Community Engagement

Hamilton used a thoughtful, inclusive and iterative approach to developing the challenge statement which was multi-fold in nature including:

  • A review of significant strategies developed over the past 10 years
  • Meetings with stakeholder organizations
  • Meetings with individual subject matter experts
  • Meetings with community members
  • Workshops with representatives from multiple stakeholders
  • An online survey

The City prides itself on the extensive, formal and informal consultations with residents, community partners, and members of the business community it has conducted in recent years.

Based on feedback received early in the process, and in order to respect the time already contributed to consultations by residents, businesses and public sector organizations, we reviewed what people already told us mattered to them, which were documented as part of previous consultations.

In parallel we conducted initial smart city challenge workshops where we asked a simple question “If we had $50 million to solve Hamilton’s largest challenges where should we focus?” which provided us with direction for future meetings and consultations.

The review of major institutional strategies and consultations was undertaken included:

  • Our Future Hamilton (OFH) – a one year public consultation developed with over 55,000 Hamiltonians and dozens of community partners creating a 25-year vision for Hamilton in 2016 and which is refreshed annually
  • The City’s Strategic Plan – built on the OFH work, this work included consultation with more than 3,000 residents
  • Age Friendly Hamilton (Seniors Strategy)
  • Hamilton’s Urban Indigenous Strategy
  • Hamilton Executive Directors’ Aboriginal Coalition
  • The work informing the City’s Youth Strategy
  • Teen programming engagement work done by the Youth Serving Agencies Network of Hamilton

In addition to these detailed reviews, the Smart Cities Challenge consultation process included dozens of in-person consultations that included residents, as well as subject matter experts that have consulted with 1000s of Hamiltonians, and brainstorming workshops with:

  • community members/partners
  • service providers
  • Industry
  • members of the business community
  • leaders from Hamilton’s Indigenous community

  • Not-for-profit sector
  • advisors from Global Hamilton, (focused on enabling international students and young newcomers to be fully aware of and have access to opportunities in Hamilton)
  • Major institutional partners

We also asked for feedback in an online survey over six weeks between February and March. All of this information was gathered to build the overarching themes for the proposal and to identify the most significant challenges.

We focused first on what problems needed to be solved and then focused on what would best help to address these challenges, including how technology could be leveraged. More than a decade of research, public consultation and community engagement have resulted in the objectives outlined in this proposal.

Input also included that from:

  • all six faculties of McMaster University
  • Mohawk College
  • McMaster Institute for Research on Aging
  • St. Joseph’s Healthcare The Research Institute at St. Joe’s
  • Hamilton Health Sciences Corporation
  • Public Health Research Institute
  • Boards of Education
  • Hamilton Public Library (a recognized leader in the provision of digital services in Hamilton)

  • Public Health to review population health data
  • Ontario Telemedicine Network
  • IBM Canada – located in Hamilton with innovative partnerships with major institutions in place
  • Representatives and work from CITYLab, a social innovation partnership between Civic and Academic partners
  • Private Sector companies with Smart City experience

The themes that consistently emerged were health, poverty and access to services, and a strong commitment to seeing success achieved on the City’s Vision “To be the best place to raise a child and age successfully.”

We were advised to focus on building out plans that would implement ideas that we’ve already heard and to focus connecting services that are currently or could be offered.

Feedback also to develop a challenge statement focused on seniors and aging in place, and supporting healthcare being delivered in the most appropriate place to reduce pressure on the system; as well as the need to get ahead of the next wave of those who are deemed to be most vulnerable, to engage youth, and to be more proactive and preventive – working with the other end of the continuum.

Suggestions included focusing on prevalent chronic illnesses that impact residents in the city, like lung disease and heart failure. The need to reduce 911 calls, to shift care from ED services to the community by supporting people before they are in a crisis was also an area of focus. And, we received feedback to better understand what’s really behind some of what’s driving these issues.

We were also told that new immigrants have difficulty understanding what services are available, and that language barriers are a significant issue. And to ensure programs are also available to rural residents, who sometimes get overlooked.

Aging successfully starts at birth (and even before birth), and youth should not be left behind in an opportunity as large as this one. Mental health, poverty and addiction are significant issues in the city. While there is often a focus on seniors, there are also marginalized members of the community that do feel left behind, that don’t get focused on, and while support is likely there for them they don’t know how to access it. Residents who need support connecting to the community and getting back on track. Social isolation and mental health and wellness are connected issues affect all ages across the continuum.

Repeatedly through the consultations it was clear there was often a service or a program to address a particular concern or condition, but unless one knew how to find it or had someone to help you, there were barriers to accessing the information or service - the system was not user friendly.

It’s clear that providers are standing by to help, but they themselves didn’t always have the information they needed to provide the best help that they could.

We were also told that youth engagement and participation is a “must have” to ensure they start and stay on the right path. We should be multi-generational because a genuinely connected community is both digital and social. Strong social systems are inclusive.

And the challenge should have an overarching theme of community health and wellness, and connectedness, to get at the centre of many of these issues, and collectively we can address these broader themes by focusing on the right outcomes.

Notably, as the key themes and major issues were being identified through consultations and strategy reviews, the work of the newly formed Hamilton Anchor Institution Leaders (HAIL) Community Health Working Group Anchor Table was identified. Their work outlines a number of the same gaps identified through the Smart Cities Challenge consultations. A formal project charter was signed in September of 2017, by municipal, business and clinical leadership of Hamilton’s major institutions, the Hamilton Niagara Hamilton Brant Local Health Integration Network, the Community Foundation, McMaster Institute for Healthier Environments, St. Joseph’s Healthcare - Hamilton, Hamilton Health Sciences Corporation, the City of Hamilton, the Hamilton Family Health Team, as well as representatives from the community to work together collaboratively to better integrate the health and social sectors to really enable transformational change. An unprecedented institutional commitment is there to solve these challenges.

Hamilton is home to an engaged and interactive community that actively participates in city building and making the city better for the future. After detailed consultations internally and externally, the City and its partners believe the proposed application represents a significant opportunity to address major challenges identified in the Hamilton in an integrated approach that uses smart technology, and builds on existing work, expertise and engagement in the community.

In terms of ongoing engagement, including developing the final proposal, we will both leverage our existing community forums that are associated with the strategies listed above; as well as establish a governance model to oversee delivery that includes resident participation. 

Enabling smart citizens and creating an open environment for engagement and continuous participation is a key priority. Residents will be involved directly in each step to ensure we get it right throughout the process. We will also leverage our partners to maximize reach, hosting public workshops by theme.  If successful moving to the next round, we will create a citizen advisory panel for the program. In the development of the individual projects we will use an iterative design thinking model that has users engaged from the beginning.