Public parks as engines of community engagement and social revitalization

A new report from the Canadian non-profit organization, Park People, is titled Sparking Change.

It explores the social impacts of communities in underserved neighbourhoods becoming involved in animating and improving their local park, and identifies common strategies taken by both community members and partner organizations to support this work.

The report tells the story of communities that have taken action through spearheading improvements, engaging diverse community members, and organizing events and activities that draw people into the park—a process refered to as park engagement.

Through interviews with community volunteers, partner organizations, and city staff in seven different North American cities, including Toronto, the report highlights five major social impacts of park engagement.

Through stories, lessons, and strategies, the report explores how park engagement can:

  • Create a sense of change and shared ownership;
  • Build confidence and inspire civic leaders;
  • Reduce social isolation and create inclusive communities;
  • Provide a place for diverse people to gather;
  • Support local economic development.

Sparking Change is based on a thorough review of academic literature exploring social and community impacts of parks, green spaces, and volunteering, with a specific focus on research based in underserved neighbourhoods, including areas with high populations of newcomers and people living on lower incomes.

While the report contains much of this research, we also developed a separate literature review for those interested in reading a survey of the academic literature on the subject.

See more about Sparking Change.

Download full Sparking Change report (PDF).

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