CURRENT RESEARCH PROJECTS
Planning as if Diversity Matters: Toward a Community-based Process for Engaging Newcomers in Land-use Planning
This SSHRC*-funded research project responds to urgent needs to engage the public in community-based planning processes appropriate for, and accessible to, newcomers, namely ethno-cultural minorities who have recently immigrated to Canada. In so doing, it unites the fields of immigration and diversity with urban planning and policy by engaging newcomers in a participatory dialogue about their new surroundings. The purpose of this study is to (1) understand and appreciate how newcomers "read" the urban landscape(s) within their adopted community, (2) assess the potential of stories and storytelling to facilitate social learning among newcomers, planners, and policymakers; and (3) explore the application of a community-based model of land-use planning with an important constituency traditionally underrepresented in the planning process.
Remarkably, few tools are available to land-use planners to facilitate meaningful discourse on public values related to landscape change. Unfortunately, town hall meetings and citizen surveys fail to reach everyone. Overcoming barriers to participation is, therefore, crucial to inclusive, collaborative planning. Newcomers, in particular, infrequently participate in traditional planning methods. This lack of engagement is untenable given the current makeup of Canada where nearly 20% of its population is foreign-born and 1.1 million newcomers arrived between 2001 and 2006. How can planners sensitively and meaningfully reach newcomers and do justice to their cultural values and needs?
As Canadian cities become increasingly multicultural and diverse, scholars have called upon the planning profession to recognize social, cultural, and ethnic differences and learn and work with these ethno-cultural communities to advance diversity. To the profession's credit, it has responded with multicultural planning practices (MPP). These practices, however, have been largely reactive. Planners, proponents of diversity argue, need proactive approaches if Canadian cities are to establish themselves as "welcoming communities." At issue is how planners can enable newcomers to be community builders in their adopted cities.
As a first step, Burayidi (2003) encouraged planners to explore both the "real" and the "symbolic" meanings attached by ethno-cultural groups to the environment. Collecting stories are one way to get at these meanings, for stories have transformative possibilities. That is, they have the potential to build a common culture of shared understandings among newcomers whose voices are missing from planning discourse, while simultaneously taking on the status quo, which is challenged through the effective depiction of difference. Thus, sharing stories is critical to forwarding MPP.
Methods tied to collecting, sharing, and learning from the stories of newcomer experiences are especially useful to land-use planners in recognizing, legitimizing, and valuing multicultural perspectives on city life. Therefore, a community-based model of land-use planning will be advanced by utilizing a variety of novel techniques that encourage newcomers to engage in a critical "reading" of the urban Canadian landscape. Participants will document the ways they have come to engage space in their new community by using video footage, audio files, and/or photographs, all used by participants to tell their settlement stories. Once the stories have been crafted and discussed them with the research team, participants will take part in a civic discovery forum, a citizen-centred assembly, during which their settlement stories will be presented to each other, local planners, policymakers, and members of the public. This and other strategies for knowledge transfer and exchange have the potential to reach a diverse audience of practitioners, academics, and citizens because of the social relevance of the topic.
Cyber Mommies: The Roles of Online Social Networking Sites in Mothers' Sphere of Sociability
This SSHRC*-funded study explores the roles of online social networking in the development of social capital for mothers. Motherhood is one of the most important transitions in a woman’s life. Social support is critical to a women’s transition to motherhood, yet demographic research reveals a reduction in informal social networks during this experience. The internet has potential to connect geographically heterogeneous mothers who may have no prior acquaintance and to create a community of caring and information-sharing (Ley, 2007). Indeed, previous research demonstrates online social networking sites are important sources of social capital for mothers.
Social capital is the consequence of investment in and cultivation of social relationships allowing an individual access to resources that would otherwise be unavailable. There is a growing recognition of the role of the internet in building relationships, but the literature is largely silent on how social capital formation occurs when online and offline connections are closely coupled. Innovations in online social networking sites, including technologies such as photo sharing, user uploaded videos, and user-driven network development, suggest online forms of “getting together” are vital for social capital development.
Given that the overwhelming majority of Canadian women can expect to undergo the transition to motherhood at least once in their lives, online social networking sites warrant investigation, particularly with their potential to reduce social isolation for mothers. This research project addresses this gap by studying members of a local chapter of Momstown.ca. Described as “Facebook for moms,” this social networking site provides a way for mothers to interact virtually with the potential to build an online community of interest. The specific objectives of this project are to (1) explore the ways a social networking site reduces social isolation through the development of a sense of community and connectedness for mothers; (2) understand how social capital formed among mothers through social networking sites affects women’s experiences with motherhood and quality of life, both positively and negatively; and (3) work with Momstown.ca to build greater capacity for understanding how online social networking and social capital development impacts upon women’s experiences with motherhood.
This study builds upon the existing collaboration involving Diana Parry, the principal investigator, Troy Glover, and Caitlin Mulcahy. Phase one of the research is twofold. First, semi-structured interviews are being conducted with members of Momstown.ca to explore mothers' involvement with the site. Second, daily threads (when a member submits a post and multiple responses are posted by other members) are being analyzed. Phase two of the study involves a series of intimate focus groups with members of Momstown.ca to solicit feedback on the findings and to gain additional insights. Phase three of the study brings together the founders and interested members of Momstown.ca, together with other community groups that cater to mothers to share the knowledge gained, solicit feedback on our findings, and generate future dissemination and implementation ideas.
The Canadian Summer Camp Research Project
Though there is ample anecdotal evidence and an intuitive understanding among the summer camp community that children benefit from the summer camp experience, there is little empirical evidence to back up this claim. Accordingly, recent studies have begun to examine the impact of summer camp experiences on children’s development. These studies have found camp to be a supportive environment for positive youth development, having reported camper growth in areas such as independence, friendship, autonomy, self-confidence. In the emerging field of youth development camping research, further exploration into the level of impact camp can have on different campers is needed. The Canadian Summer Camp Project, supported by the Canadian Camping Association, was initiated to evaluate and explore the potential benefits gained by children and adolescents who attend Canadian summer camps. The project is a collaborative study involving Troy Glover (Principal Investigator), Amy Chapeskie (Research Assistant), Roger Mannell (Co-PI), and Steven Mock (Co-PI). For Phase 1 of this study, sixty-five Canadian camp directors were interviewed about the benefits they see campers gaining through camp participation. Key benefits of the summer camp experience identified by camp directors included social development (e.g., social integration and social support) and personal development (e.g., self-awareness and confidence). In Phase 2, during the summer camp season, camp counsellors reported on current campers’ social and personal development, attitudes, and behaviours at the beginning and the end of a camp session. For Phase 3, behavioural changes exhibited by campers after they return home from camp will be examined to measure the degree to which outcomes and benefits transfer after the experience itself has ended. A report of the findings for phase one and two can be found at this link.
Page last updated on 2011-12-15
* SSHRC refers to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, a federal funding body in Canada.