Entries in Policy Forum (5)

Wednesday
May202015

Connecting the dots for a better #Ptbo continues...  

Connecting the dots for a better community was a goal of the Chamber’s Young Professionals Group Policy Forum in November 2014.  In fact the topics and discussion at the seven roundtables turned into a seven week series in this space.  But that wasn’t the end of pushing the results of those discussions into the hands of the decision makers.  In April, the Chamber Policy Committee decided to group like results and send the information to municipal leaders in the form of a letter.  A letter was also sent to the non-profit sector with information about a suggestion to harness the power of the numerous not-for-profits in the area and form a not-for-profit network.  It is our understanding that work on this idea has already begun and we hope the
information offered from the policy forum will be beneficial.

At the forum, there were seven table discussions based on an article by Don Tapscott, Chancellor of Trent
University, best-selling author, economist and thought leader.  The article “As Toronto dithers, Guelph sets sights on 21st century” was first published in the Toronto Star on Friday, October 17, 2014.

The article detailed seven ways municipal leaders can create an engaging relationship with their community.  

  1. Promoting Entrepreneurship to Achieve Prosperity
  2. Open Government
  3. Turning Public Safety Inside Out
  4. Rethinking Transportation
  5. Creating a Sustainable City
  6. Transforming Social Services
  7. Reinventing Local Democracy

The letters to the City and County of Peterborough made several key points.  The first key point was to inform municipal leaders at the elected and staff levels of the discussion by about 45 business leaders in the community.  The second key point was to offer tangible ideas that could push the agenda of a better, more efficient community forward.  

  1. Zoning. A review of zoning in the City of Peterborough & County of Peterborough to determine if uses reflect the current realities of our economy and needs of the community
  2. Posting the Councillor Handbook Online as a resource for all residents
  3. Encouraging continued use of working groups on issues affecting business (e.g. Electronic Sign By-law Group)
  4. Introducing a Service Peterborough Call Centre similar to the service offered in other municipalities such as Oshawa.  This creates a “no wrong door” atmosphere for business owners and residents
  5. Holding Town Halls with residents and business leaders.  There has been positive activity in this regard:  there was a ward meeting on Thursday, March 26, 2015 in the Northcrest area and Mayor Bennett has encouraged councillors to host such forums.   
  6. Lighting.  The table discussion around Public Safety came to the conclusion that lighting areas where crimes could possibly happen would be a deterrent to potential crime and a comfort to those with a negative perception of downtown.  
  7. Real-time Transit Stop Arrival.  By moving to this type of model with dedicated times, the group discussing transportation felt it would encourage more casual use and increase confidence in the service as a whole.
  8. Connecting to rural bus services.  With the Peterborough area having a large rural component the group felt integrating rural systems and stops into Peterborough transit will build ridership and equity of transportation options for residents looking to come into the city and those needing to attend in rural areas.

This was the third year for the policy forum for the Chamber’s Young Professionals Group.  The first year discussion centered on the downtown core, and in year two the discussion was around un- and under employment in the Greater Peterborough Area.  The discussion from year two led to a call for a regional jobs strategy, a notion that has struck a chord with the Chamber and its community partners on the economic front.    

This year the Young Professionals Group is developing the first annual “Strengthening Business Summit” to
be held on November 19, 2015.  The theme for the half day summit is “Re-energize your business” and will feature two main speakers and four workshop/panel discussions.   Stay tuned for more information on speakers and tickets in the coming months.  

The Young Professionals Group has been a part of the Peterborough Chamber for eight years and hosts a
variety of programming from networking events to CEO tours of local companies.  Find out more at www.peterboroughchamber.ca/young-professionals-group.html 

Comment through the "Peterborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn. 

Wednesday
Jan142015

Policy Forum 2014: Collaborating for Social Services Success

The strongest theme to emerge from Policy Forum 2014: Connecting the Dots is that groups have to work in collaboration with each other. This theme was an underlying current at the table discussing Transforming Social Services. 

The policy forum was hosted by the Young Professionals Group (YPG) of the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. It was based on an article by best-selling author, economist, thought leader and current Chancellor of Trent University, Don Tapscott. The article called “As Toronto dithers, Guelph sets sights on 21st century” was first published in the Toronto Star on Friday, October 17, 2014. Seven key areas for improving a community were identified: 

  1. Promoting Entrepreneurship to Achieve Prosperity 
  2. Open Government 
  3. Turning Public Safety Inside Out 
  4. Rethinking Transportation 
  5. Creating a Sustainable City 
  6. Transforming Social Services 
  7. Reinventing Local Democracy 

So far in this seven-part series we have revealed the table discussions on entrepreneurship, open government and reinventing local democracy. Entrepreneurship wrapped up with a call for a coordinated strategy. Having an official strategy would allow all interest groups to map out the united front on entrepreneurship the community wants to present to its own residents, the province and beyond. 

Open government revealed six recommendations in total including two quick wins:1.Putting the councillor handbook online as a guide to government for all residents and 2. Using external language vs. internal language to communicate better with residents and businesses. 

The discussion around reinventing local democracy led to a call for community-building activities, such as a parallel council and highlighting Peterborough’s community areas to continue to engage all residents. 

The group at the table discussing public safety came to the conclusion that when it comes to this issue everyone in the community has a role to play. 

Transforming Social Services 

Lynn Zimmer, Executive Director of the YWCA was the table lead for the discussion on transforming our social services. 

The group identified the following as currently happening in Peterborough: 

 

  • Data sharing/ measurement/ evaluation/proof of outcomes by various organizations which then leads to streamlined & priority based funding 
  • Collaboration between organizations and joint community projects and committees on a variety of issues, from employment to housing and homelessness (Vital Signs, Who Works Where in Peterborough, the 10 year Homelessness and Housing Plan, The Social Planning Council’s Living Wage White Paper) 
  • The Community Foundation of Greater Peterborough is seen as an asset though it is still in its infancy 
  • Increase in core funding 
  • Change in United Way funding – they are not sure if this will be positive or negative 
  • One-stop shopping program once a week for services at the YWCA 
  • Progress for various groups: Peterborough Council on Aging, The Mount development 
  • With an aging/aged population the need for services is increasing and there needs to be a focus on this particular demographic 

 

As a result of their discussion around the current situation, the group came up with one quick win, three short term goals and three longer term goals. 

Quick Win 

The Peterborough Volunteer 
According to the 2014 Vital Signs document which brought together 30 community groups, including the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, Peterborough has a high rate of volunteerism at 51.9% compared to Ontario (47.7%) and Canada (47%). So the numbers show people are the power in Peterborough. The group discussing the issue felt there were best practices we could learn from each other to harness and efficiently utilize the giving spirit. They also wondered about a coordinated volunteer management system for the entire city. 

Short-term Goals 

Amalgamation and Networking of Organizations 
This was a theme that was common throughout the table discussion. In his original article Chancellor Tapscott wrote about the Guelph Wellbeing Leadership Group. This group is made up of 22 community leaders from different sectors, agencies and stakeholders within that city. Through this group they are able to pool resources inside and outside government to find solutions. 

This coordinated approach could fuel best practices, recording the experiences of those who have retired from the sector. 

With the current culture of making every penny count, pooling resources would save time and effort and make more efficient use of the taxpayer dollars that go to these services. 

Communicating About the Non-Profit Sector 
Getting the word out about the services available, the volunteer opportunities and the difference these groups are making in the lives of Peterborough’s most vulnerable residents. 

Tapping into Expertise 
The group felt that there is an untapped wealth of knowledge about the social services and non-profit sector in our senior population. They feel that starting an intergenerational conversation could lead to new opportunities and ideas. 

Long-term Goals 

Transportation 
This issue was identified as the most important long term goal, in that an effective, efficient and safe transportation system is needed for clients and employees. The group identified that the more transportation available the more accessible services would be. 

The group came away with a similar conclusion as the policy forum attendees discussing the need for a coordinated strategy to help develop entrepreneurs in Peterborough. Taking a “we’re all in this together approach” to social services could lead to a “Peterborough Wellbeing Leadership Group”, and with the dedicated volunteers in the city and county it sounds like a winning combination. 

Comment through the "Peterborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn.

Tuesday
Dec162014

Policy Forum 2014: celebrating community to reinvent local democracy

A recent discussion about “Reinventing Local Democracy” at Policy Forum 2014: Connecting the Dots suggests that we should energize democracy through community building.  The discussion participants were participating in the policy forum hosted by the Young Professionals Group (YPG) of the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce with about 45 business and community leaders.  The event was held November 27th at the Holiday Inn Waterfront Peterborough.

The policy forum was based on an article by best-selling author, economist, thought leader and current Chancellor of Trent University, Don Tapscott. The article called “As Toronto dithers, Guelph sets sights on 21st century” was first published in the Toronto Star on Friday, October 17, 2014.  It identifies seven key areas for improving a community: 

  • Promoting Entrepreneurship to Achieve Prosperity 
  • Open Government
  • Turning Public Safety Inside Out
  • Rethinking Transportation 
  • Creating a Sustainable City
  • Transforming Social Services
  • Reinventing Local Democracy

So far in this series we have revealed the table discussions on entrepreneurship and open government. Entrepreneurship wrapped up with a call for a coordinated strategy.  Having an official strategy would allow all interest groups to map out a united front on entrepreneurship the community can present to its own residents, the province and beyond. 

Open government made six recommendations in total including two quick wins: 1. Putting the councillor
handbook online as a guide to government for all residents and 2. Use external language vs. internal language to communicate better with residents and businesses. 

Reinventing Local Democracy

The table participants lead by newly-elected councillor Diane Therrien identified the following concerns as
barriers to municipal politics: 

  • a lackluster attitude toward voting and some issues; 
  • trust in government officials 
  • the balance of representation on city council

The group felt the best chance for success was through exercises that engage the community and that build up community spirit. They felt that democracy is about being active – active physically and mentally in the community and identified the following opportunities for Peterborough: 

  1. Parallel council 
    This mock council would be made up of people reflecting all ages and segments of our community and would make “decisions” on the same issues as the elected council.  
  2. Youth
    Taking any and all opportunities to encourage young people to find and pursue jobs and/or careers that are in demand in Peterborough.   
  3. International Students 
    More encouragement and programs to keep Trent University and Fleming College international students in Peterborough 
  4. Continued community dialogue
    This can happen in a variety of ways, according to the group:
    Town Halls: Mayor Daryl Bennett encouraged councillors to take up these kinds of initiatives in his inaugural address to the 2014-2018 council on December 1, 2014.
  • Council meetings outside of council chambers
  • Referendums 
  • Social Media

5. Areas to promote: Trail system, waterway and public square

The table participants felt that continued promotion of these public areas increases a sense of community and the end result of which is a community more in tune and engaged in its local government.

In the article by Chancellor Tapscott he wraps up the “Reinventing Local Democracy” section with a suggestion to move from an “us vs. them” relationship to “we’re in this together.” Interestingly enough, it’s a sentiment gaining ground in Peterborough City and County Councils, and community and business associations such as the Chamber of Commerce as we head into 2015. In the Chamber world, we lobby governments for improvements to the business climate municipally, provincially and federally. To do this we find strength in being the collective voice for our member businesses.  Peterborough, City and County, it seems that the time is ripe for collaboration and energizing democracy in the Peterborough area. 

Comment through the “Peterborough Chamber” group of LinkedIn

Thursday
Dec112014

Policy Forum 2014: Cultivating a culture of openness with City Hall

Communication and accessibility are the hallmarks of “Open Government”. Many of the ideas from participants of a round table discussion on the issue focused on communication and accessibility. The discussion was part of a policy forum hosted by the Young Professionals Group of the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. About 45 people brainstormed ideas about how to improve the city and county of Peterborough. Sure it’s a conversation that many have had before - that on some level we have every day, however there is inherent value in continuing to communicate ideas that focus on improving this region. It’s a way to hash out older ideas and develop new ideas. 

The policy forum was based on an article by best-selling author, economist, thought leader and current Chancellor of Trent University, Don Tapscott. The article called “As Toronto dithers, Guelph sets sights on 21st century” was first published in the Toronto Star on Friday, October 17, 2014. It identifies seven key areas for improving a community: 

  1. Promoting Entrepreneurship to Achieve Prosperity 
  2. Open Government 
  3. Turning Public Safety Inside Out 
  4. Rethinking Transportation 
  5. Creating a Sustainable City 
  6. Transforming Social Services 
  7. Reinventing Local Democracy 

In the first article of this series entrepreneurship was the focus and it ended with a call for a coordinated strategy. Having an official strategy would allow all interest groups to map out the united front on entrepreneurship the community wants to present to its own residents, the province and beyond. 

In this article, the topic discussed in broader detail will be Open Government. Communication and accessibility are key parts to improving on what is currently happening in Peterborough and taking advantage of opportunities as they arise. 

Open Government 

Successful communication of information both outward to the residents and businesses of the community and inward to the city staff and councillors, as well as, the expectations of communication between the two groups is imperative to achieve a true culture of openness. The culture of openness also depends on accessibility – making it easier to interact with City Hall on all levels. 

The discussions led by Jason Stabler, Coordinator of the Peterborough Partnership Council on Immigrant Integration (PPCII) identified that already there are some avenues to reach into the municipal government. 

There is a lot of information online at the City of Peterborough’s website, but it’s not always easy to find. As an example there is a lot of geographical information such as details about specific properties. 

The Peterborough-Lakefield Police Service website, which will be the Peterborough Police Service starting in 2015, has crime information about specific neighbourhoods. 

The Peterborough City and County Health Unit has information about restaurants and health issues. 

There are opportunities for residents and special interest groups to present at council meetings, there is live tweeting of council meetings, and there have been Twitter Town Halls on social media. 

So given what is currently happening in Peterborough, the group moved on to discuss the opportunities for Peterborough. Some “Quick Wins” were identified: 

  1. Put the new councillor handbook online. It is a powerful tool to communicate how local government works on a basic level as well as how policies are developed and the role of staff and council. This is a tool the City of Guelph has used and feels it has been a successful in creating the Open Government feel. 
  2. Use external language vs. internal language. Websites tend to use language that has specific meaning to the people inside the organization. The challenge is to use language that appeals to the organization’s audience. The group felt the City could improve the website to be more user-friendly by featuring more external language vs. internal language. For example, a resident may look for their garbage/ recycling pick up information on the city website not their waste management schedule or use “Starting a Business” instead of “Economic Development”. Subtle changes in language can go a long way to further opening the lines of communication. 

The table also discussed a number of “Short-term Goals”: 

  1. Access the current talent pool in Peterborough. City staff is often looking to other communities for best practices on various issues, which are then presented to council. The group felt that reaching into the community to access more of this knowledge would be helpful as well. One example the Chamber can add to this point features the Electronic Sign By-law. The city and business owners have been working together on creating the guidelines for Peterborough. The more this type of dialogue can happen, the more citizen engagement and participation will occur. 
  2. Service Peterborough. This could be a call centre/service desk that offers a no wrong door approach. The caller/resident is easily given the information/person they need. This type of service is available in a number of municipalities including Oshawa. It is packaged as a one-stop shop for City Hall information.  

Two “Long-term Goals” were also presented: 

  1. Creation of an idea bank. Online forum where the City, residents and/ or businesses can float ideas on any given issue. This bank would be similar to a focus group and could also be used to gauge the general feel of the community on priority projects. 
  2. Just-in-time communications. Residents could sign up to receive emails specific to their interests with regard to the City. For example, road information such as crews have just been called to this area for repairs, please use an alternative route. This can also apply to weather conditions affecting City operations. Currently, the media and website are used as outlets, and this would be another way to get information into the hands of residents. 

It would seem this discussion happened at an opportune time as Mayor Daryl Bennett committed to a number of open government directives in his inaugural speech of the 2014-2018 council term. These included: 

  • Encouraging councillors to hold meetings in their wards 
  • Live-streaming of all committee meetings 

The six items above must have the support of councillors and staff, and the implemented suggestions would have to be carried about by councillors and staff. However, this doesn’t mean that residents and business owners don’t also have a role. Communication cannot happen in a vacuum. It truly is a two- way street. For all that we ask the City to communicate with us, yes; they do need to pump a lot of information through a multitude of channels, as residents and business owners we must also be active participants in community engagement. We have to access the information that is offered and let City Hall know we have accessed that information. 

The cumulative effect of all of these suggestions is to demystify City Hall, to make it even more approachable, to eliminate the perceived barriers and to create a community wholly engaged in its municipal matters at all times, not just at times of contention. 

Comment through the "Peterborough Chamber" group of LinkedIn.

Wednesday
Dec032014

Policy Forum 2014: Creating a cohesive culture of entrepreneurial success

How to channel the energy of a group of people dedicated to their community is the challenge we face in Peterborough.  There is no doubt of the existing enthusiasm and passion for Peterborough.  A recent forum held by the Young Professionals Group (YPG) of the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce with 45 business and community leaders proved that fact.  The group drew the conclusion that the main goal of forums such as this is to bring some or many of the ideas to fruition.  

The forum, held at the Holiday Inn Peterborough Waterfront, was based on a Don Tapscott article published in the Toronto Star on Friday, October 17, 2014.  In the article Tapscott, who is also the Chancellor of Trent University, a best-selling author and considered one of the leading thought leaders in the World, identified seven key areas to improve the functionality of a municipality.  Those areas are: 

  1. Promoting Entrepreneurship to Achieve Prosperity 
  2. Open Government
  3. Turning Public Safety Inside Out
  4. Rethinking Transportation 
  5. Creating a Sustainable City
  6. Transforming Social Services
  7. Reinventing Local Democracy

Each table at the YPG Policy Forum consisted of six or seven people including a table lead to guide discussion. Each table wrote down their ideas and then presented them to the entire room. There was also opportunity for some overall comments before closing for the evening.  Over the next several weeks we’ll detail those discussions for you, identify what is currently happening in those seven areas and opportunities for action.  

This is a fluid political time in Peterborough’s history with a new term of city and county council getting underway, a recent provincial election that saw the province move from a minority government to a majority government, and a general election slated for next year that will see the number of ridings increase across the country, including several new ones for the Peterborough area.  

From an economic standpoint, this is a geographical area evolving from more than a century of large manufacturing to a community that has a more diverse economic base with a more advanced manufacturing core.  As a community, we are also working to decipher employment patterns that have emerged showing a 6% swing in unemployment rates from spring to fall each year.  While one can rightly question the accuracy
of the numbers, Chamber community partner, Peterborough Economic Development (PED) has identified through their strategic planning process that one possible way to temper the unemployment rate swing is to focus and foster a culture of entrepreneurship.  It makes sense, as the entrepreneurial spirit is the backbone of Peterborough and all the other communities in Ontario.  It is the backbone of the Chamber of Commerce, which gives those entrepreneurs a voice to government and their communities.  Economists across the country, including those at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, have identified that the majority of job creation in the next five years is going to happen through companies with five employees or less.  

With an eye on entrepreneurship, here is what came of the roundtable discussion with table lead, local entrepreneur and PED Board Member Michael Skinner.  

Four trends surfaced during this discussion:

  1. Attitude
  2. Collaboration
  3. Youth 
  4. Servicing Entrepreneurs

Attitude:  

The community must realize that the chance of a large company descending on Peterborough with hundreds of jobs waiting to be filled is not likely to happen. From this realization, the attitude of the entire area can then focus on entrepreneurship. The group also identified a need for a more positive attitude to partnering with other groups to breakdown silos, and the willingness to change and adapt to the times. Ultimately, the group reiterated the call that fostering entrepreneurship can lead to solutions for economic challenges.

Collaboration: 

The group revealed that next week there will be a youth entrepreneurship funding announcement for Trent & Fleming.  The Cube at the Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster (GPIC) is connecting resources at Trent, within the community through the Peterborough Region Angel Network (PRAN) and established businesses and budding entrepreneurs.  The group identified the need for better connection between MPs and MPPs and business, and between agencies with any ties to the entrepreneurial world. 

To that point, the Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce is currently starting the planning process for a Business Summit in 2015 with a focus on the entrepreneur.  

Youth: 

From their notes the group has identified this demographic as a resource to be tapped.  Not only will there be the funding announcement mentioned above, but through a dedicated effort to encouraging entrepreneurship there is opportunity to have Trent and Fleming students choose Peterborough to start their business instead of taking their education and leaving the area.  There is more opportunity for mentoring, more opportunity for groups such as Junior Achievement (JA) to reach into high schools and infuse students of all ages with the entrepreneurial bug.  Trent University has also included youth entrepreneurship as a pillar of its strategic plan.  With Fleming College and Trent University both looking to attract international students, the Conference Board of Canada study that shows Peterborough has the highest number of immigrant entrepreneurs in the county is a valuable resource to use as a draw to schools and the Peterborough area. 

Servicing Entrepreneurs:

To create this culture of entrepreneurship the table discussion zeroed in on the importance of centralizing all information related to the sector.  They agree it could be a virtual space, a physical space, a combination or both.  They would like to see a centralized calendar for networking and mentoring events as they believe networking and mentoring are “essential to the entrepreneurial formula.” Centralization of the many planning documents that would affect a person looking to start a business was also on the minds of the group. The current host of plans is available on the City of Peterborough website at the following address: http://www.peterborough.ca/Business/Studies.htm. The group would also like to see more encouragement of entrepreneurs in all areas of Peterborough, from downtown to the Lansdowne and Chemong business corridors. They identified the Bears' Lair competition as a program that is currently highlighting new and budding entrepreneurs.  The Community Futures Development Corporation (CFDC) was also identified as a resource for entrepreneurs to tap into. 

Interestingly enough, the end vision on entrepreneurship has deep roots in what is currently happening in the Peterborough area. We are seeing collaboration between many of the groups mentioned (the Chamber, Trent, Fleming, PED, GPIC, Junior Achievement, CFDC), however, the time is right for a more coordinated and defined strategy - a strategy that presents a united front, reinforcing the commitment to entrepreneurship success.   

Next week: Open Government and Reinventing Local Democracy.  

Comment through the “Peterborough Chamber” group of LinkedIn.