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Fernwood Engulfed in Storm of Ideas!

›› Lisa Matthaus


n Saturday, March 19th, Fernwoodians sought refuge from a world of troubling news, turning instead to a world of possibilities right here in their own neighbourhood. Over one hundred friends and neighbours, residents and business people gathered in the Fernwood Community Centre to share their hopes and visions for Fernwood. They generated an astonishing number of concrete ideas to make it happen. “Ideas were hailing down fast and furious,” said Josh Schmidt, Sustainability and Volunteer Coordinator with Fernwood Neighbourhood Resources Group (FNRG), which hosted the event. “Good thing we had graffiti walls and feedback forms to capture them before they got away!” Participants engaged in three rounds of café-style conversation on the cultural, environmental and

economic aspects of our neighbourhood. Recurring themes across the cafés included: • Creating a supportive environment for local businesses and skills, such as a local business association, a directory of businesses and skills, resources for co-ops and social enterprises, mentoring networks, and facilitation of neighbourhood bartering system. • Food! Encouraging more local gardens and boulevard transformations, revitalizing and expanding the farmers’ market, and establishing a cooperative commercial kitchen for local caterers and food producers. • Affordable housing – participants repeatedly raised the need for more low-cost housing to keep the neighbourhood vibrant and welcoming to a range of residents.

Many participants also voiced a desire to maintain the friendly, independent and small-scale nature of the current commercial and residential mix in the neighbourhood.

There’s an enormous amount of great ideas to work with, and Fernwood NRG staff will be wading through it all over the next weeks to bring some order to them. These ideas will help shape the new strategic plan that’s going to be developed by the Fernwood NRG Board over the next few months. Watch the next issue of the Village Vibe for more details on the outcomes of the day, and next steps. Thanks to everyone who came out to engage in the conversation about how to make our favourite neighbourhood that much better. We look forward to seeing the visions we co-created turn into reality!

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Perspectives from an attendee ›› Tanner Oscapella


s a relatively new resident of Fernwood I had no idea what to expect from the Neighbourhood Visioning Forum. With coffee and croissant in hand, I began the day by moving through the various business kiosks at the event setup in a traditional ‘trade show’ format. I was enjoying the details of the Urban Village and Community Mapping initiative when a racket took my attention away.

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Only in Fernwood would a lovely tin-pot and acoustic guitar Beatles cover alert us to the ‘press conference’ down below in the gymnasium. This was a fitting way to end the warm up and start the real show. In front of a large turnout, Fernwood NRG Executive Director Lee Herrin spoke directly, asking us to bring Fernwood our dreams. The floor was then handed over to Peter, an able facilitator. One of Peter’s themes in his remarks, bringing the global down to the local, appeared to pull the whole meeting into this grandiose historical narrative. His academic journey into the meaning of words, such as revolution (revolving, never ending) or conversation (to dance together), furthered the idea that we were a part of a larger, shared community. We were then asked to move to well decorated and

colour-themed tables, set up into three sections each focusing on a specific type of issue: Cafe Verde (Environment), Cafe Cultura (Society) and Cafe Prospero (Economy). I grabbed my fourth cup of joe and sat down with three other strangers. All of a sudden it hit me: what do I actually want in Fernwood? Compared to other neighbourhood’s in Victoria, I had fallen into complacency by all that Fernwood had to offer; the recent addition of a grocery store had settled my largest community complaint. But then I realized that food security was still a big issue, and that a local general practitioner would be quite useful, and that a beer and wine store was on a few other people’s minds as well... and all of a sudden we had more ideas than three 20 minute conversations could hold. Luckily, a trusted ‘Table-Host’ got everything

down. Still, the most common theme throughout the discussions was someone discovering that their idea was already in place. This was wonderful, but it also showed that communication was still a big issue even in such a small neighbourhood. Breaking for lunch, things flowed nicely out of the cafe conversations, emboldening people to sit down and chat with more strangers. Representatives of each Cafe then attempted synthesize all of the issues in a ‘Talk Show’ on stage in front of the now-seated audience. Although helpful for summarizing, this proved difficult in expressing all of the nuanced ideas pouring out of the audience. Not by chance, large swathes of blank paper had been posted up on the walls to help with this problem. People had filled the sheets of paper, affectionately named ‘graffiti walls,’

with ideas for Fernwood’s future. Every attendee was then given three red dots, each counting as one vote, to place near an idea of their choosing: ‘dot-mocracy,’ as it was called. As people eagerly placed their votes and wound their way out of the Fernwood Community Centre, the day came to an end. Only now in retrospect do I see how well organized the whole operation was. Attendants to clear tables, ample portions of good food, note-takers ensuring our discussions weren’t lost in the heat of the moment, a simple ‘dot-mocratic’ mechanism and quaint music cues for the audience quietly kept the event on course. Such organization and enthusiasm seems to be contagious, as I left eagerly awaiting my next opportunity to dive right back into my newly shared community! 2011 Neighbourhood Visioning Forum  page 3

A BIG thank you to all those who volunteered their time and energy to make the Visioning Forum a success!


Peter Norman of Challenge Education Associates


Brock Haug

Tony Nelson

Caitlin Davies

Zoë Eakle

Geoff Cross

Paula DeBeck

Kelsey Singbeil

Lauren Warbeck

Lisa Matthaus

Madi MacRae

Matt Takach

Roving Minstrels

Nancy MacGregor

Dylan Moher

Sarah Amyot

“Timmy James”

Tania Wegwitz

Sound Technician & DJ

Mark Ednie Videographer

Corinne Innes Staff

Angie Nolan Ayleen Larsen Cheyenne Arnason Fiona Bongarts Josh Schmidt Kate Naugler Lee Herrin Lenore Rankin Maia Anstey Mila Czemerys Sponsors

Capital Iron Victoria Times-Colonist Garside Signs

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April 2010 Insert - Neighbourhood Visioning Forum  

Fernwood's neighbourhood newspaper.

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