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Building Strong Neighbourhoods

Image of peoplew at a community hub

Despite wanting to initiate change, many residents lack the tools they need to improve conditions within their lives and communities. Driven by our groundbreaking “Poverty by Postal Code” report, we joined community leaders in 2005 to confront the threat of growing poverty. United Way's Building Strong Neighbourhoods Strategy (BSNS), launched in 2006, aims to close the growing gaps within the city’s priority neighbourhoods through targeted efforts, resident engagement and improved access to programs and services. BSNS has three goals:

Focus efforts where they’re needed most

Through targeted investments and partnerships (including our relationships with community agencies, local leaders and generous donors like you), our Building Strong Neighbourhoods Strategy supports local residents living in priority neighbourhoods to engage in making meaningful change in their communities.

  • United Way invested more than $1.3 million in resident-led initiatives to allow residents to create new events, initiatives, celebrations, and other activities to promote community well-being
  • More than 68,000 community members were engaged in 2017-18 as a result of local BSNS initiatives
  • More than 3,500 participants took part in decision-making roles related to having a voice in issues that matter to them

Support neighbourhood change from within

We work to strengthen connections between residents to create vibrant neighbourhoods, where people feel a sense of belonging. Since we began this work, more than 150 new community groups have been established, allowing residents to take part in community-engagement initiatives. United Way has invested in various local projects and resident-identified improvements, including playgrounds for kids, community gardens and kitchens, and recreational and cultural activities.

In 2019 we’re excited to take this work to the next level. Working with our community partners, local residents and other changemakers, neighbourhoods across Toronto will be digging deeper on a key issue of importance to them and working to ensure that residents are at the table with other stakeholders to create the changes that they want to see in their communities. Communities will focus on three key issue areas: social well-being, economic opportunities and neighbourhood infrastructure.

Improve access to community supports

Our Community Hubs model was built on our knowledge about — and our years of experience in — making crucial social services available in the community. We built seven Hubs in neighbourhoods that faced a lack of access to important services and programs, as well as limited community space. Today, these Hubs are a one-stop-shop, where several services and programs are available for neighbourhood residents under one roof; Hubs also offer free use of much-needed community space. We put the buildings (including the way they operate) into the hands of the community, making them an important catalyst for neighbourhood change. To date, there have been more than 2 million visits from residents, with 50 agencies operating in the space, and more than 2,000 residents involved in volunteer roles including supporting Hub governance and operations.

A Region of Strong Neighbourhoods

Our The Opportunity Equation research has shown us that income inequality is deepening across the region. Income inequality and polarization are now a regional issue that defy municipal boundaries. Increasingly postal code and background are determining your ability to succeed and this plays out not only for individuals but at a neighbourhood level. Neighbourhoods in Peel and York regions need the kind of targeted supports that can ensure all community members can thrive. We’re working closely with local governments in Peel and York regions to identify where United Way’s investments in neighbourhoods can make a difference. In 2019, we’re launching Neighbourhood Development Grants in Peel and York regions that will help to catalyze positive change in new neighbourhoods in our region.

Inclusive Local Economic Opportunity (ILEO)

Some issues like building vibrant local economies require many stakeholders to come together to build new solutions that work for everyone. United Way is convening government, community, residents and the public and private sectors to look at potential innovative approaches to stimulating local economies. Our work supporting anchor institution strategies, community benefits, and our expertise in social enterprise and social procurement are examples of what United Way can achieve when we work with our partners to influence change. Learn more about ILEO here.