Ten Steps for Change: Focus on the Process

There are opportunities in planning to facilitate healthy rural communities. The following mechanisms can help to create healthy rural communities, and can be used by any municipality that is working toward developing healthy initiatives.

Develop planning documents for individual towns and hamlets such as an official plan and other associated functional plans.

This mechanism involves developing a policy document that fits the unique characteristics of a specific community. This type of document ensures that communities have policies that fit their community characteristics. A plan is a useful mechanism to direct municipal budgeting and potential new funding from other sources in new project implementation.

Understand and explain that planning initiatives may have related health, social and environmental benefits.

Demonstrate multiple benefits of an initiative (health, environmental, social and economic) in the event that one benefit may not be enough to ‘sell’ the project. This will also necessitate working in partnership. The co-benefits of an initiative should be acknowledged in order to create good working partnerships. Understanding co- benefits can encourage synergies in an initiative between different interest groups.

Measure the impact and change of a planning initiative or practice on a community.

Measure the baseline conditions of a practice and continue to document any changes over time when new practices are being implemented. This action needs to be tailored to the capabilities and resources available to the municipality, for example, financial, person power.

Build partnerships between municipalities, agencies and the community (for example, community groups and service clubs).

This could expand the capacity of the municipality and also provide an opportunity for education and working together. Workshops and community events have the ability to educate through collaboration. Members of the community could be educated on certain topics as well as provide education in areas in which they are knowledgeable.

Ensure there is collaboration between the municipality (administration, planners and politicians) and health unit.

When municipalities and health units collaborate, there is the opportunity to achieve more through pooling resources. There is also the possibility to generate a greater number of ideas through collaboration. This is increasingly made possible when both organizations understand each other’s terminology and goals. It would also be beneficial to extend this collaboration to engineering, public works, parks and recreation and forestry.

Engage the community by creating creative approaches to establishing dialogue and opportunities for community members to contribute when exploring new initiatives.

Creating environments where community members feel comfortable sharing and collaborating is essential, as this is the best way in which to learn from one another. In a safe environment, new and innovative ideas are more likely to spark and be successful. It is important to develop mechanisms that allow everyone to be part of community initiatives and reach out to residents for commentary and input.

Ensure council and senior municipal staff support.

New projects are more likely to acquire public funding so they can move forward if council and municipal staff are supportive. This also encourages fundraising and private donations. Work with the municipal council to ensure that they are familiar with the relationships between planning initiatives, health, the environment and economy. Ensure that your community leadership involves strategic initiatives that provide vision and opportunities to establish the potential of new partnerships.

Find project champions. A champion could be an individual, group, local politician or municipal staff member.

A dedicated individual who is willing to see a project through to completion contributes significantly to a positive outcome. This individual has the power to motivate others to participate in an initiative and provide ideas. It is also advantageous to have a staff member who has responsibility on a specific initiative or topic.

Find a committee or community-based group that is passionate about the initiative.

The likelihood of success for a particular initiative increases when there is a committee or community-based group advocating for it. A committee is able to provide motivation, credibility, people power, and the resources to make changes in a community. Municipalities must consider funding for these groups.

Focus on something manageable and have a realistic message for the community.

When embarking on an initiative, it is important to have a realistic and achievable goal, such as working within one area of a community. The extent of an action or idea needs to be reflective of the resources available in the particular community. For example, promoting active transportation in a city means something different than in a rural area. Also, this could mean working on only a portion of a rural community to begin with in order to achieve results and experience success. This would also encourage future work; as positive results would foster the desire to continue with a particular initiative.