Community hub
Left to right: Karen Pitre, Special Advisor to the Premier on Community Hubs, Diane Dyson, WoodGreen and Cathy Dandy, CAFE committee member

WoodGreen-led partnership working to transform Ontario schools into community hubs

Innovative spaces would offer wrap-around health & social supports

Last spring, more than 100 people representing 18 municipalities, 5 provincial ministries, 12 school boards and a variety of leaders from community and provincial councils and organizations gathered for a one day symposium to discuss how to turn Ontario’s public schools into Community Hubs, delivering a variety of health and social services to communities.

The symposium was convened through a Spark Grant from the Heart & Stroke Foundation to WoodGreen to support Community Assets for Everyone (CAFE), an advocacy effort with a vision of creating the appropriate legislative, political and infrastructure environments to strengthen the health of Ontario communities and support Ontario's community hubs.

"We had been talking for a long time about how community hubs are a good idea. Everyone agreed. So we wanted to talk about how to build them across the province," said Diane Dyson, WoodGreen’s Director of Research and Public Policy. "As a neighbourhood centre, we’ve seen the difference it makes when you only have to walk through one door to get the services you need. Community hubs, like WoodGreen, a local library or a school, work because they are nearby and they belong to people."

For too long, this work has relied on the efforts of local heroes. What we have a chance to do now is to create a whole system change to support hubs across the province.

–Diane Dyson, Director, Public Policy & Research, WoodGreen
May 1st symposium attended by 100 people representing: 18 municipalities 5 provincial ministries 12 school boards and leaders from a
variety of councils

The CAFE symposium put forth some key recommendations from the delegates including a citizen-focused vision of service delivery, partner collaboration, provincial leadership, legislative changes and flexibility to support and enable community driven solutions. "But what it really did is demonstrate the broad-based support for the province to take action," Dyson said.

In March 2015, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne responded, announcing the creation of The Community Hub Framework Advisory Committee. According to the Province, "The advisory group will review provincial policies and develop a framework for adapting existing public assets to become community hubs. Delivering coordinated public services through community hubs will ensure these services better meet the needs of children, youth and seniors."

Karen Pitre, one of CAFE's own steering committee members, was appointed as the Special Advisor to the Premier on Community Hubs. WoodGreen switched gears, and joined the provincial effort as the community partner, developing and writing up the "case proof" for community hubs. The Advisory Committee's new framework for wider action rolls out in fall 2015.