Andrea has been with HC Link since its inception in 2009 and is currently HC Link Coordinator located at Health Nexus. Andrea has an extensive background in physical activity and health promotion and has worked in local recreation centres and public health units as well as provincial NGOs and agencies. Andrea is a student of French and is passionate about working with Anglophones to build their capacity to engage Francophones
Andrea Bodkin has not set their biography yet

Active Offer

HC Link has been involved with building the capacity of organizations to deliver French Language Services for several years. You might already be familiar with some of the resources and webinars we’ve delivered on this topic. That’s just one of the reasons that I’m excited that Patrick Delorme will be presenting at our upcoming HC Link Conference! Patrick has been working with Health Nexus and Toronto Central LHIN to develop the Active Offer Toolkit: a practical guide to clear and effective French Language Services.

What I like about the Active Offer approach is that it is proactive: rather than waiting for clients to ask for services in French, the organization initiates offering FLS. Clients know that services are available to them in French, and that French services are the same quality as English ones.

The toolkit itself is straight forward and practical. It is based around six steps, each with detailed purpose statements and examples. The 6 steps are built around four key factors for success: commitment, collaboration, communication and competencies. Without the Four Cs, active offer cannot become a reality.



Patrick’s workshop will be on November 12th at 3 pm. Patrick will be presenting in English and there will be simultaneous translation available into French.  In the workshop, Patrick will talk about the concept of active offer, the benefits to providing services in French, and provide an overview of the  toolkit. Participants will then have the chance to work in small groups to actually apply the ACTIVE steps and think about how their organizations have strengthen their Active Offer practices. Patrick has been working in the field of FLS and active offer for several years and has a great deal of experience and expertise to share.

I’ll be moderating this workshop at the HC Link Conference and I hope to see you there!

Do you have any tips, tricks or challenges relating to French Language Services that you’d like to share? Leave us a comment!

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Setting Priorities: How do we decide what to do?

Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Coordinator

As soon as I hear the term “priority setting” my mind jumps to the tools or processes we can use to determine priorities. Dot-mocracy, anyone? But in doing some research on this topic to prepare for an upcoming consultation, I was reminded that there are a few more things that go into priority-setting than simply picking out the options that sound good.

Why set priorities?

First of all, setting priorities allows us to focus our efforts on what we can realistically achieve that will have impact. Otherwise, all issues seem important and we end up overworked, under resourced and run the risk of not accomplishing our goals.

In my opinion, a very critical step here is to make sure that you have a solid sense of what it is the group wants achieve together. It could be a vision statement, a goal, a mandate or a strategic priority- it doesn’t matter too much what you call it- it matters that the group has agreed on some kind of a statement of purpose that answers the question “what is it that we want to ACHIEVE as a result of our work?” This statement becomes an important touchstone that should help guide you in all decision-making moving forward.

At the prioritizing stage in the process, the community group/organization has already engaged in some research and planning conversations, and has identified or brainstormed a range of options for activities, initiatives or programs to pursue. Now it’s time to move from “blue sky thinking” to what the group can realistically achieve together.

How do we set priorities?

This excellent article from Health Promotion Capacity Building Services (HPCB) at Public Health Ontario (formerly THCU) outlines a simple, 3 step process for setting priorities BEFORE you begin:

  1. Identify criteria on which to compare options
  2. Select processes to vote/score/rank
  3. Clarify roles/ processes to make the final choice

Identify criteria

As a group, determine what criteria you’ll use to compare options and make decisions about what initiatives/activities/programs the group will move forward with. For example:

Fit with mandate/vision Urgency
Resources required Feasibility
Impact Reach
Importance Community need

This step allows us to identify how we’ll know what’s important. Otherwise we risk using the “ooooh sparkly thing!” method of prioritizing, which means we drop whatever we’re doing in favour of the new, shiny thing.

Select process to vote

Once you have your criteria, it’s time to talk tools. The tool you select will depend on the nature of your work, the type of group you’re working with and the time you have for the exercise.

Dotmocracy is a multi-voting technique. In its simplest form, you provide participants with one to three dots (usually stickers) and invite them to place a dot beside their top one to three options.

Paired comparisons is a snapshot process to be used with small to mid-sized groups to help narrow options further after dotmocracy.

Quadrant analysis is useful if you have two clear criteria upon which to make a decision (for example, effort and impact), and those two criteria can be qualified in a dichotomous way (for example, high versus low). The use of specific criteria means it is a slightly more rigorous and time-consuming method than the two previously described methods.

Grid analysis is useful when you must or might have to defend your program decisions with ample evidence. Also known as a decision matrix analysis, it is a great process for when you have many criteria.

Clarify roles/processes

At some point in time (hopefully, at the end of this process) the group is going to make a decision about how to move forward. It’s important to outline - before you actually begin your decision-making process - the roles and expectations of the group. For example, is the group making the decision, or are they making a recommendation that is going to another power authority? Is there someone in the group that has decision-making power?

Go forth and make decisions

Now that you have your vision, you’ve identified options and you’ve determined how to identify your priorities, you can go forth and start to make decisions as a group. Warning: this can be a slightly messy process. Acknowledge that this can be tricky, and create an open space for people to share their opinions and ideas. Having an external and neutral facilitator can be very helpful.

Good luck!


Setting Community Priorities Presentation. HC Link 2010

Priority Setting- Four methods for getting to what’s important. OHPE Feature article 2010

Priority Setting Process Checklist. PHO 2011

Focus on What’s Important. County Health Rankings & Roadmaps

Do you have tools, resources and/or experiences to share? Use the comment box to tell us your ideas!

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Webinar Recap: First Steps to FLS Planning

Recently HC Link presented the latest webinar in its French Language Services (FLS) Capacity Building series. We have delivered a number of these, on topics such as creating a bilingual organizational culture, recruiting and retaining bilingual staff, and engaging Francophone communities. While we’ve heard that this information is helpful, we’ve also heard that organizations need to get a better sense of where to START when planning FLS. To that end, we developed a new webinar called “First Steps to Planning French Language Services”, and will release a resource on the same topic later this summer.

Planning to deliver FLS can seem overwhelming, particularly if your organization is new to working in French/with Francophone communities. One of the important overarching principles to keep in mind is that you can start small, and grow delivery of French services over time. It’s also critical to work closely with partner organizations (be they Anglophone, bilingual or Francophone) who have close relationships with Francophone communities and deliver services in French.

Keeping those two things in mind, here are a few of the necessary steps to keep in mind as you begin your FLS journey. These steps will be expanded on in our upcoming resource on this topic.

FLS Planning Graphic

First Steps in FLS Planning Slides | Recording

Helpful Resources from HC Link

This new resource, Getting Started With……Planning French Language Services lists all of HC Link’s existing resources on FLS and engaging and working with Francophones.

Helpful Resources from our Members and Partners

HR Support Kit: Pathway to Bilingual Services developed by Risfssso

Moving towards a bilingual organization developed by Health Nexus and Reflet Salveo

Ontario 400 Website celebrating 400 of Francophone presence in Ontario



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Webinar Recap- How to Engage Francophones – when you don’t speak French!

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link

For many people working in the areas of community-based planning, health promotion and healthy communities, we want to fully engage and work with all of the people who live, work and play in our community. When it comes to working with the Francophone community many feel that this can only be done if we are fluent in French. This week, Sylvie Boulet and I delivered a webinar, How to Engage Francophones- when you don't speak French, for the Physical Activity Resource Centre (PARC). A wide variety of physical activity promoters in Ontario attended the session- 78% of whom spoke a little or no French.

There are many reasons why organizations and groups would want to engage with Francophone communities and deliver services in French. Sometimes these reasons are legal ones or have to do with funding mandates. Most importantly however is to consider that if we want our programs, services and initiatives to improve the health of our communities we must consider the health status and needs of Francophones. Franco-Ontarians tend to have lower levels of self-reported health and feel less a part of their communities than their Anglophone counterparts. Franco-Ontarians are also more likely to eat fewer fruits vegetables and more likely to smoke and drink alcohol. There is clear evidence that Francophones who receive information, supports and services in French follow advice and instructions more closely and have fewer follow-up visits and re-admissions.

The reasons for engaging Francophones and delivering services in French are clear, but HOW to do it, particularly if your organization lacks French capacity, is a bit fuzzier. In our webinar and companion resource we lay out three easy steps to engage Francophones regardless of your French capacity.

Step One: Examine Your Motives: be very clear about the purpose and objectives for your engagement strategy, and also have a plan in place for what you will do with the results. The Francophone community tends to be over consulted, and it's not always clear if/how the resulting data is used.

Step Two: Understand Francophone Contexts in Ontario, your community and your organization: understand the history and contexts of the community as well as the history of your organization's past engagement strategies. This history may have an impact (positive or negative) on relationships and results.

Step Three: Find people to work with: For many of us who don't have the capacity or comfort to work in French, this step is really key. Are there colleagues in your organization or networks that have the capacity to liaise with communities in French? Also investigate existing networks and initiatives that you could partner with. Take the time to establish a trust relationship with new partners as well as with the communities themselves.

Have you experienced successes or challenges in engaging Francophone communities in your work? Please leave us a comment and tell us about it!

View webinar slides

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Webinar Recap - Health in All Policies: Ways to facilitate and model intersectoral collaboration

Andrea Bodkin, HC Link

This morning I co-presented a webinar with Kim Bergeron of Health Promotion Capacity Building at Public Health Ontario. We had a terrific crowd join us to talk about the importance of working intersectorally in a Health in All Policies approach.

I was excited about this topic for three reasons. Firstly it was great to work with Kim on this! Secondly, I think that the Health in All Policies approach is critical when we're looking at building healthy communities. So many of the policies that affect health lay outside of the health sector: everything from economic development, housing, transportation, education and many others impact the health of citizens and communities. Thirdly, it's for this very reason that we must work intersectorally: we must engage with the sectors outside of health who affect the policies that impact health.

Kim and I have been working in the areas of policy development and intersectoral collaboration for many years. When we started talking about some of the ways that facilitate this kind of collaboration, we decided to put them into a bit of a process or framework.


This isn't exactly a step-by-step process or map, rather it's a collection of the things that we've found to be important when working collaboratively. First of all, it's vital to get folks around the same table – whether it's a new or existing table, a real one or virtual one- just having everyone together creates opportunities for dialogue, synergy and collaboration. Using the Stakeholder Wheel can be helpful to identify who to bring to the table and in what capacity. In the course of those dialogues, develop a collective understanding of the problem or issue you are trying to address and potential solutions. From that, create a vision or goal statement capturing what you want to happen as a result of working together: what is the change that you want to see? I really like the exercise "1-2-4-all" from Liberating Structures as a way to create a collective vision. Creating a document to capture your collective understanding, vision, roles and responsibilities and scope of the project is an important way to ensure that all partners are on the same page and have committed to the project. A Terms of Reference or project charter can help. Tailoring key messages for particular audiences, including "what, so what, now what" and the actions that you want them to take is also important.

I'd love to hear your experiences of working intersectorally in the area of policy! What worked well for you? Did you experience challenges? What happened as a result of your collaboration? Use the comment box below to share your stories.


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Webinar Recap: Taking a bite out of HEAL policies

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link

This week we held the fourth-and last- webinar in our policy development webinar series. A group of very enthusiastic folks from Ottawa joined us to talk about their experience in implementing Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) guidelines in municipal daycare centres from start to finish: Helen Parker and Ellen Lakusiak from Ottawa Public Health, Ginette Perron from the City of Ottawa, and Fadi Chouhaibar, chef from Centre Educatif Beausoleil.

The impetus for the HEAL guidelines came from the municipality: they approached Ottawa Public Health for their support in developing and implementing the guidelines. The guidelines were developed under the guidance of a multi-disciplinary advisory committee informed by a literature review. The guidelines were then implemented in municipal daycare centres.

Often times, I think that we put a lot of energy into the development stage of policy development: identifying the policy issue, building community and stakeholder support, identifying policy options. This webinar focussed on the implementation of the guidelines: staff from Ottawa Public Health were seconded to provide support to daycare centres; a variety of training and sharing opportunities were held; parent engagement strategies used to garner support; a comprehensive evaluation plan identified changes made as a result of the policy; a sustainability plan was developed. It reminded me that getting a policy developed and adopted isn't the goal: getting it implemented is.

The presenters identified three main drivers for the successful implementation of the HEAL guidelines:

  1. The partnership between the municipality and public health: the municipality approached public health and asked for their participation in developing and implementing HEAL guidelines. Support for the guidelines within the child care centres was already there.
  2. Parents: a cornerstone of the implementation of the HEAL guidelines was open communication and sharing with parents through newsletters and conversations. Parents became engaged in what was happening at their child's centre: asking for recipes, sending in photos of their kids being active at home etc.
  3. Political will

The HEAL guidelines have been successfully implemented in all municipal child care centres in Ottawa. Next, Ottawa Public Health hopes to implement the guidelines in community centres and has their eye on home-based centres as well!

To learn more, check out the recording and slides from this webinar.

Review resources from previous policy development webinars.

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Happy World Toilet Day!

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link

I will readily and proudly admit that I am a bit of a public health geek. And of the things that I get most geeky about is public sanitation. Clean water and toilets. I have always been passionate about this issue, but became even more so when I travelled in India. There is nothing like a little trip to India to make you appreciate sanitation. My second day of my first trip in India I saw local people dumping their garbage in the Ganges: Mother Ganga, the holiest river in India is a garbage can.

toilet blog picture 1
Mother Ganga in Rishikesh, India, taken by Andrea Bodkin

One of the highlights of my second trip was my visit to the International Toilet Museum, which along with an interesting collection of western-style toilets from around the world, has a display of various toilet systems that can be installed in rural India. Fascinating!

toilet blog picture 2

toilet blog picture 3
Sulabh International Toilet Musem, Delhi, India, taken by Andrea Bodkin

World Toilet Day was this week (yes this is a thing, and yes despite my aforementioned love of the topic I missed it) so in honour of it, here are a few facts:

  • Sanitation is widely regarded as one of the most important accomplishments in public health. The ancient Roman viaducts are often referred to as the world first public health intervention.
  • 40% of the world's population does not have access to toilets, and 15% of the world's population practices open defecation.
  • In 2013, 1000 children died every day from diarrhoeal diseases as a result of poor sanitation.
  • Lack of sanitation impacts girls' educations: many girls miss out on school because of the lack of clean and safe water and toilets.
  • Lack of sanitation has economic impacts in time, productivity and health costs. It's estimated that every $1 spent on water and sanitation generates a return of $8.

If you're curious about sanitation, its effect on health, and what needs to be done about it, check out (yes it's a thing!) and listen to this 17 minute podcast from the BBC on World Toilet Day

And above all, appreciate the water from your tap, your clean bathroom and flushing toilet. In this world it is a privilege not to be taken for granted.


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Webinar Recap: Working with Elected Officials: Tools and Techniques

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Coordinator

This afternoon I moderated the 3rd in our series of 4 webinars on the topic of policy development. Since municipal elections were held all across Ontario this week, what better topic than building relationships with elected officials?

I was joined by Nicole Niedra-Boirdi from Niagara Region Public Health, my colleague at HC Link Gillian Kranias, and Krista Long and Sara Haalboon from Waterloo's Food Spaces, Vibrant Spaces campaign. Our speakers discussed two important- and closely linked- concepts: identifying the priorities of municipalities and elected officials; and using storytelling as a way to engage them.

First off, Nicole shared a variety of tools that Healthy Living Niagara has developed to identify how the priorities of the region/municipality intersect with its priorities. Mapping out the municipalities' strategic plan, analyzing minutes of past council meetings and mapping media coverage are a part of this process. This information can be used to identify common goals, identify potential partners, frame issues and identify gaps/unique needs.

Next, Gillian, Krista and Sara shared their experiences with using storytelling and public narrative in Waterloo. Their campaign, around community gardens, food access and farmer's markets, had a website, social media campaign and outreach events, but a cornerstone was on using volunteers in each ward to meet with candidates running in that ward. Volunteers were trained in storytelling to bring their personal approach to the issue- alleviating the fear that many volunteers had that they were not "experts". By speaking from their experience, the conversation between the volunteers and candidates was opened up, allowing candidates to connect with what the volunteer was saying. Candidates could see how the issue of community gardens aligned with their platform issues of community building, safe spaces and elder care.

I am a political junkie- I love politics. I will admit though that the 10 month long municipal election campaign exhausted me! Today's webinar energized me, and made me think about what I can do as a private citizen (not just a health promoter) to bring the issues that I care about forward to my local council.

If you'd like to learn more- check out the slides and recording from the webinar!

You can also view the slides and recordings from Part 1 and Part 2 of the policy development webinar series.


Building Community Policy Tools on Healthy Living Niagara's Website:

Food Spaces, Vibrant Spaces WR Website:

HC Link's online Policy Learning Community:

HC Link's February 2014 Peer Sharing session Engaging the Power of Story:

Marshall Ganz (Harvard University) articles and media clips about storytelling and the Public Narrative approach are on his website:

How Storytelling Affects the Brain:

Pamela Rutledge (University of California and Fielding Graduate University) article in Psychology Today:

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Webinar Recap: Working with Municipalities- Stories from the field

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Consultant

This week I moderated the second webinar in HC Link's Policy Webinar Series: Working with Municipalities- Stories from the field. As the title would suggest, the focus of the webinar was to discuss strategies and techniques for working with municipal staff. In addition to Paul Young from HC Link, we had 3 terrific community members share their stories: Jean Montgomery, a community volunteer from Haldimand-Norfolk; Melanie Davis from the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit, and Janet Dawson from the Peterborough County-City Health Unit. The inspiration for this webinar came from a workshop in North Bay in November 2012 on the topic.

There were several themes that emerged throughout today's webinar that are important to keep in mind with working with municipalities (or for that matter, working with a sector other than your own). In no particular order:

  • Do your research: know what it is the municipality/partner does, how they are structured, what their mandate is. Be familiar with the legislation and documents that they deal with/produce, such as official plans etc
  • Educate: you can't assume that the municipality/partner knows what you do! Be prepared to make them aware of the role that you can play within their mandate or work.
  • Build relationships with individuals: have conversations, coffee, lunch with key people that you will need to know and work with
  • Identify win-wins: be clear about common ground where you can each get what you want. Also identify how you can help them: for example many municipalities find it challenging to engage their communities whereas it's in the mandate of public health to do so.
  • Leverage volunteers: volunteers who are not attached to a particular agency may have more freedom/latitude to build relationships
  • Say thank you and congratulations: it might seem very simple, but acknowledgement can go a long way. Take every opportunity to congratulate staff on their accomplishments and say thank you for a job well done.
  • Be persistent, be patient and don't give up!

Resources mentioned in today's webinar:

Communities and Local Government: Working Together. This resource manual from the Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition is designed to assist local government and healthy community groups in working more effectively together.

Public Health and Land Use Planning: How ten public health units are working to create healthy and sustainable communities. This report examines the ways in which ten public health units in Ontario are working to influence land use and transportation planning processes to help create healthy and sustainable communities.


The Association of Municipalities of Ontario

The Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities

Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing

Federation of Canadian Municipalities

Where to go to from here:

New to policy work? Check out our "Getting Started with Policy" resource to learn more about policy and how HC Link can help you with your policy development efforts.

Check out the recording and handout from the first webinar in our policy series.

Check out slides and handouts from this webinar.

Join HC Link's Policy Learning Community.


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Announcing the Re-Launch of the Policy for Healthy Communities Learning Community!

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Coordinator

Just over a year ago, HC Link launched the Policy for Healthy Communities learning community. The Learning Community (LC) brings together community-based individuals, groups and networks that are working to develop, change and implement local policies for healthy communities. Since the launch, the LC has grown to over 122 members. More than 70 items have been posted on a variety of topics, such as news, events, questions and discussions.

With the first year of the LC under our belts, we wanted to take some time over the summer to find out how members were experiencing the community, what members liked and didn’t like about it, and what members want our of their community. With the help of MPH practicum student Louisa Pires, we conducted a brief literature scan, several key informant interviews, and a member survey.

Based on what we’ve learned, we’re making several exciting changes to the Learning Community.

The first is we are moving to a new platform! Ning is an add-free social networking site with more functionality. We’ve also added two important new features to the online platform:

  • Webwatch: Our Policy Webwatch scours the internet looking for policy related items on news sites, social media, journals and organizations that work in policy. Our Webwatch has several sources right now, and we’ll add to them as time goes on.
  • Think Tanks: we have two “Think Tanks” on the Ning site, one on food security and one on active transportation. Members can sign up for the Think Tanks, which will have discussion forums etc related to the two specific topics. The community-at-large will be more policy process oriented.

We hope that you will consider joining the Learning Community, and will pass along this information to your colleagues working in policy.

Learn more about the Learning Community in this 3 minute video.

Get an online tour of the new platform in this 3 minute video.

And to join the community, visit

We hope to see you on the new platform soon!

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Speaking Out For Change

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Coordinator

Once again I have tasked myself, as regular blog readers will know, with the task of trying to capture an entire conference into a single blog post. In this case, the AOHC/alPHa joint conference, Prevent More to Treat Less, which brings together public and community health professionals. I have at least learned that not only is this difficult for me, but likely dull for you to read a catch-all post with a laundry list of themes.

AOHC conferenceImage from:

So, in this post I'm going to focus on a panel session that I just attended called "Speaking Out For Change: Health service providers and advocacy". Lori Kleinsmith and Rhonda Baron (Bridges CHC), Hazel Stewart (Toronto Public Health) and Monika Dutt (Cape Breton District Health Authority) have some excellent advice for those working to spread their message at the local level:

  • Consider a whole spectrum of activities, ranging from a quiet conversation to speaking out loudly. Advocacy is a dance with steps forward, back and sideways. Your commitment to the issue is what keeps it alive.
  • Working in partnership and engaging communities is critical. Never stop talking and never stop looking for ears to listen to you.
  • Data and evidence is important, but you need to know what the numbers mean, how to use them, and to combine data with stories of those with lived experience.
  • That being said, if you don't have data, don't stop advocating! If someone wants to know what the evidence is and you don't have it, be willing to say so and ask "how can we support you in getting the evidence you need?"
  • Working with the media is important. They are a way to get your stories out. You need to know how to pitch to them, to set up a healthy tension for debate.
  • There are some risks to advocacy. Consider what you do very carefully. Don't not do it- just think carefully. If the risk is too great for you, can you work collaboratively to find someone who can do it for you.

It was a truly inspirational session. I'll close with a couple of quotes from Hazel Stewart: "You'll never experience success without failure" and "Never give up. Keep talking. Find an ear to listen to you".

For more on the conference, check out the conference hashtag on twitter (you don't need an account to see it). You can also read my post on the Health Nexus blog.

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The World Is Your Co-Op

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link

I heard the most amazing speaker today. He also happens to have the most awesome job title I've ever heard: Community Choreographer.

I'm talking about Dave Meslin, and he was the community choreographer for the Nutrition Resource Centre (NRC)'s workshop on food policy.

Now I love policy. I aspire to be a true policy wonk one day. The thought of sitting around all day talking about policy gets me pretty excited. But what the workshop was really about for me was empowerment. It was about the opportunities that we, as folks who work in non-profits and in the health promotion and healthy communities sectors, have to give a voice to people who don't always have one.

Now that gets me even MORE excited than policy does. As Dave says, we would live in a better world if people had a voice.

In my sector- health promotion and healthy communities- we talk about bad policy a lot. We talk about it in the context of policy that's not informed by evidence (or contradicts evidence), about policies that create or support health inequities etc. Dave argues that bad policy comes from a vacuum of non-engagement. When the people affected by the policy are not involved in the process, bad policy is the result. When only industry and political interests form policy, bad policy is the result. The community voice provides a balance, and provides the best ideas of how to make the issue or situation better.

And the even bigger problem, how do we get people to the table? How do you get your message out there? Dave suggested being creative. And maybe a little crazy. For instance, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first pedestrian death due to a motorized vehicle, activists obtained a car and buried it. Literally dug a hole, put the car in it and held a funeral. To bring attention to the 1700 deaths in Toronto associated with smog, activists collected 1700 posters done be people affected by smog, printed them on coloured paper and installed them- like an art installation- on clotheslines in a local park. And in both of those cases, there was a LOT of media presence. The media, Dave says, needs us more than we need them. They need content. We need to give them content in innovative ways (preferably that includes photo ops) that they'll pick up.There are, Dave says, no rules to communications. Except that you should break all of the rules.

There are, Dave says, four steps in journeying citizens from their passive roles to more active ones. Citizens need confidence: that their opinion matters, that they can create change. They need tools: a diagram to be shown how policy and politics works. They need to believe in malleability: that change is possible. And they need to be part of the collective ownership that is this work. The world, Dave says, is a co-op, and everyone is a shareholder.

I could have listened to Dave Meslin's stories about activism and engagement and crazy ideas ALL day. And I hope to have another opportunity to do so very soon!

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A Penny For Your Tweets: a Twitter Chat on policy basics

HC Link’s bi-annual conference, Linking For Healthy Communities: Collaborating for Change is in less than three weeks!  I am super excited for the conference, which I think (in my slightly biased opinion) will be a great one. image of a Canadian penny

One of the things that I’m really looking forward to is displaying my policy wonk side: I’m coordinating the policy stream at this year’s conference. Public Health Ontario will be presenting a workshop on developing municipal by-laws, I’m presenting a workshop on de-mystifying policy, and I’m also hosting a talk-show style panel featuring three fabulous women who are doing amazing local work in policy.

As part of our pre-conference activities, I’m hosting this month’s Health Promotion Twitter Chat (#HealthPromoChat) on the topic of policy basics. I hope that you can all join me on Tuesday October 29th from 3-4 pm to share your thoughts and ideas about policy work.

For those of you who have never participated in a Twitter Chat before, I’ll post a series of questions at #HealthPromoChat and participants post their responses quoting the hashtage (here’s a great post on Twitter Chats and how to participate

A Twitter Chat is really about generating a conversation, sharing ideas and back and forth discussion.

In this chat, I’d like to explore:
•    How you define, define and “sell” policy to your community and stakeholders
•    What barriers you’ve experienced in your policy work, and how you’ve overcome them
•    What policy resources you’ve found helpful

I hope to see you on Twitter on Tuesday! I’m looking forward to a great discussion.

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HC Link Community Survey: we want to hear from you!

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link

Our main priority at HC Link is to develop services that meet the needs of our clients. In order to do that- we need to know what our clients' needs are. We do this in a variety of ways, such as telephone interviews, focus groups and online surveys. This year we are conducting an online Community Survey via Fluid Survey and we'd really love to hear from you!

The survey will only take about 15-20 minutes to complete, and will provide us will valuable information about you, your organization, your work, and the challenges you face. We'd also like to hear from you about how we can best support your work. Even if you have never been involved with HC Link before, we are interested in hearing from you. We'd love it if you could share this opportunity to complete the survey with your colleagues and partners. The more folks we hear from, the better sense we'll get of how we can support you.

We know that you are busy, so to show our appreciation we will have a draw for a free registration to HC Link's 2013 provincial conference, Linking for Healthy Communities: Collaborating for Change, to be held at the Novotel Toronto Centre on November 12 and 13. You will find out more information about the conference and the draw once you have completed the survey. Click here to start the survey! And thanks for your help.

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An Introduction to Access to Recreation Policy

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link

There is a growing body of work that documents the health, social and economic benefits that affordable access to recreation can provide. According to this evidence, accessible recreation contributes to healthy communities by providing physical and psycho-social benefits, breaking the cycle of poverty, and being a wise financial investment.

In order to increase access, policies must address the factors and determinants that prevent community members from accessing recreation opportunities. These barriers can be grouped into two overarching categories as depicted below.


Policies to improve access to recreation can take two fundamental approaches:

Affordable access policies – these include funding programs, placing programs in locations where low-income people have access.
Universally accessible programs – core programming that is available to all free of charge.

Components of policy strategies should consider community access to community space, targeted community outreach/engagement, as well as community-based partnerships and collaboration.

There are many examples of municipal policies in Ontario that address access to recreation. Here are a few of them:

City of Mississauga
Mississauga has an ActiveAssist fee assistance program. Fees for the city's recreation programs are calculated based on cost-recovery at 80% attendance. The remaining 20% of spaces are held for fee subsidies. Subsidies are provided on a "charge card". The program is funded by the municipality with other non-profits contributing.

City of Ajax
Ajax's policy document is very comprehensive and includes: using census data to design programs according to need; universal programs; financial assistance up to 50% for recreation programs according to LICO; seeking partners for universal programs as well as funding for affordable recreation programs; training for staff on the policy; as well as monitoring and evaluation.

Township of Rideau lakes
Rideau Lakes formed a task group to identify how to move forward on access to recreation policies. The task force created an inventory of low/no cost programs. The Township later adopted a formal policy and continues to promote low/no cost opportunities. Partnerships with the municipality, public health and community agencies have been a key to their success.

Township of Beckwith
Four neighbouring municipalities joined forces and developed a plan to share access and costs of their recreation facilities. They hired an actuary to develop an agreement where all four municipalities contribute to the capital and maintenance costs of all recreation facilities based on distance of residents to facilities, operating costs, etc.

How has your community successfully dealt with access to recreation? Join the conversation and share your story!


Tools and Resources on Affordable Access to Recreation Policy

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Webinar Recap- Finders Keepers: Hiring and Retaining Bilingual Staff

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Coordinator

Recently Estelle Duchon and I gave a webinar on recruiting and retaining Bilingual and French speaking staff. This webinar is third in our French Language Services Capacity Building series. Having already focused on engaging Francophones communities- even if you don't speak French, and creating a bilingual organizational culture, we turned our attention to the tricky challenge of finding, hiring and keeping bilingual and French speaking staff.

Like many things in life, recruitment and retention isn't something that you can address in isolation: it's part of a complex web of interdependent factors. Factors such as including FLS in your strategic plan, developing an HR strategy, developing a bilingual organizational culture and delivering French Language Services. A comprehensive strategy is needed, addressing all of these components.

Once you are in a position to recruit bilingual staff, it's important to assess your needs to determine what skills and experience you need, advertise the position in French as well as in English, and to assess the competency of candidates. Many think that actually hiring bilingual staff is the hard part: but as much care needs to be taken to keep them in your organization. Building an environment where working bilingually is supported, and creating/maintaining a bilingual organizational culture is critical.

Estelle and I will be delivering this webinar in French in October, and then we'll be releasing a resource on this topic. In the meantime, we'd love to hear your experiences in recruiting and retaining bilingual staff. What challenges did you experiences? How did you overcome them? What tips do you have in terms of offering a supportive workplace?


Presentation slides
Assessing working conditions for bilingual staff worksheet
Webinar recording

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A new support for local policy work: HC Link’s Learning Community!

I'm excited to announce that HC Link is launching its very first Learning Community (LC) today! Policy for Healthy Communities brings together those working across the province on local policy initiatives. Whether you're just beginning to work in policy or if you've been involved in a variety of policy work, this community is for you!

Policy for Healthy Communities has several components. We have an online space, with discussion boards for asking questions, sharing ideas and resources. We'll be developing a Learning Community Charter and a variety of learning and networking events and resources to meet the needs of the community. Most importantly, we have the people in the community itself. People, just like you, who are working locally to build support, develop and implement policies to make your community a healthy place to live, work, learn and play. The LC is chance for you to share your work- your experiences, your questions, your learnings- with others.

I can't wait to see and hear what folks on working on! I hope that you'll join me, and others in Ontario, in this community. To learn more and to sign up, please visit

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Increasing access to recreation opportunities: Peer Sharing Session Recap

This morning, HC Link, in partnership with Parks and Recreation (PRO) and the Physical Activity Resource Centre (PARC), hosted a peer sharing session on access to recreation. Peer sharing sessions are an opportunity for practitioners to share their own knowledge and experiences in an informal, conversation setting. Jeff Khol from HC Link, Diane English from PRO and Jennifer Wilson from PARC were the facilitators for this morning's session. We were joined by 20 participants from across Ontario, working in the fields of recreation, public and community health.

To get the ball rolling, participants were asked to share a success, highlight or peak experience involving a policy or program to increase access to recreation. We heard some terrific stories about municipalities that have adopted access to recreation policies, created programming in rural and remote areas, and considered access to recreation opportunities in their official plans.

Next, participants shared challenges and barriers that they face and had an opportunity to ask how others have addressed similar challenges. A challenge that many are facing is around transportation particularly in rural and small communities. One community's successful strategy to address this was to take recreation programs into the community by delivering courses in churches and centres in small towns and hamlets, alleviating the transportation barrier. Another suggestion was to connect with town/municipal clerks to investigate if van transportation is available. They may be opportunities to leverage existing resources, such as local service clubs vehicles, school buses and accessibility vehicles.

We also had a spirited discussion about policy: how the very word itself can be a barrier; how some municipalities may not be ready to consider active transportation or recreation master plans and lack of political will.
Succession planning and sustainability are issues that we also discussed as a vital element in the sustainability of access to recreation programs. Maintaining the momentum and planning for staff and volunteer turnover is essential to ensuring the long-term success of programs, policies, and initiatives. One thing to consider in succession planning is what type of setting you're planning for. The difference between planning for staff and for volunteer sustainability requires two very different approaches. There are resources available that provide information on the value and how to's of ongoing succession planning .

Now we'd love to hear from you! Could you share with us a success or highlight from your work with increasing access to recreation? Do you have any resources that you would like to share that you've found particularly helpful?

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Twitter Chat Recap: How to Engage Francophones when you don’t speak French!

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Coordinator

As frequent blog readers and followers of HC Link will know, we've done lots of work over the past few years on how Anglophone organizations and non-French speakers can work with Francophones. Today, we hosted a Twitter chat on the monthly #healthpromochat on the very topic.

A small but mighty group of tweeps joined in the discussion. As 140 characters can be limiting (one of my colleagues likes to joke that she doesn't speak Twitter) I thought we could continue the discussion here on our blog.

Today we discussed three questions. We started with the big one: How DO you engage Francophones when you don't speak French?

Having someone within your organization/group that does speak French can be helpful, no doubt about it. But don't let a lack of French capacity get in your way. A great tactic is to reach out to local community groups and organizations who do work in French. Work your networks!

Question 2: How did you find Francophone organizations/partners to work with? What strategies worked for you? Link with your French Language Services Network. Check your local blue book, your LHIN website, Addiction and Mental Health Networks. One participant suggested that having written materials in French is very helpful. We discussed having French resources – often we tend to think about "What materials should we have in French?" One suggestion was to flip that around and ask instead "What materials should NOT be in French?"

Last question: based on your experience, what advice do you have for folks who are seeking to engage Francophones? From my own experience, I have to say that my advice is to dive in and don't be afraid. While it's important to be sensitive, to understand Francophone communities and their contexts, really don't let language hold you back. Another suggestion was to be open about why and how you are engaging Francophones. Let people know your intentions so that they don't have to wonder.

We'd love to hear about your experiences with engaging Francophone communities. Please use the comment box below to post your ideas (you can include your name, or let it be anonymous!).

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Webinar Recap: How to develop a bilingual organizational culture

Last month, as part of the supports and resources that we offer on working with Francophones and Francophone communities, HC Link hosted two webinars, one in English and one in French, on creating a bilingual organizational culture.

The English webinar, presented on November 20th, was developed for those who work in primarily English-speaking environments and organizations who have little experience in working in French. Much of the information in the webinar comes from a resource that HC Link developed a couple of years ago, Work Together with Francophones in Ontario. We also had four organizations that have succeeded in building bilingual organization cultures share their experiences, and we had terrific participation from webinar participants.
When I was developing the content for this webinar, I struggled a little bit with understanding the relationship between an organization delivering French Language Services (FLS) and having a bilingual organizational culture. I was clear on the benefits of providing services in French – aside from legislative obligations, Francophones who receive services in French tend to follow health advice/instructions more closely and stay healthier. But what role does a bilingual organizational culture play in the organization's ability to effectively deliver services in French? Firstly, having a culture that supports French language and French culture will build the French capacity of the organization, therefore allowing it to deliver more services in French. An organization which supports bilingualism will also gain credibility with the Francophone community and build strong and trusting relationships with Francophone communities. An organizational culture which values participation of Francophones and Anglophones, where the needs and reasons to move in that direction are understood and one which respects Francophone culture and processes are critical in building that trust.

One point that garnered a lot of discussion amongst the webinar participants was that the francophone community is not just about French language, but about culture. One participant remarked that "language is only a way of communicating, culture is for me something that we have in common and we understand each other in our slang and way of doing things".

If you missed the webinar but are interested in the topic, you can view the slides or recording. We will also be creating a resource, in both languages, on creating a maintaining a bilingual organization culture, which will be available in the new year.

Do you have any successful strategies or discussion points you'd like to share? Use the comment box below. We'd love to hear your thoughts!

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