Dalhousie University: Community survey helps launch new collaborative process on street parties

Large unsanctioned street parties fuelled by social media are growing in communities across the country. Halifax is no exception.

Such street parties, including those that have taken place in the neighbourhood surrounding Dalhousie, pose a high risk for alcohol and substance-related safety incidents and require extensive resources and efforts to mitigate.

To address this complex issue and to look at the root causes of high-risk party culture, Dalhousie is convening a collaborative process with partners, students and community members. The goal is to deepen collaboration and foster socially innovative approaches to community well-being.

Creating a shared roadmap

This work begins with a neighbourhood survey and student-engagement processes. The input gathered will inform the co-design of an initial two-day community strategies lab where stakeholders will create a shared roadmap for moving forward.

Information will be arriving in mailboxes at homes and residences in Dalhousie’s surrounding neighbourhood in Halifax this week, directing people to an online survey to gather thoughts and experiences around street party culture. This work is being supported by a team of Dalhousie staff and an external facilitator, local non-profit Inspiring Communities.

Louise Adongo, executive director of Inspiring Communities, knows that in terms of street party mitigation, there is no short-term fix, nor is there a single solution.

“Our work aims to identify areas where shifts can happen in systems to better serve people in our communities,” says Adongo. “This project involving multiple partners and potential stakeholders very much aligns with the way we approach our work.

“We build collaborative relationships to increase the impact of a potential project. We engage a variety of partners and contributors involved in developing new skills and foster social experimentation to change how we see, talk about and work to address challenging issues. In this case, it is street party culture, or looked at from another angle, building agreements around how we live together in community.”

Adongo says they will document and evaluate the learnings along the way to share a new understanding of the breadth and depth of this issue with others facing similar circumstances to support their opportunities for change as well.

“There is great potential in this work, not only in shifting how we look at street-party culture, but through recognizing the complexity of the issue and deeply considering the ways we can establish common expectations and understanding among neighbors with different viewpoints, motivations and lived experiences,” says Adongo.

A new approach

Though the survey is intended for residents of the neighbourhood around Dalhousie, students will be engaged in a separate process for their input in the fall. Student representatives will also be invited to join the planning process for a two-day session in June and to participate in the session itself.

“Unsanctioned street parties are an extremely complex phenomenon and that is why our approach requires a new level of sophistication than in the past,” says Verity Turpin, acting vice-provost of student affairs at Dal. “Key to this process is establishing open and transparent conversations, where student voices are well-integrated into a larger holistic process.”

In addition to this new collaborative framework and a public talk aimed to take place later in the fall, Dalhousie is also leading a multi-year student-engagement process in partnership with the DSU that will hold deeper conversations with students about the student experience, strengthening harm-reduction tactics and identifying additional and improved alternatives to unsanctioned street parties.

“Student representatives will be key stakeholders at the table to ensure that students are part of the solutions and alternatives that support our entire community,” says Turpin.