25 Community Conversations is a community engagement project in commemoration of The Oakville Community Foundation’s 25th Anniversary. As we celebrate our first 25 years, we wanted to learn how Oakville could foster more belonging and inclusiveness over the next 25 years.
With the support from our partners at the Oakville Public Library, The Foundation launched 25 Community Conversations in April 2019.
From May 1st to August 23rd, 2019, a series of 25 conversations were held across Oakville. With the combined participation of over 330 community members, the 25 groups consisted of people from every age, ethnicity and postal code. Some participants have lived in Oakville their whole lives, while others were newcomers to Canada.
The groups covered a variety of topics including spaces and places of inclusion and exclusion, safety, social trends, available supports and services, and finally the groups one BIG belonging idea.
How Did We Connect With Groups?
25 Community Conversations began with an outreach to more than 50 community groups inviting them to participate. The invitations were sent to groups who represented a broad cross-section of the population by demographic, shared interest or activity. No group was declined participation.
How We Helped Them Host A Conversation
The Foundation created toolkits, one for facilitators and one for participants, to help everyone engage with the conversation. The discussion guides included tools for stimulating conversations and were supported by a dedicated Foundation team member who helped groups facilitate their conversations.
The Foundation also provided each group with a grocery gift card so they could pick their menu and entice their members to participate. As George Eliot once quipped “no one can be wise on an empty stomach.” From coffee and cookies to samosas and soft drinks, our groups provided a wide assortment of freshments to stimulate the conversation.
Prevalent themes in the discussions included a desire for more community connection and a need for more accessible and inclusive community spaces. Another emerging theme was the importance of bridging the equity gap in order to reduce stigma and cultivate deeper social connections within the community. Participating groups did not shy away from many of the difficult issues facing our community. And, other groups just wanted to have fun! We are very thankful for all the host groups and community members who contributed to the discussions.