LEDlab Sunsets and Celebrates with Our Community Partners
On June 14th we had the pleasure of gathering with our community partners for one last time to reflect on and celebrate the collaborative work that we have shaped together in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside over the past 3.5 years. The Sunset Celebration also served as a ceremony to formally close the LEDlab.
Community partners, organizations, municipal staff, funders, lab student alumni and supporters joined us to remember and celebrate key moments, people and pivot points along our shared journey, listen to stories about the emergent visions of community leaders, and to collectively set intentions for the future.
We were honoured to have Vanessa Richards, Director of Community Engagement at 312 Main, facilitate the event. Building on the metaphor of the tree, we were asked to remember the seeds and roots of our work (histories, context, initial community supporters, funders), the trunk (our collective projects over the years) and the fruits of our labour (successes and impacts).
Program Manager, Kiri Bird, as well as a few of our attendees shared their stories and their thoughts on where we are going as a community in the DTES. Speakers were asked to respond to the questions: Where there is appetite for change? What feels possible and ripe with momentum? A few patterns emerged from this discussion:
Working relations are changing
- The boundaries between the terms community worker and a peer worker are being redefined as we strive to include more people with lived experience in community leadership roles.
- DTES residents with lived experience of poverty are being recognized not just for their stories, but also for their knowledge, expertise, and professional skills particularly around community organizing, building networks, and marketing (for example, with the Binners’ Project and Eastside Works).
- DTES residents are being invited onto boards of organizations and into wider discussions about organizational strategy (for example, through the The DTES Neighbourhood House Let’s Speak Up program)
It’s an exciting time in the DTES for positive impact to continue to happen
- There is alignment at the federal, provincial, and municipal levels of government to address poverty. Issues and discussions around housing, employment, health, affordability and the social determinants of health are converging to better understand the factors that influence economic opportunities from a wider perspective. Employment is being recognized as more than just making money, but also the opportunity to get connect with and contribute to your community and neighbourhood. The government’s definition of work is changing.
- There is new energy in the community. Young people from the neighbourhood and beyond are seeking ways to contribute to address the needs and desires of the DTES community. There’s a listening for what is useful.
- There are more tangible community innovation hubs, such as 312 Main and Eastside Works, that are creating new spaces and enthusiasm to connect with others and to experiment and try new things.
Looking ahead, there are ample opportunities for the DTES community to continue on in the spirit of the lab to weave networks, build partnerships, think systemically, and put tangible projects on the ground. 312 Main, Eastside Works, and Carnegie Centre in particular will serve as critical hubs to achieve these goals.
One final reflection from our event was the recognition of the importance of building relationships, not just in a professional or organizational context, but between the individuals who work so closely together in this community. Participants in the Sunset Celebration were invited to join in a final song together, before ceremoniously casting tree seeds over a busy downtown street from above. The invitation of this gathering was to remember that we sometimes need to enter a different type of space to relate to each other in new ways, let go of old habits, and co-create new realities.
We are immensely grateful for all the individuals and organizations that have made our work possible. Without you the LEDlab would not have beared fruit. In closing, we hope to have left fertile ground for new seeds to grow.
Thank you to Lani Braun for capturing beautiful photos at the Sunset Celebration.