Guest Post by Kristin Berfelz, of the Physical Activity Resource Centre (PARC)
On Thursday November 26th, 2015 PARC (the Physical Activity Resource Centre) joined several community members from Kirkland Lake and surrounding area to discuss making active living the easy choice for everyone in the North end of Timiskaming district. The Timiskaming Health Unit hosted the event which was attended by community members of various ages, recreation staff, the local project manager for the Healthy Kids Community Challenge, local First Nations representatives, health unit staff, and even the mayor. Lisa Tolentino from HC Link facilitated the event using a technique called Open Space, which promotes open sharing and solution-based problem solving.
We started off the day getting to know who was there and then looked at some recent health data from the community (and surrounding area). Looking at where the community is and what they have was a great jumping off point to the discussion on where they want to go. A graphic tool used to facilitate the activity was a mural where attendees listed the assets that the community currently has (e.g. infrastructure, services, etc.), and the ones they would like to have. This ensured that everyone was on the same page for the day.
The group began by identifying the topics of greatest interest in the community related to physical activity and then broke into small groups to discuss barriers to physical activity opportunities, engaging the community (including those who aren’t currently active), and promoting what’s already available in Kirkland Lake. Each group discussed their topic, how to measure it, what the causes are, what options are available to address it and who the potential partners could be. After this information was gathered, a high level action plan was created to determine what can be done within the next 3-6 months to move forward on the solution(s).
Often in this field, we are encouraged to engage a variety of partners and this event was a testament to the value of doing so. Relationships were developed for future partnerships and outside of the box solutions were brainstormed by community members. For example, discussions around awareness of what is currently available sparked the idea of having a community notice board for anything from physical activity events and outings to garage sales. Having such a wide range of community members partake in the day was both motivating and enriching.
PARC was pleased to have the chance to lead this energetic and committed group in a couple of physical activity breaks to help boost creativity, and of course add a little more fun to the day!
Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of this day of solution focused sharing!