The Peel Parenting Collective’s Story
Canada has witnessed ethnic shifts in migration, with 6,264,800 immigrants identifying themselves as a member of a visible minority group (2011 National Household Survey). Of this demographic, 65.1% were born outside of Canada. The Region of Peel is one of the most diverse ethno-cultural populations in Ontario, with a steady flow of newcomers. This reality underlines the need for inclusive community development and for all services to be culturally appropriate. New family models have emerged in Canada and parenting is evolving due to social change and diverse cultural norms around parenting practices. This diversity and change justified the need for developing educational resources as preventive measures, and socio-legal support in the community, in consultation with community members with lived experience.
Collective Impact is a framework used by many community leaders who, together, are working on impacting systems to enhance community change. The Peel Parenting Collective (PPC) used the Collective Impact framework to work with community stakeholders, including parents, to develop innovative solutions to reduce parental stress. PPC’s goal was to increase healthy family relationships through improved positive communication skills and increased access to credible, consistent, and trusted parenting information and supports.
The PPC began through community conversations and visioning a half-day gathering designed as a “Community Conversation” to examine local parenting research, discuss new regional service maps, and explore new and different ways for agencies to provide parenting education and to work together. The interest and participation in the “Community Conversation” solidified the idea that there was an interest and need in Peel for the PPC to move the conversation forward. It strove to continue the community efforts to move “from fragmented action and results” to “collective action and deep and durable impact,” (Collective Impact framework, by John Kania and Mark Kramer, Stanford Social Innovation Review 2011).
Over a six year period, PPC grew from a five member Steering Committee to a collective of 26 member organizations spanning a variety of sectors, including social service, health, education, law (private/corporate), government, and peer-to-peer community based groups.
PPC launched into a local research project and published “Understanding Family Communication and Information Access Among Peel Families.” The research solidified PPC’s understanding that children and youth are dependent on a loving, positive, knowledgeable, and supportive family environment to thrive, and parents, caregivers, and adult allies play a critical role in the overall development and emotional resilience of their children. High levels of stress experienced by parents and present in families can be an impediment to families thriving. This research also provided the growing PPC with direction for collective action using Human-Centred Design.
The PPC created a tool to support the PPC members in sharing common and consistent messages regarding positive family communication with their clientele. The pilot intervention projects, which included the “Have a Conversation” poster, the development of a PPC website, the PPC Digest, and a PPC Facebook account, provided PPC members with common and consistent tools to share positive family communication messages within their organizations and agencies, and measure the impact through a shared measurement tool.
Data was gathered and a report was written that included amazing results and impactful learnings. PPC members worked together, taking advantage of each partner’s expertise and role in the community, to share evidence-based common and consistent messages within the community. Together, PPC helped build thriving families.
Key learnings from the PPC’s experimental and innovative process to an integrated and collaborative approach included:
- consistent messages being shared in effective, innovative, and relevant ways to diverse audiences on varied platforms;
- breaking down silos, and a collective agreement to work towards one goal to decrease parental stress and improve family relationships;
- being sensitive to the needs of many stakeholders by involving them in each step of the process, using human-centered design; and
- members learning from each other by looking over each other’s fences and sharing ideas and best practices.
The PPC hit a roadblock in 2017 due to lack of funding. Other collectives in the Region of Peel were also experiencing the same dilemma. As of today, there are no known collaborative groups using the collective impact framework in Peel.
The PPC is currently refocusing its efforts and has become a Networking and Professional Development Group, and is eager to continue to sharing ideas to learn from each other and to continue to help families thrive. Hopefully, the PPC experiment will go down in regional history as a revolutionary effort that built cross-sector collaboration to tackle complex parenting challenges.
Archana Medhekar, B. Sc. LL. M., Certified Family Law Specialist and Family Mediator practicing in Toronto, Ontario. You can reach her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Archana was a member of PPC and is a current AFCC-O Board Member and Newsletter Committee member
This article was written for and published in the AFCC-O Spring 2019 Newsletter. Click here to download a copy.