Resident Action Grants
Neighbourhoods are stronger when people feel a sense of belonging in their community. Healthy people have friends and family they can rely on and they know where to turn for support when they need it. We know from neighbourhoods that do well that these informal connections and networks can make all the difference in a community.
United Way Toronto’s Resident Action Grants are small pools of money that support resident-led, grassroots projects that address the concerns of the local community. They provide a way for residents to shape activities in their neighbourhood and be a part of local solutions, and they’re proof that a small investment can make a big difference. More important than the programs themselves, Resident Action Grants offer residents valuable opportunities to get to know the people in their neighbourhood and to feel a part of the community, sometimes for the very first time. Out of the sewing clubs and community gardens have grown lasting connections and friendships between residents. Through the safety audits, park clean-ups and beautifications projects, we’ve seen Resident Action Grants foster local leadership and encourage people to come together to better their neighbourhoods. They also help build the networks that are crucial to community change by introducing residents to local service providers, community agencies and government.
A look at past support: Community Development Planning Grants
In 2004, United Way Toronto released Poverty by Postal Code, a report that documented dramatic growth in poverty in Toronto’s inner suburban neighbourhoods, and relatively little service provision and infrastructure for people in those neighbourhoods. After its release, United Way Toronto carried out a series of community consultations to build on the learning from the report. In response, Community Development Planning Grants were targeted to the inner suburbs in Toronto that were not a part of the 13 Priority Neighbourhoods identified by the Strong Neighbourhoods Task Force (inner suburbs are defined as the former municipalities of East York, York, North York, Etobicoke and Scarborough).
From the introduction of Community Development Planning Grants, United Way Toronto recognized that local residents living in these inner suburbs needed to play a central role in leading and shaping the futures of their neighbourhoods. Neighbourhood change was to be a bottom-up process led by the people who live and/or work in the communities, and who have a long-term vested interest in what happens in their neighbourhoods.
As a result of this initiative, in 2007 Community Development Planning Grants allocated $264,693 to seven United Way Toronto member agencies for the 2008 calendar year. Three projects were in the former City of York, one on the border of East York and Scarborough, and one each in Etobicoke, Scarborough and East York. All seven 2007 Grant recipients got together in the summer of 2008 to share their experiences of the initial phase of their project implementation, and to learn about potential support from United Way Toronto. Staff from United Way Toronto’s Community Investment Unit, Organizational Capacity Building Unit, Action for Neighbourhood Change (ANC), and research teams were present to provide information on possible resource linkages and connections. The outcome was that in the 2009 fiscal year, a total of six projects were approved—one planning and five seed grants for a total community investment of $300,000.