fluid, opening up the possibility for learning from each other in new ways with greater group cohesion.

Week 9, March 12 – March 18:

  • Monday March 13: complete the contact list shared in the LMNH folder of community members whom could potentially host workshops.
  • Draft an outreach email to be sent to potential workshop hosts, and send it to Joanne for approval.
  • Those group members that did not participate in farmers market will carry out outreach to community contacts for workshop host’s first via email, and then by phone for those community contacts that do not respond.
  • Revise Blog post #3, based on feedback from TA, Carrie.

Week 10, March 19 – 25:

  • Conduct final outreach; follow up with email contacts.
  • Familiarize group with instructions for Final Project Report.

Week 11, March 26 – April 1:

  • Begin drafting Final Project Report.
  • Begin drafting Blog post #4.
  • Create Final Project Presentation.
  • Create Infographic.

Week 12, April 2 – April 8:

  • April 2: submit Blog post #4.
  • April 3: Final Project Presentation.
  • April 3: Infographic due.
  • Continue drafting Final Project Report.

Week 13, April 10 – April 16:

  • April 10: submit Final Project Report as a group.

Planning for a Successful Dismount

Our weekly objectives our now outlined to the end of the semester, giving us a clear vision of where we are headed and what we would like to achieve. While we continue to check things off our list, we will be sure to wrap up our project neatly and, hopefully, successfully. As previously mentioned, we have discovered that our communication skills and styles have improved and adapted while working both within our group and with our community partner.

These newly improved skills will help us to finish strong in April. In particular, we hope to debrief our project with our community partners and clarify any remaining project points that Joanne might like us to improve upon. Additionally, we may also create a sheet listing the foreseeable “next steps” for LMNHS Riley Park projects as a resource for future LFS 350 groups to launch from. Continuing regular group meetings in person and discussion through our Facebook group will aid us in ensuring all aspects of our project are polished and done as thoroughly as possible.

Collectively, we have all agreed that success will come with a sense of accomplishment for all group members. We hope to feel as if we have helped further the Riley Park Community Garden and Fieldhouse initiative, and complete all deliverables. We want to finish this project with no loose ends and be on the same page with Joanne.

With these final steps in mind, we eagerly look forward to crossing the finish line of our project with Riley Park, and handing off our baton to the next wave of LFS 350 students. Don’t miss next week, which is our final and closing blog post. We’ll discuss our Moment of Significance for the LFS 350 course, and reflect on the overall lessons we have gained from this opportunity to engage in community-based approach to experiential learning References

          Cohn, G. (Producer). 2015, May 20. Failure is your friend: A Freakonomics radio rebroadcast [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from, http://freakonomics.com/podcast/failure-is-your-friend- a-freakonomics-radio-rebroadcast/.

          Phillips, K. W. (2014). How Diversity Makes Us Smarter. Scientific American. Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-diversity-makes-us-smarter/.

Being Comfortable with Uncertainty

This week’s blog posting is centered around our group’s goals, achievements, project proposal and moment of significance. Since our inaugural post, we have experienced a lot of moments as a team – some good, some bad, and some with uncertainty. Learning how to face these developments has arguably made us more cohesive, and allowed us to connect with the idea that uncertainty can be a productive force within a team. The process of creating our project proposal yielded our moment of significance, and created momentum to create concrete goals for future accomplishments.

Moment of Significance:

Let’s begin by asking: what is a moment of significance? It is the moment which, can be identified as a group, and deemed significant comparative to all experiences within the term. Determining this individually, and later sharing this specific moment with one another, is important because it helps us realize how incidences (for example, meetings or assignments) impact one another. It also allows us to celebrate moments of clarity – whether they are emotionally positive or negative realizations- this is an act of learning that can instigate cohesion with one another. When we discussed this question together, we all agreed that creating the project proposal draft was our moment of significance.

The procedure of “breaking down” the proposal draft revealed itself to be very helpful. Initially we faced a sense of uncertainty at the beginning of our project, due to the discrepancy between what the LFS course website outlined as being the project and what the project evolved into. However, meeting together and discussing each section (e.g.significance, context, background, methodology) allowed us to synthesize a tangible plan and recognize which area each group member had a valuable contribution. It also helped us determine what our next chronological courses of action were, which provided us a sense of momentum and coherence as a group. The next section below may demonstrate how our goals and achievements as a group evolved throughout this process.

Weekly Objectives

Week 1:

  • Share interpretation of project with each other 
  • Identify roles of members for project contribution
  • Figure out an effective method of communication

Achievements: The first thing we did as a group was discuss our interpretations of the project, and then communicate our strengths, weaknesses and preferences as individuals. Next, we determined what the best method of communication was – we created a Facebook group that only our team members had access to. We also agreed the method of communication on that platform- relying on the group page as a “forum” for specific questions or actions, and using the messenger app as a tool prior to meeting in person. Lastly, we created a GoogleDrive for files that we would work on together as a group.

Week 2:

  • Meet with community liaison to discuss community needs and project format
  • Create and clarify the intended product for delivery

Achievements: Meeting with our liaison Joanne was exciting. We quickly learned why so many initiatives had been achieved by Little Mountain Neighbourhood House, because community members such as Joanne brought amazing energy and vision to the forefront of projects.  Meeting with community volunteers and Joanne demonstrated what Mathie and Cunningham (2003) describe as Asset Based Community Development (ABCD): the mobilisation and identification of existing community assets which enables positive change (p.477). Indeed, this highlighted the benefits of improving the inclusiveness and diversity of our food systems science curricula (Galt et al., 2012, p.10), by introducing us to alternative views and personalities.

This was also our introduction to uncertainty, as we soon realized the proposed project on the LFS 350 website did not resemble the needs of the partner. Nonetheless, we worked together to determine that some potential delivered products would include: a contact sheet, application form, information handout, online and in person surveys, community engagement, and an infographic. Hopefully, our work with Little Mountain Neighbourhood House will be a useful tool for for future change, or   a “reference point for further community action” (Mathie & Cunningam, 2003, p.478). Lastly, we concluded our experiences and week by creating our first blog post which introduced our group. 

Week 3:

  • Create Project Proposal Draft
  • Clarify what we could do as a group
  • Creating a draft of the information sheet and application sheet
  • Clarify responsibilities and discuss group concerns with Carrie

Achievements: We addressed our sense of uncertainty this week by engaging with the proposal draft. As discussed above in the “moment of significance” section, it helped us synthesize goals and contextualize our project within the LFS course and Little Mountain Neighbourhood House. In achieving this, and reviewing our proposed products for delivery, we initially felt a sense of intimidation our time scale and desire to maintain quality. We agreed as a group that what needed to be done next was put these goals into a schedule, and discuss our concerns with our TA Carrie. We had also completed the information sheet and application sheet which was to be sent off before the next meeting with Joanne.

As we faced many opportunities to engage with the project, we understood what Will Valley described as “uncertainty”. What actions should we focus on achieving? Which roles best fit our overall goals as a group? How do we achieve balance as both students and professionals working on a project? We decided to clarify and discuss our role and responsibilities with our TA Carrie, who helped us understand how to fit our goals into an appropriate time frame. After meeting the following week as a group, it was clear that we felt a collective sense of relief and excitement to continue onwards.

Week 4:

  • Receive feedback on proposal draft

Achievements: This week we completed and received feedback on our proposal draft. Will had gone over all of his comments and suggestions to improve our proposal. He had also taken the time to help us narrow down exactly what we could do for the Riley Park project. This helped us further define what we as a group could do for Joanne and the project. Taking in Will’s considerations, we finished up our final draft of the proposal to hand in. Which can be found here

Week 5:

  • Create an Action Plan

Achievements: In an effort to synthesize our connection to the project in a concrete manner, we created an Action Plan. We decided that creating a schedule would be a useful method to organize our future decisions. Our completed Action Plan could now also be used as a reference point to our continued progress. Additionally, by creating this schedule in document form, we would be able to share it with our community liaison and provide them with a snapshot of our aggregated responsibilities as partners in the project and students within the LFS 350 course.

Week 6:

  • Meet with community partner again, meet as group to discuss.
  • Create Blog post 2.
  • Create script for in-person survey
  • Edit application sheet and information sheet.
  • Start compiling contact list

Achievements:

We met with Joanne again, providing her with our proposal this meeting. We also met with Web, who was in charge of the Riley Park garden website. Through Web’s help, we gained access to a GoogleDrive that members of the Little Mountain Neighbourhood House also had access to, streamlining the method of communication and file sharing.

Meeting with Joanne this week helped us immensely with clarifying what our objectives were for this project. We were able to show Joanne what we had worked on so far (in terms of the application form and information sheet), and she gave us feedback exactly what she liked and did not like about the forms. We will be editing these sheets as per her request.

We also began to compile a contact list for potential community partners that will be interested in hosting workshops at the field house. We were met with a second uncertainty through the week, we had previously thought we were building off of an existing contact list from the previous group, but this list was unfortunately, not located. Instead, a new contact list will be compiled and we will attempt to reach out to each contact to ask about their interest in the project.

Upcoming Objectives and Strategies:

Our upcoming objectives involve compiling and recruiting the potential partners to lead the workshops at the Field House. We will be researching the local area for organizations, businesses, and individuals who may be interested in leading workshops. We will then be reaching out to each of these contacts, to let them know about the field house, and to see if they are interested in participating. We will also try and actively recruit potential partners at the farmer’s market on March 11th, by handing out information sheets and hopefully generating interest about what the field house is seeking. If we find that the contacts or the people we try to recruit are not interested, we will be asking them to complete a survey to ask for their reason why they do not want to participate, in order to improve future chances of recruitment. Once this is done, we will be meeting as a group to assess the results and perhaps even provide some points of improvement for our Community Partner to work on in the future.

Conclusion:

The LFS course series has continued to show us how many experiences can be packed into a term! Whether these moments are good, challenging or significant they continue to shape how we interact with the food system curriculum that surrounds us – in the classroom, in our cities, in our personal lives. Tune in next week for Blog Post 3 – Strategies for a Graceful Dismount.

References

       Mathie, A., & Cunningham, G. (2003). From clients to citizens: Asset-based     Community Development as a strategy for community-driven development. Development in Practice, 13(5), 474–486.

       Galt, R., Clark, S., & Parr, D. (2012). Engaging Values in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Education: Toward an Explicitly Values-Based Pedagogical Approach. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 43–54.

Breaking Ground

Public domain picture from http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=114999&picture=trowel-for-flowers

Public domain picture from http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=114999&picture=trowel-for-flowers

“There’s something about taking a plow and breaking new ground. It gives you energy.”                                                                                                                              Ken Kesey

Hello, we are the Riley Park Potting Studio group and we are heading out into new territory as we join our community partners at Little Mountain Neighbourhood House at the beginning of an exciting new project that promises to engage the community and provide a gathering place to bring people together. Read on and learn more about who we are, what the project entails and our first impressions going in.

WHO ARE WE?

Overall we are a diverse group of students from a variety of educational, professional and cultural backgrounds. Our experience and skills range from gardening, cooking, farming, education, agroecology and health sciences. Although our reasons for choosing the Riley Park project are varied, some common themes that emerged included the desire to learn more about community-based grass-root initiatives, and to contribute to a project that encompasses the ideas of community engagement, sustainability, food security and food justice. We are excited to break ground on this project together with our community partner and look forward to what the coming weeks and months have in store for us. Read on for our individual bios.

From left: Hanne, Rachel G., Rachel B., Catherine, Jenn and Cayla

Hanne Yager is a fourth year student enrolled in the Global Resource Systems program. She focuses her studies on food security, agroecology and food justice. Prior to her time at UBC, she graduated from the Culinary Management Program at George Brown College. She enjoys using her experience as a chef and farm labourer to engage with communities and youth to improve connections and accessibility to food systems. Hanne is interested in the Riley Park Potting Studio project because she wants to learn more about the administrative side of engaging in community asset based food literacy and food security initiatives.

Rachel Green is a third year student at UBC in the Global Resource Systems program. Her studies have an emphasis on the environment, with a focus on ecology and conservation. She is interested in the connections between community and environmental action and engagement, which is what prompted her to choose the Riley Park project for LFS 350. She is excited to continue exploring these connections through the project and how education in the community can play a role in caring for the environment and outdoor spaces.

Rachel Blundon is currently working towards a B. Sc. in Food, Nutrition and Health with a minor in Commerce, as she hopes to one day contribute meaningfully as a food systems professional by working with food product and agricultural-based companies towards policies and practices that promote environmental and human health. The Riley Park Potting Studio project intrigues her because it combines values and initiatives that she has become particularly passionate about in her studies at UBC, including community development, community food security and the importance of educating the community about the impacts of our current food system.

Catherine Jones is a third year student in the Dietetics program. She has a background in Chemistry and has worked in biotechnology and the drug development field for several years. She also has healthcare experience through volunteer opportunities at community dialysis clinics and hospitals. She has seen first hand what happens when people get sick and the multitude of systems we have to treat disease. Catherine was drawn to the Riley Park project because she believes projects that focus on community health can help improve individual health as well. She is excited to learn more about the grass-roots, community based approach that Riley Park and Little Mountain neighbourhood house employ.

Jennifer Siu is in her final year of Food, Nutrition, and Health. She is interested in food and nutrition as it is so vital to us as humans, and it can allow us to maintain good health, and prevents the development of diseases.  She joined the Riley Park project because she is a member of the Little Mountain community and she would love to get more involved in her community, especially when it comes to projects that involve food security and community engagement.

Cayla Boycott is a third year UBC student studying in the Nutritional Sciences program. Her main interest is the role that nutritional components of food has on human health. However, she finds that food is more than alimentary, but also has the capacity to bring different community members together and celebrate healthy relationships with food and each other. She is currently part of a student-run club that manages the rooftop garden space at UBC. They strive to engage the community around the food system by hosting events and workshops that allow people to interact with food, health, cultures, and grow food as sustainably as possible. She was very interested in the Riley Park project because she found that the education plan’s mission to use the garden space to engage the community aligned a lot with what she has found passion for during her UBC career.

WHAT IS THE RILEY PARK POTTING STUDIO? 

Riley Park is located in the Little Mountain neighbourhood of East Vancouver. When the Riley Park Community Centre was demolished in 2012, the community lost one of its key gathering places. But out of the rubble came new opportunity as in 2016 the Parks Board approved the creation of a new community garden at the corner of Ontario and 30th (“Riley Park Garden: Story and Philosophy”, 2016). The field house or potting studio in Riley Park will be used to store gardening tools for the garden, but more importantly will act as a key gathering place for the community by offering a place for dialogue and workshops surrounding the themes of food security, food literacy, gardening and community based learning (“Riley Park Garden: Fieldhouse”, 2016.) As part of the field house re-activation, The Riley Park committee needs an education plan totalling 350 hours per year and plans to recruit community members to provide workshops (J. Mackinnon, personal communication, January 23, 2017).

WHERE DO WE COME IN?

We met with Joanne MacKinnon, the Food Network Coordinator for the Little Mountain community, as well as two volunteer members of the Riley Park Field House Education Plan committee. Through this meeting we identified the following possible deliverables for our group to work towards (J. Mackinnon, person communication, Jan 23, 2017.)

  1. An information sheet about the Riley Park community garden and field house including an invitation for community members to apply to give workshops.
  2. An application form to be used by community members who wish to apply to give workshops in the field house. This will go on the Riley Park Garden website, be available at the Little Mountain Neighbourhood House and be distributed at key community events.
  3. Identify potential community partners to reach out to whose values align with the garden’s philosophy, and who may be able to provide workshops. Create a contact sheet of these partners and organizations.
  4. Identify key community events at which the Field House project can advertise and recruit community members to provide workshops.
  5. As a group provide 1-2 workshops ourselves.
  6. Create an infographic that can be used by Riley Park in the future.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

We could not have picked a better project to demonstrate the principles of Asset Based Community Development. As described in Mathie and Cunningham’s 2003 paper “From clients to citizens: Asset-based Community Development as a strategy for community-driven development”, Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) refers to the principle of identifying  and focusing on a community’s strengths and allowing citizens to drive development from within the community (Mathie & Cunningham, 2003). This is contrast to the traditional needs based approach where outside organizations identify community needs and suggest solutions for improvement. As stated on the Riley Park Garden website, the garden is  “envisioned to create community space and social cohesion through participation, education, and events” and will provide a public space for discussion and skills development as well as a place for community members to “leverage collective expertise and local resources” (“Riley Park Garden: Story and Philosophy”, 2016). The field house education plan will play a vital part in supporting these initiatives.

Our discussions thus far with Joanne and the Education plan committee have been all about inviting and recruiting community members to contribute to the education plan. Although they wish workshops to align with their garden philosophy as stated above, they are not looking for particular topics based on the needs of the community and instead are interested in identifying the knowledge and skills that exist within the community already. The garden will also demonstrate principles of food justice,  defined as being equal access to good food for all, by providing a space for urban agriculture, improving community self-reliance and also preserving a valuable land asset outside of the corporate structure that dominates the food system (Cadieux & Slocum, 2015). However, in order to keep the community garden and field house workshops within the food justice lens, the Riley Park Garden committee will need to identify and address barriers to participation in the garden and workshops that marginalized members of the community may experience.

While we are all eager to dive right into this project, we need to remember to “shut up and listen” as suggested by Ernesto Sirolli’s Ted Talk (Sirolli, 2012). We are the outsiders in this project and it is not up to us to tell anyone what to do. This advice wasn’t too difficult to follow in our first meeting as we’ve all learned a lot about active listening in our previous coursework and professional or volunteer experience. Also, it’s not very difficult to sit back and listen when you’re first learning about a project. However we need to be careful going forward as it will be tempting to take ownership of the project rather than to continue listening and acting as facilitators.  A few of us in the group identified organizational skills as a key strength, however we need to be careful not to over plan and be open to change. As Sirolli says, planning is the death of entrepreneurship (Sirolli, 2012).

The 6 desired objectives listed above are certainly daunting and were very different from what we thought they would be going in to this project. Although the website for the project lists building an education calendar as the key deliverable, we learned in our first meeting that this is no longer the case and we will be more involved in providing the framework for recruiting community partners to provide workshops. This represents a substantial shift in project scope that we were not anticipating, but we are prepared to change focus. Our group is concerned about our ability to accomplish all of the above listed deliverables in the given timeframe. However, we hope that through consultation with Joanne McKinnon and our course instructors we can hone in on what’s truly important and this will be reflected in our project proposal. Since community outreach and surveys will form a major part of our project we do expect that response rate will be a major challenge and has the potential to severely limit the utility of any data we do gather. We also expect that coordinating the schedules of 5 busy students along with volunteers and staff members involved in the Riley Park Field House will be challenging.

We’ve all had plenty of experience reading and writing about concepts like food security, asset based community development and community engagement. Therefore at this stage it’s pretty easy to write about it and anticipate how the project is going to go. However putting it into practice is going to be a whole different story. Riley Park is breaking new ground, both literally and figuratively, in building the community garden and revitalizing the field house. We are excited to join with them and grow alongside them in the process.

“In almost every garden, the land is made better and so is the gardener. ”        Robert Rodale

REFERENCES

Cadieux, K. V., & Slocum, R. (2015). What does it mean to do food justice? Journal of Political Ecology, 22, 1-26

Mathie, A., & Cunningham, G. (2003). From clients to citizens: Asset-based Community Development as a strategy for community-driven development. Development in Practice, 13(5), 474–486

Riley Park Community Garden: Field House. (2016). Retrieved Jan 26, 2017 from https://www.rileyparkgarden.org/story/

Riley Park Community Garden: Story and Philosophy. (2016). Retrieved Jan 26, 2017 from https://www.rileyparkgarden.org/story/

Sirolli E. (2012, November 26). Want to help someone? Shut up and listen! Retrieved January 26, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chXsLtHqfdM