Burnaby's Award Winning Social Sustainability Strategy Endorses Community-based Solutions

Burnaby has faced their community’s challenges head on and prioritized strong community planning to tackle economic, environmental, and social sustainability. In fact, Burnaby’s Social Sustainability Strategy received two awards in 2012 in recognition of their innovative strategies to enhance the lives of all community members. The dedicated city staff and elected officials created opportunities for community members to contribute to the plan, which has built a strong sense of ownership, trust, and open communication within the city.

Key Partners and Stakeholders

Learning from the Process

In pursuit of maintaining a vibrant, healthy community, the City of Burnaby began developing the Social Sustainability Strategy in 2010. The heart of the Social Sustainability Strategy is the people of Burnaby; this plan was about working with community members to develop a plan that would meet their needs and allow them to achieve a prosperous, higher quality of life. The Strategy was developed by a 25-member blue ribbon Steering Committee chaired by Mayor Derek Corrigan, which consisted of four City Councilors along with twenty more Burnaby community members representing a wide range of service providers and demographics.

The City recognized their community members possessed an abundance of valuable insights, so six Working Groups including fifty more community members were established to tap into this vast reservoir of community knowledge. These working groups represented different themes, including: Healthy City, Peaceful City, Age-Friendly City, Prosperous City, Engaged City, and Diverse City.

Each of the working groups went out into the community to gather feedback for the Social Sustainability Strategy. From this process alone, over 800 creative suggestions were received to improve the city. The Working Groups conducted an analysis to group these suggestions into common themes, which resulted in a priority list of approximately 50 concrete suggestions. This set of opportunities formed the Goals and Strategic Priorities in the Social Sustainability Framework and draft strategy.

When the first draft was ready, various outreach activities took place to engage community members in the process. The City not only held four open houses, but they also actively sought ways to involve and engage residents in meaningful dialogue and learning opportunities; nineteen presentations were given to various groups such as the Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion (BACI), the South Burnaby Neighbourhood House Youth Leadership Group, and ELSA/Literacy class at Edmonds Community School. An online survey was also created which generated considerable feedback about the initial draft and action plan. The City received overwhelming support from the general public, making this a document created by the people and for the people.

“It really is a community document…so many of the actions that we’re going to be working on now and over the next ten years are the ideas and desires of the community.”

~ Margaret Manifold, Social Planner, City of Burnaby

Burnaby’s Social Sustainability Strategy is a comprehensive, progressive plan that is grounded in community feedback. From the valuable input harvested from the community, 127 actions were created which were categorized into seven strategic priorities: Meeting Basic Needs, Celebrating Diversity and Culture, Getting Involved, Learning for Life, Enhancing Neighbourhoods, Getting Around, and Protecting our Community. Adopted on July 11, 2011, this Strategy will guide the City’s decisions and allocation of resources to attend to social issues in Burnaby for the next ten years and also serves as a tool to empower all sectors and citizens to take action to ameliorate social issues in the community. Combined with the Economic Development Strategy and the Environmental Sustainability Strategy (in progress), Burnaby has created a strong foundation that positions them as a resilient, vibrant, and healthy city.

Innovative Outcomes and Impacts

  • Burnaby’s Social Sustainability Strategy was presented the “Inclusion Through Innovation” Award from the Sharing Our Future Foundation and the Canadian Institute of Planner’s 2012 Award for Planning Excellence in recognition of excellence in social planning work.
  • Various organizations and community members are aligning their actions to achieve the goals of the Social Sustainability plan. For example, in alignment with the goals of the Learning for Life priority, Burnaby Literacy Now has implemented tutoring programs to improve the literacy skills of adults with low-literacy.
  • Under the strategic priority Meeting Basic Needs, the City, together with Fraser Health and Burnaby School District, adopted formal Terms of Reference for a Healthier Community Partnership in January 2014.  The three organizations will align efforts to monitor the health status of Burnaby residents and address health priorities.
  • The City amended its adaptable housing policy to require developments in all areas of Burnaby to supply 20% of single-level units as adaptable in new market and non-market, multi-family developments.
  • The City became a member of the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination (CCMARD) in 2012. Adherence to CCMARD’s principal objective to promote human rights demonstrates the City’s commitment to diversity, and supports the spirit of embracing and celebrating diversity thus ensuring that all Burnaby residents feel welcome and accepted.
  • The City has conducted two community-based accessibility audits of pedestrian routes in Burnaby neighbourhoods.  Participants included seniors, people with disabilities, and grade 6 and 7 elementary school students.  A third audit is planned for early 2015.  Accessibility audits have resulted in design changes and infrastructure improvements to create a more accessible environment for people of all ages and abilities.

Additional Resources

For more information, please contact:

Margaret Manifold
City of Burnaby
Social Planner
E: Margaret.Manifold@burnaby.ca
T: 604-294-7407


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