West Broadway neighbourhood revitalization, searching for meaningful indicators of progress

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Mathieson, Angela A.
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Over the past decade community development organizations throughout North America have been developing indicators to measure the progress of their efforts. The challenge for these organizations has been to develop indicators that best reflect the values and goals of their communities. This has involved adopting participatory approaches for including various community constituencies in the development of indicators. This study explores that challenge in the context of West Broadway, a Winnipeg inner city neighbourhood. The role of indicators in planning is contrasted from a positivist and phenomenological perspective, concluding that indicators are merely tools for action that are inherently informed by knowledge, expressed through experience, norms and values. Therefore, the phenomenological concept of knowledge, which better explores these avenues, is a more useful approach to adopt for indicator development. A phenomenological approach to indicator development was carried out in focus group discussions with West Broadway neighbourhood residents who are often under-represented in neighbourhood planning activities; aboriginals, single mothers and those of very low incomes. Key issues and themes related to neighbourhood revitalization were identified from those residents' experiences and perspectives. From those discussions a corresponding draft list of indicators of neighbourhood revitalization progress was developed. The study suggests that this approach not only produced meaningful indicators for West Broadway, it also helped to clarify and reinforce the objectives of planning efforts in the neighbourhood.