Celebrating an interest in collective action

We held an event this week to celebrate people living in two Kitchener neighbourhoods who are interested in having homes that are ready for rain.

What follows are the remarks of Patrick Gilbride, RAIN Program Manager, on the importance of collective action and the project’s next steps.

Thank you for a successful start

Thank you everyone for coming, especially to those of you from Lakeside who have braved crossing the LRT divide to make it here tonight. Thanks in particular to the Guelph Street Community Gardeners who are our hosts this evening and to Juanita, Trent, Trevor, Emily and others who have helped guide our activities in Mount Hope. Thanks also to Ted Parkinson, who after the prize draw, is going to say a few words about community action in Mount Hope.

Before we draw the grand prize winners I wanted to provide some context on the contest. The Front Yard Makeover contest was the first stage in our Rain Ready Neighbourhoods project. REEP Green Solutions is an environmental charity and social enterprise that is committed to helping people live sustainably. This is the reason we have sought out projects that are not only good for the environment, but good for the community. We have a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to provide supports and incentives to two Kitchener neighbourhoods to take action to reduce stormwater run-off and improve the neighbourhood’s capacity to handle large storms and other effects of climate change.

The two neighbourhoods chosen to participate in this project were selected from many of our City’s vibrant neighbourhoods. They were chosen because they have a demonstrated history of community action, engagement with stormwater issues, and for their opportunity to make a positive impact on our urban water system.

Over the past month we have been active in Lakeside and Mount Hope promoting the contest. We have an indefatigable team of summer staff and volunteers that have been reaching out to people at their homes, meeting them at the local CSA, and striking up conversations on the sidewalks. Our team have been promoting the contest, but most importantly learning as much as possible about people’s desires for their neighbourhoods.

The importance of collective action

One theme that we keep hearing over and over is that of collective action.

People in Lakeside and Mount Hope already do things collectively. You just need to look around you at the gardens and the rainwater harvesting system behind me to see the evidence. When we were interviewing one of the Mount Hope finalists, Wayne Miedema told us how, when we were experiencing drought conditions a few weeks back, he would fill up containers of water from his own rain barrels and pull them by wagon over to the gardens. And it wasn’t just him – that’s just one example of the collective work that quite literally bore fruit. He proudly showed us some of the fist-sized garlic harvested from the gardens.

What are the next steps?

The team was also frequently asked, what comes next?

First – coaching for homeowners in these two neighbourhoods. Our RAIN Coach will help navigate homeowners through their options and help you to decide how best to take action to manage rainfall and achieve their ideal landscapes. The 10 finalists in each neighbourhood will be the first to have consultations with our RAIN Coach, but this will open up to everyone in Mount Hope and Lakeside come 2017. Our RAIN Coach, Becca couldn’t be here tonight as she is in Seattle, but is excited to get started next week.

Second – financial incentives to help you implement the solutions you and the Coach come up with. We have been talking to many of you over the past few months, and your insights will help us design the incentives and plan next steps in your neighbourhoods. We plan to announce the amounts and eligibility criteria for incentives later this year. If you have not already, please let us know so you can be notified when these become available.

Third – a chance for you to dig in and get some experience through work parties in your neighbours’ yards. The first of these will be at the homes of the contest winners, but we are interested to support anyone who is interested to host a work party on their property. If you want to host a work party at your home, please let us know and we will be in touch.

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