Several years ago, I was invited by a member of the Commonwealth Foundation to host the student segment of the proposed Tri-Sector Dialogues. The intention of these dialogues was to assess what worked well in each of 14 pre-selected Commonwealth Nation cities, what did not work so well, and how the cities could improve. The three sectors of society that met were: private enterprise, public governance, and the people.
We began with students at the Barrie Learning Centre. These students are all individuals over the age of 18 who wish to return to school to obtain their Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD). For some reason or other, they were unable to complete their OSSD before they turned 18. There are a variety of reasons why this may be the case: family instabilities, financial challenges, pregnancies, physical troubles and more. In each case, it appeared that students / individuals were not well equipped with resources that could help support their situations. Hence, they were the perfect candidates to see what “cracks” per se existed in a city that needed to be addressed.
Students gathered in a small focus group of maybe 15 and were asked to respond to the three following questions:
– what works well (in the city of Barrie)
– What does not work well (in the City of Barrie)
– What suggest do you, the students, have for change?
More than anything else, the students were thrilled that someone was actually going to listen to them. As it turned out, their input was fantastic. Why wouldn’t it be? These were the very individuals who were derailed from the path they had originally tried to walk.
The students put together a PowerPoint presentation about their assessment of the City of Barrie which they were then invited to show as a model for the larger focus group meeting which included the business people, government, and social support agencies in Barrie.
The students shone. And most impressively, the community listened.
One of the suggestions from students, I remember, was that the bus system be fortified. Transportation, for those who live in a situation with few resources, is one of the biggest challenges. My students spend a lot of time on buses to drop off children to daycare, to get groceries, to get to school, to get to work, and so on. When a transit system is sparse to begin with – the time spend on a bus is amplified.
Today – the City has invested a great deal of money into the transit system. What this in response to those focus groups? I would like to think so …
In any case, the suggestions from that day were put together in a neat little report which was submitted to the Commonwealth Foundation. Three people from each of the 14 cities around the world were then invited to participate in a culminating meeting for the process held in Uganda, Africa. I was invited to attend. I did not go as I had just given birth to my third child and was ready to leave him. I did, however, receive a copy of the final report and sure enough, the City of Barrie’s event was one of the meetings that was featured in the document.
Maybe this event ought to be repeated. Recently, I have been trying to make connections between the potential outcomes of the HIP3E (Managing Your Personal Resources) curriculum and the Tri-Sector Dialogues outcomes to determine if this may be an appropriate culminating activity for the credit. It makes sense to me that the City of Barrie may also be an appropriate partner as it would have a vested interest in determining how well it meets the needs of its citizens. Here is the link to the actual event should anyone be interested in reading about it – http://allafrica.com/stories/200308070500.html.
These are my thoughts, from “In The Corner”.