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Difficult Conversations Bring Change
Case Study: Neighbourhood Engagement

I set out to connect with the two identified neighbourhoods - located next to each other.  Both sub-urban neighbourhoods were centred around elementary and high schools.  My task was to engage residents living in these two neighbourhoods to learn what they loved about their neighbourhoods and then to engage residents in grassroots neighbourhood-building activities.


The first walk-about brought 15 residents out and was a smashing success, with neighbours sharing what they most appreciated.  The second walk-about in another neighbouring area brought out 30 residents on a cold, windy and snowy December afternoon; this conversation was not as positive or relaxed as residents shared their concerns about living next to a high school.  

The 2nd neighbourhood walk-about resulted in residents, School District and City representatives coming together to have a tough, honest, and necessary conversation that started a positive wave of change that improved the quality of life of those living near the high school.  

A difficult conversation that built trust, led to collaborative problems solving, and ultimately made lives better. 


A neighbourhood walkabout to hear what residents loved about their neighbourhood.  One walkabout a smashing success; the second identifies significant concerns.


Opening up conversations with residents to identify how neighbourhood connections, quality of life, and a sense of belonging could be enhanced.


Active listening followed by collaborative problem solving conversations can lead to difficult but necessary conversations and positive outcomes.



Reflective questions to maximize learning and apply to your own initiatives to increase engagement and success.

Download your free case study.  It's sure to get you and your team thinking.
Not sure how to use the case study?
Consider these ideas:
  • Read the case study with your team and choose three reflective questions to discuss.  Debrief by asking: How can we apply this in our day-to-day work?

  • Take the ideas from the case study and start a conversation with your community engagement team. What concerns are you hearing from stakeholders?  How can we listen and respond to these concerns?

  • Use the case study to think about community engagement and building community.  Who do we need to build stronger connections with? How can we creatively start these conversations and engage the stakeholders in helping bring about positive change?

  • Consider the case study from a grassroots engagement perspective.  Why were the local residents in the second walk-about so upset? What might they have done differently to bring their concerns to the School District and the City?  What changes could the School District and City make to ensure that resident complaints and concerns are brought to the attention of those who can make changes? 

  • Ask your team, what ideas the case study inspires? Explore ideas and if there is interest choose one to follow through on.

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