City Hall 101

In the spring of 2016, The City of Calgary along with the Mayor’s Civic Engagement Committee once again hosted City Hall 101 (formerly called We Should Know City Hall) – a free public workshop for citizens to learn about how to get more involved with their City and City Council.

City Hall 101 Is it Municipal 2016

This time around, not only do we have photos to share, we also have a couple of great videos AND an amazing comic strip created by artist Sam Hester to share some of the lessons learned during our workshop.
What is City Hall 101 all about?
Check here for a quick overview of our event as shared by our Chair, Dani DeBoice.
Get Involved at City Hall:
A panel presentation, using the Senior Age Friendly Strategy report presented at City Council’s Community and Protective Services Committee meeting, allowed us the opportunity to talk about the many ways you can get involved. Our sincere thanks to citizens Catherine Brownlee, Ellen Close, Nabeel Ramji and City of Calgary Director of Calgary Neighbourhoods, Katie Black for taking the time to share their passion and expertise. Check out the video highlighting the panel presentation for great information about how you can be involved at City Hall. And, last but certainly not least, here is a graphic representation of how to get more comfortable presenting at a City Council meeting.
To learn more, check out how you can get more involved.

Neighbour Day in New Brighton

We recently profiled Highland Park and their very first block party for Neighbour Day 2015. Now it’s time for the amazing community volunteers of New Brighton to shine. Here’s their story about their successful Neighbour Day.

It is never too early to start thinking about hosting your own Neighbour Day event in 2016!

New Brighton Neighbour Day 2015

Q: What inspired you to participate in Neighbour Day?

The New Brighton Community Association offered a free block party to the best nominations on why your block should win.  My nomination was one of the winning choices.

When I met with Amber Stewart, community member and Calgary Board of Education public school board trustee representing Wards 12 and 14,  we just thought it was the perfect day to get all the neighbours together to meet, laugh and have fun.

Q. Neighbour Day has struck a chord with Calgarians. Why do you think that

Calgary is a community not a city.  We have always been a community, when people need help we are there.  I think that we want to be friends with our neighbours and just have a city wide block party.

Q: In the interests of inspiring others to take action in support of making
Calgary even better:
What was easy about organizing your Neighbour Day event?

Cooperation!  From the beginning we had a facebook group set up, I spread the word anytime I was out walking our dog, we had flyers and I got emails, Facebook messages and so many suggestions and offers to help via our group.   Our Neighbourhood came together to make it a great party.  It wasn’t just the money from the Community Association, it was local businesses supporting and helping, it was neighbours helping by lending us BBQ’s, it was a potluck so everyone contributed, everyone was part of it.  It was truly a neighbours block party.  I was not alone in any part of this process,I had helpers everywhere, friends everywhere.

What was challenging?

Time. We planned it very close to the date so I don’t feel like we got the word out enough to the condo’s.  And the weather–damn Calgary weather!  It was forecasted to rain all day, it only started raining as we finished packing up.

Q: What’s your advice for people who might want to host a Neighbour Day
event next year?

DO IT!  You do not need a ton of money to do it!   Do like we did, have a potluck, have people bring BBQ’s,  ask your hubby really nicely to BBQ for a few hundred people on your own  ;)

New Brighton husband

It builds such a great community and makes memories that could last a lifetime.

Our block when I grew up (here in Calgary) used to all be friends and have block parties and do this type of thing.  Those people are still my friends many years later, we are still a support for each other even though we live accross the world or even across the city.  We need that back in Calgary, we need to know our neighbours because friends.

Q: What’s next? In other words, has your Neighbour Day event resulted in any new community actions or events?

We will be doing another Neighbour Day Block Party in 2016.  We are all still active in our Facebook group, we chat a bit more, we know each others names, we watch out for each other. We are real neighbours now!

Myself and my hubby will be having a Christmas Open House for our neighbours, anyone in the gardens is invited.

There have been BBQ’s and parties, we have been watching over each other and even helped a neighbour when she needed it, because we are friends now, we had phone numbers so we were able to help from a far.

We have become friends.

Thank you to the Community Association and to Mayor Nenshi for creating Neighbour Day!

I feel at home like I did when I was a kid, I have friends who are jealous of our neighbourhood, they wished they had a block like ours!

Neighbour Day 2015 was such an amazing day.  There were a few times that I got to stop and just take it in.  I got to look around and see neighbours meeting, chatting and laughing.

It was such a great day!   I am so glad everyone took the time to come together and make it a great day :)

Submitted by Tara Dunn, community member, New Brighton

A Thing for Calgary and Canada – Supporting Syrian refugees

As a result of the Syrian crisis, many Canadians (and many Calgarians!) are having conversations and taking action about how they can each help create the Canada we hope for. Together, many are welcoming refugee families to our great country and city. Facebook pages have been created, websites with important resource information have been shared.

One group calls themselves Hand Over Hand, and they partnered with the Mennonite Central Committee-Alberta. We talked to Lori Beattie, one of the organizers, about the inspiration and challenge of sponsoring a refugee family.


Hand Over Hand Syrian Refugee Sponsorship Group


Q: What inspired you to create Hand Over Hand, a group of people to sponsor a Syrian Refugee Family? And when did you decide to just do it (and make it more than just a good idea)?

On Sept. 6, 2015 my friend Marla Orenstein sent out an email to her friends, asking for help to sponsor a Syrian refugee family. The photo of the little Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, who drowned trying to flee Syria with his family, had just been on the front page of the paper. After seeing that photo I also wanted to help. Marla’s email was all that I needed to move forward. Here is what Marla said that struck a chord with me and led me to invite some of my friends to help.

“Like many of you, I have been really moved by the plight of the Syrian refugees and wondering what I can do to help. I was really pleased to see the reception many are receiving in Germany, where individuals are welcoming them with open arms — I think their bond to Germany is likely to be positive and strong as opposed to what they will feel as a reaction to their hostile reception in some other countries. I want to be one of those places that welcomes people with open arms and makes new arrivals feel as though they are truly welcomed into their new country. “

Within a few days of Marla’s email we had our initial meeting and inside of 4 weeks we had 28 motivated people, from varying backgrounds, who have committed to giving time and money to make this a reality. Our group, Hand Over Hand, has partnered with the Mennonite Central Committee and will welcome a family of 8 Syrian’s, 6 children and 2 parents, to Calgary very soon.

Q. Sponsoring a Syrian Refugee Family has struck a chord with us and has successfully attracted involvement. Why do you think that is?

Alan Kurdi’s photo woke us up to the horrors of the war in Syria. Innocent people, families and little kids, are living in fear. Empathy for other people is what made us want to help. We will give this family and generations to come a chance to have a war-free life in Canada. A life with hope and opportunity, not fear.

Q. In the interests of inspiring others to take action in support of making Calgary even better: What was/is easy about your project?

It was easy to decide to help. And then the hard work began.

Q. What was/is challenging?

There is nowhere to go to get all your questions answered on how to sponsor a refugee family. Normally, church groups sponsor refugees and the process is very clear. When private groups such as ours started expressing an interest in helping, places like the Mennonite Central Committee were overloaded. In order to make it work you have to be persistent in your research to figure out the next step. I am very persistent.

Q. What’s your advice for people who might want to do a similar project for Calgary?

Jump right in and ask competent and committed friends to help. You will need a lot of hands to support a family for one year. No one has all the answers since this is a crisis. The key contact to make is with a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH). For us, that was the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). They are 84 SAH groups in Canada and these are all listed on the government website.

The other key question to ask the SAH is can you be a Constituent Group (CG) under the umbrella of the SAH? This used to be reserved for only church groups however with this crisis, the MCC is taking on groups like ours as CG’s. Normally private groups such as ours would be G5 groups (Group of 5). Becoming a CG is preferable. As a CG, you partner with the government for some funding and also, the application process is expedited. The SAH, in our case the Mennonite Central Committee, takes on full liability if they allow your group to be a CG under their umbrella so they need to ensure you can handle the one-year commitment to financially and logistically support a family.

Q. What’s next? In other words, has your Sponsorship of a Syrian Refugee Family resulted in any new community actions or events?

The next step is to fundraise double the funds that the government suggest we collect to support a family of 8. In Calgary, the cost of living is high so we need to ensure we can support this family. We are in charge of everything from schooling, to ESL, to health care, transportation and housing. We will continue working in our committees to get ready for the family. We do not know when they will arrive. It could be anytime from a month from now up to 6 months. We have planned a “Learn a tiny bit of Arabic” night and will educate ourselves on the situation in Syria so that we are sensitive to cultural issues. We will find groups like ours who have sponsored refugee families in the past and will ask them for advice on settlement. We are learning as we go and we are determined to help. Back to it!

3 Things for Calgary can also be 3 things for Canada!  

Sharing our stories that we can change the world.  This is just one story, what is yours?

3 Things for Canada

Mayor Nenshi recently presented ” The Canada We Hope For: A Naive View” at the Lafontaine-Baldwin Symposium. Within that speech, he challenged Canadians to consider 3 Things for Canada!

And my dream for Canada, my dream for this nation in the world, is that simple. That we do the right thing. Can you imagine if, for 2017, for the sesquicentennial of this great nation, we give Canada a birthday gift? Can you imagine if Canada gives the world a birthday gift? Can you imagine Three Things for Canada? Let’s make the commitment today to each do three things for our country, for the world, starting now and continuing through our 150th birthday. Showing everyone the right things to do.”

3 Things for Calgary can also be 3 things for Canada!  

Sharing our stories that we can change the world.  This is just one story, what is yours?




Political conversations support a healthy democracy

Shane Byciuk, a local political blogger, has helped organize two inspirational events in Calgary: #Polibowl  and #Poliwings.  And because we are so impressed with these events and with the importance of political conversations supporting a healthy democracy, we asked him to share his story.


Q: What inspired you to create  #Polibowl and #Poliwings? And when did you decide to just do it (and make it more than just a good idea)?

#Polibowl was the brain child of a group of political bloggers I had collaborated with prior to the 2010 Civic election. (  This group consisted of 4-5 political bloggers from different political spectrums that worked together to write non-partisan posts on the civic election campaign.  From that group, we decided to hold an impromptu bowling fundraiser with a political theme, in an attempt to create a fun, unique event.  To our surprise, it quickly sold out and became a huge success.

I organized this event again in 2013 and 2014 and this September to continue to raise funds for an amazing local charity: Brown Bagging For Calgary’s Kids.

#Poliwings was created in much the same way.  It was the brainchild of one of the members, Joey Oberhoffner, in 2012.  Poliwings is a casual, open group of politically engaged local social media people. During the year, people from all political beliefs get together to have some wings and discuss local issues, all in a friendly, open invite, non-partisan environment. It is refreshing to see people in a heated political debate on twitter one night then sitting next to each other and having some laughs at Poliwings the next day. All discussions at poliwings are always respectful and fun. The fun in poliwings rests in that there is no “formal” organization to the dates and times that they are held. Often, one of the attendees will randomly post a tweet or Facebook message asking if anyone is interested in getting together (usually within a few days/week of the post) for some drinks and wings. This is an entirely open group and everyone is welcome to show up and attend. (No RSVP required… you just show up.)  The night results in fun and informal political and civic issue discussions. This group has grown from a handful of people to over 140 members on the Facebook page!

The Poliwings members have also taken part in some unique fundraisers over the years!  A few examples of these impromptu events are #WingaPalooza and #FoodaPalooza which we usually hold in November to support Inn From The Cold. These events group a few representatives from different political parties to reach out and challenge their social media followers to “sponsor” them in their attempts to individually devour wings, tacos, or perogies. Each eater gets pledges from their contacts based on each food item they eat ($.25-$1.00). This adds up quickly when you have over a hundred people pledging you!  Last November, we raised over $10,000 in pledges doing this!  (We raised the same amount in 2012 at the first event!)

Q: #Polibowl and #Poliwings has struck a chord with us and has successfully attracted involvement. Why do you think that is?

I think that Calgarians are the most generous people in Canada and they are always looking to help raise money for local charities. PoliBowl is unique because it is a hilarious fundraiser that allows people to see local politicians “out of their element” on the bowling lanes! Most fundraisers tend to be stuffy affairs, whereas Polibowl and FoodAPalooza  are nights filled with fun and laughter. There are not many events that you can mix politics, social media, and charity all in one night!

It also seems to be unique in the fact that anyone can join in and take part in the event.  It has a unique inclusiveness that appeals to most people, I believe.  Many people that attend would never go to a typical political fundraiser or gala feel at home with a fun event like PoliBowl.  Also, it is a stereotype that politicans are always asking for donations to their campaigns…and yet at Polibowl the politicians are making donations themselves to support local charities.   


Q: In the interests of inspiring others to take action in support of making Calgary even better:

What was/is easy about your project?

The PoliBowl and Poliwings/Foodapalooza events are really low-key events to host and run, which is refreshing.  That was part of the appeal of organizing these events.  They are an easy sell to the public and local politicians as everyone wants to help raise money for BB4CK as it is an amazing organization that helps local kids.

What was/is challenging?

The most challenging part was the initial logistics set up for the event. (Finding the right location to host the fundraiser, sourcing the best ticketing options etc.)  This is always evolving to meet the attendees needs.

What’s your advice for people who might want to do a similar project for Calgary?

The best advice I have is to just brainstorm an idea and run with it!  I believed that fundraisers needed to be these huge, stuffy/formal events, which was incorrect.  It’s becoming increasingly difficult for charities to raise money and these events, no matter how big or small, can have a huge impact by raising much needed money for local non-profit/charity groups.

I use social media (Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn/Instagram) exclusively to market and sell tickets to Polibowl. I would urge people to use social media to promote their events and get people engaged. In addition, I would urge people to use technology and emerging apps to help make the collection of the money raised/pledged easier.

Q: Have you had enough of #Polibowl and #FoodaPalooza? What’s next?

These events are so much fun to hold and attend. I will continue to host these events as long as people are still engaged.  We are always looking for new types of events to add over the year, which is exciting!


In Samara’s Democracy 360 Report Card we learned, among a host of many ‘things’ that  ”39% say they haven’t had a single political conversation -online or offline- in a year long period”.  We would like to challenge you to engage with others, no matter their political stripe or lack of stripe,  to have a conversation about the importance of politics and what ‘politics’ means to you.











Highland Park’s very first Neighbour Day block party


Welcome to Highland Park!

Neighbour Day is an inspiring and easy way to make our community even better. The second annual Neighbour Day happened on June 20, 2015 and over 70 official events happened throughout the city. Many communities, like Highland Park, hosted their very first block party this year. 3 Things for Calgary reached out to 3 different communities (Erlton, Highland Park and New Brighton ) to share how their day was organized, what it means for Calgary, and what’s next. For more information on how to host your own Neighbour Day (or any day for that matter) party, you can check out the City of Calgary’s helpful information page.

So, once again, welcome to Highland Park!

Q: What inspired you to participate in Neighbour Day?

A few of us were together having drinks while our kids played one night. And we got to talking about how much fun an old fashioned block party would be. Some of us have known each other for years, others are getting to know each other. But there are many new faces and families on the street as well as many more kids. We knew that our street, like many other streets in Calgary, was in transition. When Neighbour Day was announced, we decided to just go for it and started planning.

Q. Neighbour Day has struck a chord with Calgarians. Why do you think that is?

I think many people miss the days of the past when neighbours talked, connected, and really got to know each other. People really value a sense of community and Neighbour Day is the perfect opportunity to create that sense of community.

Q: In the interests of inspiring others to take action in support of making Calgary even better:

What was easy about organizing your Neighbour Day event?

Everything was easy because we had a lot of support and a lot of help. Once we knew everyone was on board, it made the whole thing a lot of fun.

What was challenging?

It was a bit challenging to figure out who to include (people beyond our block) and where to draw the line. Deep down we knew that having a smaller “street party” would offer greater opportunities to get to know one another.

Q: What’s your advice for people who might want to host a Neighbour Day event next year?

Just get the ball rolling and don’t overthink things. Also, don’t rely on email to engage people. Go door to door with invitations so that people can get excited about the event.

Q: What’s next? In other words, has your Neighbour Day event resulted in any new community actions or events?

We’re sure that this will be the first of many block parties. Everyone had a great time and said they look forward to the next one.