By Tracey Arial
Ever since Laval’s health and social services organization (CSSS Laval) launched a new guide to their services last month, they’ve been getting more requests to collaborate with local community groups.
“People seem to understand better how they can work with us,” said Chantal Goyette, acting head of CSSS’s clinical projects and community group unit. “In the past, we worked in groups serving specific clientele like seniors or children, so it was difficult to respond to requests to participate in transversal projects that could combat poverty or improve housing, nutrition or transportation.”
Goyette says that new kinds of requests began showing up soon after the formal launch of the guide on the 18th of last month. Some proposal ideas even appeared on evaluation forms the ministry distributed to representatives of more than a hundred community groups who attended the launch.
“For example, there’s a group of citizens who are working to protect certain woodlands and they’ve approached us with a project,” said Goyette. “Others didn’t know that we could help them solve internal issues within their own organizations. We can help with strategic planning, fundraising, governance, even text evaluations.”
Goyette credits the 45-page guide released at the launch for the new collaborative enthusiasm, but community members say the launch itself may be partly responsible for the new openness. They say the launch was an unusual opportunity for more than 140 people from community groups across Laval to meet each other and CSSS community organizers they didn’t know.
Many community groups who offer services in English, for example, already know each other and CSSS organizer Richard Allaire through Network Partnership Initiative (NPI Laval) meetings. The launch gave them a chance to meet other potential partners.
“Often an organization is in contact with one specific organizer, and they don’t have a sense of others who might be available to work with them,” said Mylène Fauvel, one of the launch attendees. Fauvel works for the Corporation de développement communautaire (CDC) Laval, a group that links 95 community groups into a non-profit marketing entity. “Many CSSS organizers were at the launch explaining to all of us what they can do. That gave us ideas for future collaborations.”
Fauvel describes the guide itself as a secondary benefit of the experience, primarily because it compiles information in writing that otherwise would be only implicitly understood. “In future, if there is a particular situation, we can verify what the CSSS position is and what we might count on them for. It also reassures us that our role will be respected.”
For Goyette, and 23 other CSSS Laval employees who spent about a year and a half compiling the guide, the document itself is a source of pride. “We discussed every section with a consultant from the L’université de Quebec à Outaouais who pushed us to be precise about what we wanted to accomplish and how that work could be completed,” she said. “By the end of the process, we firmly decided we all wanted to work together.”
As of our deadline, the guide, which is called the Cadre de référence des organisateurs communautaires wasn’t yet available on the CSSS Laval website. Goyette says it will be there soon.
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