Guest Blog: United Way, Community Hub Initiative!

Our guest blog this week comes from our friends at United Way of Calgary! Today we have Andrea Wall, the Project Manager of the Community Hubs Initiative tellling ys about her experience with the United Way and her initiative and involvement with the Community Hub. Scroll, read and enjoy :) 


Let's dive into it!

Hi! Welcome. Oki. Tansi. Thanks for dropping by. Can I get you a coffee? Have you met ___? Grab a seat and settle in to your community living room. Sign up for a class. Bring the kids or grandkids. Practice a language. Meet friends. Read a book or play some cards. Apply for a community grant. Join a cooking collective. Organize an event with your neighbours. Borrow a tool or some toys. 

Whatever brought you here today, what matters is that you belong. We all do. 

Welcome to your local Community Hub. 

What made the best community you’ve ever lived in? 
When I talk about Community Hubs with prospective donors and partners, I ask this question, and the responses are pretty universal. “I knew my neighbours, my kids played with their friends after school, I felt safe, there was lots of green space and parks, the schools are good, I walk to the grocery store (or pub!) … I felt like I belonged.” 

Having places where all Calgarians feel like they belong - regardless of gender, age, ethno-cultural background and socioeconomic status - is really important.

When you think about it, places where the concept of loitering doesn’t exist, that you don’t need a membership to walk into, and where you don’t have to pay to stay (think coffee shops) are actually pretty rare. (Libraries being an important exception!) 

This sense of belonging is about more than physical spaces. Last fall, over 200 community members helped update the outdoor mural at the Village Square Leisure Centre. Nestled among words like Harmony and Connecting, the mural now includes pictures of a dreamcatcher, a person in a wheelchair, and a man wearing a turban. A local Sikh resident told us that this image marked the first time in over 20 years in Canada that he’d seen his culture reflected in public art. Representation matters.

No Calgarian should feel excluded or disadvantaged because of where they live. 

It’s a reality that the community we live in impacts the kinds of chances we have in life. Research shows that living in neighbourhoods with high levels of poverty can negatively impact life expectancy, physical and mental health, early childhood development, and overall quality of life. 

Every day more than 128,000 Calgarians, 1 in 10 of us, struggle to make ends meet and this poverty is clustered in certain neighbourhoods where closer to 1 in 4 residents live in poverty. Enough for All, Calgary’s poverty reduction strategy, recommends Community Hubs as a key strategy that will contribute to strong neighbourhoods.

Working with residents and dozens of community partners across a variety of sectors, United Way, The City of Calgary, and Rotary are in our first year of a project to prototype and activate Community Hubs in six dynamic and diverse locations: Bowness, Crossroads, Greater Forest Lawn, Sunalta, Village Square, and North of McKnight.

 It’s really important to us that residents are engaged at all stages of the design and development of this project. Each of these communities has different demographics and priorities and their Hubs will reflect this based on the leadership and input from local residents.

So what makes a Community Hub?

In addition to building a sense of belonging (social inclusion), Community Hubs can increase economic participation and also ensure that Calgarians can access the social programs and supports they need, where and when they need them.

As our city developed, social services concentrated on the downtown core and were often open during business hours only. It’s a natural evolution for these services to begin to move outwards into the communities where most of us live.

Removing transportation barriers of cost and time, providing more convenient hours for needed services (like counselling, language classes, peer support groups or Food Bank depot access), and offering child-care are just some of the many ways Community Hubs can support families and residents across our city.

Towards a resilient and caring community where everyone thrives.

We’re just getting started, but I’m already excited about the potential scale of this project. By testing different Hub models, we are seeking to understand and share back the key elements of community spaces that build on the strengths of residents and better meet their needs. 

Imagine a city where our public spaces are welcoming and inclusive, social inclusion and economic participation is increased, and our communities are vibrant and strong.

That’s a city I want to live in and I’m honoured to get to work among so many people and organizations working across sectors to get us there.

To join the conversation about this and other Community Hubs projects in Calgary, follow along at #yycHubs, join us at Enough for All’s Community Hubs by Design event on November 21st, or visit our website for more info.

Andrea Wall is the Project Manager of the Community Hubs Initiative, a tri-party partnership between The City of Calgary, Rotary, and United Way of Calgary and Area to prototype and activate six unique Community Hubs across Calgary by 2021.

Find her on Twitter @andrearwall or



Tune in next week to see what we have on the blog! If you or someone you know would like to be a guest blogger on our blog drop us a line! Chat at chaaa next week Canada - stay local!