the cities issue Partnerships for Better Cities
UTSC’s Susannah Bunce and Malcolm Campbell use research in community building by Dana Yates
As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. And as Susannah Bunce and Malcolm Campbell are proving, it takes a village to raise a neighbourhood out of decline.
Bunce and Campbell are both researchers at the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) — she’s a professor in the Department of Human Geography’s City Studies Program and he’s a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences as well as UTSC’s vice-principal,research.They, along with others, are among the leaders of a project to renew and reinvigorate the Kingston Galloway/Orton Park (KGO) region in Scarborough. One of 13 “priority neighbourhoods” across Toronto, KGO is facing many complex and vitality- draining challenges of modern urban life, including poverty and the widespread decampment of residents and businesses.
As KGO fights the deterioration of its physical and social infrastructure, Bunce and Campbell have launched a partnership between UTSC and the community group East Scarborough Storefront (ESS) to build on existing community revitalization efforts. The overall goal of the partnership: to strengthen the KGO neighbourhood, improve residents’ quality of life and create a sense of belonging in the community.
“We want people to see KGO as home, not just a transient space,” says Bunce. On that note, the UTSC-ESS collaboration, which has received funding from the United Way and the Galin Foundation, has spurred a number of progres- sive initiatives for KGO community members, including several educational and recreational programs. Additionally, through hands-on learning and volunteer work with local charities and service agencies, UTSC students are gaining a nuanced view of everyday realities in underserved neigh- bourhoods. From there, students’ resulting feelings of engagement and compassion are serving them well as they conduct research on issues of importance to community residents and organizations, including housing, public transit and green space.
“This is about more than giving back. It’s about understanding communities,” says Bunce. Indeed, with support from CERIS/The Ontario Metropolis Centre, she has studied housing and newcomer settlement issues within KGO.
It’s not just the local community, however, that benefits from the myriad programs, activities and research initiatives of the UTSC-ESS partnership,says Campbell.The relation- ship not only enables the university as a whole to demonstrate its ongoing commitment to the surrounding community, but it will also help lessons learned locally to be applied in future partnerships with other communities across the city, country and world.
“Collaborating hand-in-hand with our neighbourhood partners,we conduct the research and create the social innovations that positively transform communities,” says Campbell.