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About ANC

Action for Neighbourhood Change was a unique learning initiative that explored and assessed approaches to locally-driven neighbourhood revitalization that can enhance the capacity of individuals and families to build and sustain strong, healthy communities. It ran from spring 2005 to spring 2007.

Working with local residents, not-for-profit agencies and public and private sector partners, Action for Neighbourhood Change combined local resources in new ways to develop creative locally-based solutions for sustainable community development and neighbourhood revitalization.

Action for Neighbourhood Change was grounded in the cities of Surrey, Regina, Thunder Bay, Toronto and Halifax. Neighbourhood sites were selected by the local United Ways in consultation with residents, community leaders, government and key community organizations.

About ANC

About ANC

The overarching priority for ANC was to undertake undertake strategic action research (Plan – Act – Reflect) in order to learn to facilitate improved living conditions for individuals and families.

Although ANC worked in five neighbourhoods (in Surrey, Regina, Toronto, Thunder Bay and Halifax) the lessons learned and the practices developed can be shared nationally to help inform policy and practice.

Key Elements

Two key elements were jointly pursued to achieve this work. These elements are:

  • To build the capacity of individuals, families and neighbourhoods;
  • To strengthen the responsiveness and coordination of policy and program strategies while addressing issues such as personal security, substance abuse, health, housing stability, learning and skills development, and literacy.

ANC represented a strategic opportunity to assess practices, involving residents, the voluntary, public and private sectors, which are designed to increase the strength of distressed neighbourhoods across Canada. The initiative combined resources in new ways, enhancing their effectiveness in addressing the complex challenges within distressed neighbourhoods.

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Key Resources

Learn more about ANC!
ANC Promotional Video (Quicktime plugin required to play video. Click here for free download).
ANC brochure
ANC: An Overview
Partnership Profile
Action Research & Place-based Learning
Policy Dialogue (June 2005)

Engaging Residents

The project was undertaken at the neighbourhood level, investigating community mobilization and collaborative responses while looking at specific local issues such as crime and victimization, substance abuse, learning and skills development, literacy issues, housing instability, and homelessness.

The action research was intended to support capacity building among individuals, families and neighbourhoods, while also strengthening the responsiveness of collaborative strategies to address these issues in innovative and effective ways.

The project engaged with residents, enabling them to articulate their broad neighbourhood aspirations, apart from targeted programs or policies (i.e., those focused solely on substance abuse, learning technologies, community safety, etc.).

This enabled the ANC project to capture new knowledge on approaches to improve the living conditions for individuals and families in distressed neighbourhoods.

Distressed Neighbourhoods

ANC was premised, in part, on the notion that the renewal of distressed neighbourhoods requires coordinated responses to common risk-factors, issues and solutions.

Various collaborative arrangements pursued through ANC enabled research, learning and information transfer on best practices and instruments to support this collaboration.

The project also assessed how the varied characteristics of distressed neighbourhoods inter-relate, in order to inform the development of more holistic policies and programs enabling neighbourhood sustainability and quality of life.

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National Partners

United Way of Canada - Centraide Canada
The Caledon Institute of Social Policy
Tamarack - An Institute for Community Engagement

The National Film Board

As the National Convening Organization, the United Way of Canada - Centraide Canada was responsible for overall project coordination and administrative management.

Tamarack's role in ANC was to facilitate learning between the communities by providing coaching, training, strategic consulting, and developing useful tools.

The Caledon Institute of Social Policy brought its considerable knowledge and experience to bear in understanding and analysing the complex web of multi-level public policy that impact upon neighbourhoods.

Adding to this strength were five United Ways – Centraides, each recognized as leaders in their community, skilled at convening multisectoral community tables and extremely knowledgeable about the neighbourhoods in which they work. All of these players have extensive networks which were critical to the broad dissemination of knowledge emerging from the project.

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The United Way of Canada - Centraide Canada

United Way of Canada – Centraide Canada is the national organization for over 25 United Ways – Centraides located across Canada and provides leadership and a national voice for the Movement.

As the National Convening Organization for ANC, the United Way of Canada - Centraide Canada's role included:

  • Managing and integrating the overall action research project
  • Managing the overall governance of the project
  • Managing partner relations
  • Facilitating communication among local enablers
  • Coordinating relations with involved federal government departments
  • Organizing national level meetings and conferences
  • Managing contracts for national level research, project level evaluation, financial audit and toolkit development
  • Preparing progress reports
  • Developing project communications materials (e.g. project brochure, briefings, fact sheets, etc.)
  • Preparing summary research reports integrating local findings
  • Managing, in collaboration with other partners, the dissemination of knowledge emerging from this project through extensive local, regional and national networks

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The Caledon Institute of Social Policy

The Caledon Institute is a private, nonprofit social policy think tank with charitable status. It conducts rigorous, high-quality research and analysis; seeks to inform and influence public opinion and to foster public discussion on poverty and social policy; and develops and promotes concrete, practicable proposals for the reform of social programs at all levels of government and of social benefits provided by employers and the voluntary sector.

Within ANC, the Caledon Institute of Social Policy focused on building relationships among governments and community members by:

  • Establishing a common language and frame of reference
  • Fostering collaborative learning on key public policy and governance issues
  • Facilitating the identification of specific challenges and insights into the development of future public policy

They did this by convening a series of policy dialogue sessions with representatives from each of the initiative’s federal government partners, the five participating communities, United Way of Canada – Centraide Canada, Tamarack and Caledon.

To complement and deepen these discussions the Institute prepared policy research papers addressing critical issues pertaining to multifaceted, collaborative approaches to neighbourhood renewal.

Tamarack - An Institute for Community Engagement

Tamarack is a charitable organization dedicated to helping Canadian communities take ownership of local issues by making use of proven strategies for community engagement. Designed to promote community building across Canada, the institute's mission is to develop a process to help people create bold visions for the future of their communities, and work together to achieve those visions more easily and effectively.

Tamarack's role in ANC was to facilitate learning between the communities by providing coaching, training, strategic consulting, and developing useful tools. Specifically their role was to:

Provide Coaching and Strategic Consulting:
Tamarack coached communities on partnership formation, community planning, leadership and resource development, as well as on research and evaluation processes. Tamarack supported the five local United Ways in selecting a neighbourhood, hiring a lead staff person and developing a community advisory team.

Provide Project Leadership
Tamarack provided assistance with the planning of the ANC project through participation in National Partner Meetings and as part of the National Steering Committee.

Support Community/Project Learning and Evaluation :
In collaboration with the Caledon Institute of Social Policy and The United Way of Canada, Tamarack developed and coordinated the overall action research framework, including:

  • Developing an understanding of current, state of the art knowledge about the dynamics of community-based neighbourhood renewal, including such themes as the key elements, stages and challenges associated with renewal processes
  • Helping neighbourhoods continually evaluate the processes and outcomes of their renewal efforts, through the use of a self-assessment framework that focuses on methodologies, techniques and indicators, to understand and reflect on the progress, challenges and outcomes of their work
  • Understanding the relevance, efficiency, effectiveness and impact of the external supports provided by government agencies and national intermediaries to the neighbourhood partners

Develop a Website, E-newsletters and Tele-learning tools:
Tamarack facilitated shared learnings across the five communities that included tele-learning, the ANC website, an E-newsletter, public and private learning spaces, bulletin boards and interactive features such as audio and video. The website continues to house the key project details, generic and neighbourhood specific research, and community updates, and now acts as a living archive of activities and learning. Tamarack also produced and supported on-line learning tools such as discussion groups and workshops.

Develop Community Tools and Resources:
Tamarack produced a number of tools that can be used by local organizations during the key stages in the development of the project.

The National Film Board

The National Film Board joined ANC as a partner for the first year of the initiative, using video to trigger discussion, enhance engagement and document the process.

Video can be used as a tool both to train youth, crystallize and visualize the challenges identified by the communities themselves as well as to provide a method to engage online visitors to share in the excitement of this project.

Local Enablers

United Ways – Centraides in five cities assumed the roles and responsibilities of the local enabler. Their role was to:

  • Hire project staff to lead and support transparent processes to identify appropriate neighbourhoods and develop and/or act on existing community visions using a range of engagement approaches
  • Inform the learning and assessment framework and policy dialogue
  • Play a major role in disseminating learnings through their extensive local and regional networks, but also in applying these other neighbourhoods

United Way of Halifax Region
United Way of Greater Toronto
United Way of Thunder Bay
United Way of Regina
United Way of the Lower Mainland


United Way of Halifax Region invests in community development programs and initiatives to build its extraordinary community. As a leader and facilitator, UW of Halifax creates relationships, establishes networks, builds on individual strengths, and works to ensure that the community has the capacity to address issues that affect quality of life for citizens. For more than 78 years the United Way has attracted community volunteers who give time and skills to lead Community Fundraising, to participate in Community Development, and to conduct the rigorous process of Resource Distribution.

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United Way of Greater Toronto is an incorporated non-profit charity focused on improving the long-term health of the community. The United Way of Greater Toronto runs Canada's largest annual fundraising campaign in support of 200 social and health service agencies, providing a vital network of support.

In September 2002, UWGT launched its $5 million Strong Neighbourhoods, Healthy City strategy.

Thunder Bay

Several of the agencies The United Way of Thunder Bay funds provide services that target vulnerable neighbourhoods including:

  • Child nutrition and breakfast programs
  • Community kitchens
  • Community connections

The United Way of Thunder Bay is taking a leadership role on a steering committee to establish a 211 program for Thunder Bay, has mentored a collaborative effort by local food banks resulting in the establishment a Regional Food Distribution Association and is participating in program - Leadership Thunder Bay - that identifies, inspires, trains local leaders in community building.

It has undertaken two community-wide needs assessments over the last six years to identify priority areas in the health and human care sector.


In 1935 a group of concerned Regina citizens came together to establish the first Community Chest in Canada. The Community Chest was formed to help people work together to find ways to care for those in the community who were less fortunate and in need of support.

Eventually, the Community Chest evolved into today's United Way. Although the name has changed through the years, the purpose remains the same. United Way of Regina uses its partnerships and knowledge to find more effective ways of making Regina community a better place to live.

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United Way has a 70-year history of helping people in the Lower Mainland. Beginning as a federated fundraiser - today United Way of the Lower Mainland plays a leadership role in bringing together the resources to care for the social service needs of the community. The organization supports the delivery of more than 400 programs and services that help people find their way.

The vision of the United Way of the Lower Mainland is a community that collectively cares for people’s social service needs and works together to help people improve their lives with dignity and respect.

The United Way of the Lower Mainland works to strengthen social services in the community by providing leadership to bring people and organizations together to understand community needs, connect with those needs, and contribute to building a stronger, healthier community.

Federal Partners

The following federal departments participated in ANC:

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Action for Neighbourhood Change was in operation from 2005-2007. This site exists to capture and share the learnings that emerged from this initiative, but new material is no longer being added on a regular basis. ANC is not responsible for the content of external links, which may change; however, if you find a broken link, please let us know.