Subscribe and see the full list of episodes on Transistor. ---
Anne Harvey’s passion is matchmaking. Mind you, not in the romantic sense.
Harvey, a “relationship-oriented leader,” began introducing Edmontonians to each other in 2012 when the City of Edmonton’s Abundant Community initiative launched.
The initiative was in response to growing reports of social isolation in modern cities; of people feeling disconnected from friends, neighbours and community.
Robert Putnam’s book, Bowling Alone, first brought the issue to the spotlight in the early 2000s, revealing a stark decline in church attendance, volunteering and political engagement in North America. He used bowling — a rapid decrease in bowling leagues but an increase in individual bowlers — as a symbol of declining social connection.
Twenty years on, social isolation is now viewed as a quiet epidemic, as harmful to health as obesity or cigarette smoking. Humans are social creatures and need to feel seen and supported.
Thus, the City’s decision to work with communities to create opportunities for neighbours to join with neighbours for local causes or just fun. The Abundant Community initiative, says Harvey, gave people the vocabulary to talk about something they were already feeling — a loss of connection.
As Harvey notes, Edmonton was ripe for this kind of work, given its century-old community league system. In fact, it was Edmonton’s history with active neighbourhoods that inspired Harvey’s masters research.
Simply put, she wondered if connected neighbourhoods remained connected during the recent pandemic.
In our LiftEd podcast with Harvey, she talks about her research and the many benefits of living a connected life. We also talk about the causes of social isolation, including the rise of social media.
Harvey’s advice is for all of us to be more intentional in meeting our neighbours. A small block party, rather than a neighbourhood-wide event, offers a better chance to meet those who love close by.
And it’s those people who will check on your house when you’re on vacation, or pick up groceries when you’re sick. We all live better lives when we support each other, she says.
Harvey is now the Senior Director of School and Community Based Programs with E4C, a non-profit, anti-poverty organisation in Edmonton that serves more than 16,000 vulnerable people.
About Anne Harvey
Anne Harvey is a relationship-oriented leader, facilitator, writer, ESL instructor and strategic manager of programs, projects and events. She brings her years of experience in the public, private and nonprofit sectors to her current role on the executive leadership team of E4C as Senior Director of School and Community-Based Programs. E4C, a nonprofit organization in Edmonton, Alberta that serves over 16,000 vulnerable people, has a mission to change lives and grow communities with the ultimate vision of eliminating poverty in Edmonton.
Anne recently completed a community-based research project as a requirement for the Degree of Master of Arts in Community Development from the University of Victoria. Her research explored neighbourhood networks as viable places to build social capital and community resilience. Applying a qualitative methodological approach, Anne’s research explored how involvement in neighbourhood networks affected people in Edmonton, Alberta during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her research included a focus on Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD), a strengths-based approach, as an enabler of neighbourhood networks.