About Strong Neighbourhoods
In 2014, we launched Strong Neighbourhoods. The program recognizes the vital contributions that strong neighbourhoods provide in residents’ daily lives, including their positive impact on wellbeing, economic development, and on residents' sense of attachment to our city.
The goal of Strong Neighbourhoods is to increase resident's level of attachment to the community by being a catalyst in inspiring neighbourhoods to foster a culture of connection and engagement. Connection and engagement are two sides of the same coin and it is only through strong relationships that we can work together to make our neighbourhoods better places to live, work and play. Since the program’s creation, more than 4,500 residents have participated in 44 projects across Kelowna.
Participate in Strong Neighbourhoods through:
- Neighbourhood Grant
Receive a matching grant of up to $1,500 to bring your neighbourhood enhancing idea to life. Three grant intakes available.
- Neighbourhood Events
Apply to receive support for your neighbourhood event - whether it's a block or condo party, picnic, porch concert or skill swap, we can help.
- Block Connector Program (new!)
Sign up as a Block Connector in your neighbourhood to help build and maintain connections among your neighbours and create a stronger sense of belonging. Our team will help equip you with the tools and resources to help bring neighbours together!
- Neighbour Recognition
Nominate your outstanding neighbour for Neighbour Recognition.
- Neighbour Day
Celebrate Neighbour Day on May 3 with an event or activity.
- Neighbourhood Resources
Find tips, tools and templates to help you connect with your neighbours.
- Neighbours in Action
Be inspired by past grant recipients and event organizers.
- Youth Development & Engagement Grant
Designed to empower Kelowna youth to lead their own neighbourhood enhancing project with a matching grant of up to $1,000. Annual intake.
- Park & Play
Takes place every week night during July and August from 5 to 8 p.m. in a neighbourhood park near you.
How was the Strong Neighbourhoods program formed? In 2013, the Strong Neighbourhood Project team set out to learn from residents about neighbourhood life in Kelowna. Project staff designed a survey that was online and that was brought to 24 community events throughout the city.
More 1,500 people attended the community engagement events and 290 conversations took place. The facilitators of these events captured what they heard from residents, analyzed the information/feedback they had received; and noticed significant trends in what characteristics Kelowna residents value in our neighbourhoods and what drives attachment to where we live.
Six hundred thirty nine surveys were completed. Although the data gathered through the survey is not statistically valid, survey respondents did represent a cross section of the community in age, gender, years lived in the community, renters and owners, and sectors of the community.
Survey questions gauged levels and indicators that influence connection, engagement and attachment.
- 73 per cent of respondents indicated their level of attachment as either moderately strong or strong
- 82 per cent were satisfied with their level of interaction with their neighbours.
Respondents tended to report lower levels of satisfaction with their level of interaction and reported lower levels of interdependency and participation in social gatherings if they:
- Lived in their neighbourhoods three years or less;
- Interacted with their neighbours once a week or less;
- Intended on moving in the next five years; and/or
- Were between 20 -35 years of age and over 80 years of age.
For those respondents who reported being dissatisfied with their level of interaction with neighbours, the top three things they indicated they would like to see enhanced in their neighbourhoods were:
- Opportunities to interact; and/or
- Public space in which to interact.
Respondents also reported that they would be more likely to interact if they:
- Had fewer resource constraints;
- Experienced more neighbourliness; and/or
- Had more in common with their neighbours.
Recognizing that connection and engagement are fundamental to fostering attachment to a community, the 2014 research and engagement data was carefully analyzed in order to determine how best to support residents of Kelowna in connecting and engaging at the neighbourhood level. Through this analysis, three key focus areas emerged and formed the foundation on which the pilot projects were developed.
Kelowna residents’ survey responses indicated that they wished they knew their neighbours better, and cited that part of the reason they do not know their neighbours is because they are uncomfortable initiating conversations and/or believe they have nothing in common with their neighbours. Current literature and best practices purport that providing opportunities for neighbours to come together is fundamental to strengthening neighbourhoods. Even more to the point, bringing people together for the sake of getting to know each other, initiating conversation, and establishing common interests are essential building blocks to neighbourliness. The dichotomy between resident experience and the research on neighbourliness led to the development of the first priority: support social offerings that foster neighbourliness.
During the community engagement sessions, neighbours could identify a current or past neighbourhood leader. These leaders were described as the people who would organize social activities, champion local projects, or advocate for neighbourhood needs. Residents noted that if these individuals had moved away, neighbourhood engagement tended to decline and eventually so did the social connection among neighbours. Learning from residents how invaluable these organic leaders are to the vibrancy of neighbourhoods, the second priority was established: inspire, encourage and support individuals to become initiators of connection and engagement in their neighbourhoods.
The community engagement process uncovered key drivers of attachment for Kelowna residents. Since the overall objective of the Strong Neighbourhood Project was to increase citizen level of attachment to the community, it naturally follows that any initiative designed to strengthen neighbourhoods would need to address at least one of these areas. However, each neighbourhood is unique and residents are in the best position to know what could be enhanced in their neighbourhoods and often have innovative ideas on how to go about it.
With these understandings, a third priority was determined: assist and empower residents to develop and implement initiatives that enhance neighbourhood aesthetics, safety, leadership, social offerings and/or relationships.
In order to address these priorities, five pilot projects were developed and implemented:
- Good neighbour toolkit
- Strong neighbourhood toolkit
- Neighbourhood events
- Neighbourhood grant
- Strong Neighbourhood's website presence on kelowna.ca