Building one North End

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North End Halifax has seen a lot of change over the last decade. With dozens of new businesses, restaurants and bars opening and sky rocketing real estate prices, in many ways, it’s a story of success and economic revival. The problem is, not all of the North End’s residents see themselves in this story.

In 2015, CBC ran a series of articles called Halifax: a city with two North Ends. It looked at the North End’s history and strong African-Nova Scotian roots, and examined the divide between the community’s longtime residents, its new residents, and the business community. The series highlighted that despite the growth, much of the community’s most vulnerable population felt disconnected from the new, booming North End. 

It was an issue that struck a chord with Rodney Small, who was interviewed as part of the series. Working with fellow lifelong residents, Stephen Nelson, and Lindell Smith, he set out to turn their shared concerns into actionand bring the old and new North Ends together. The One North End Initiative, or O.N.E., began in late 2015 with a goal of engaging the community and tackling the problem head on. 

They started with a collective impact approach instead of an isolated one. This meant inviting all of the North End into a conversationfrom business owners, to community elders, to young people and asking the question: “what resources do you need to be successful?” It sounds simple, but Small explains that in the past, solutions for the North End came from outside perspectives looking in—O.N.E. is advocating for the opposite approach.

I’m somebody who loves to connect the dots”, says Small. “It can be challenging to find commonalities and leverage those to help the community as a whole—but if the community can come together and work as one, everyone benefits.”

The engagements will kick off in October and Small hopes the sessions will help build bridges across the socioeconomic divide. These conversations—along with best practice research on processes that have worked well in other gentrified communities—will allow O.N.E. to build a development plan to be shared with funding organizations and other external stakeholders. 

So far, Small and his team have been impressed by the North End’s response. “This is a community that can step up to the challenge,” he says. 

Small has been hard at work on the ground drumming up support and says the willingness to participate is encouraging. Especially from iNova, a credit union located in the North End.

“I met Mauro Ricordi, of iNova, at a panel hosted by the United Way on the topic of ‘what makes a community hub?’. He took the time to hear about O.N.E. and that conversation turned into ongoing advice and support. Since then, iNova has helped us make connections within the business community. Credit unions are trusted and that goes a long way in starting conversations and building relationships.”

Starting conversations is just the beginning for Small. “It’s all about having a sustainable vision, and making sure that vision works for the community as a whole. Ultimately, we’re looking to create a model that works and can be replicated in other communities.”

And this vision is shared by the staff at iNova credit union which is why they were so keen to participate.

“We’re always looking for ways to support organizations that are working to better our community, says Mauro Ricordi, General Manager. O.N.E. was a natural fit in their mandate to reach out to local stakeholders, both residential and commercial, and create interpersonal relationships to better understand the area’s needs and challenges.  In this way, we hope to play a part in enhancing the community by identifying core issues leading to improvements that have a more positive and direct impact to its residents.”