Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Geoffrey Nelson

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


This study focused on the lifecycle of four neighbourhood organizations located in Cambridge, Ontario. The key question in the study was: “How do the various stakeholders in the neighbourhood organizations experience the life cycle of these organizations”? Participants and staff described their experiences and their relationships with each other, staff, the sponsoring agency, the neighbourhood and the social service agencies that interact with neighbourhood organizations. Their responses helped to build a model of community development grounded in their own experiences that will be helpful in education, planning and evaluation. To answer both the key research question and related questions, an advisory committee was formed. Membership included a representative from each of the neighbourhood organizations, a community worker and the program manager. The advisory committee developed the questions, suggested people to be interviewed, confirmed the results and planned for the sharing of the findings. Thirteen people were interviewed including staff and participants both current and past using an interview guide. Focus groups were held with participants from each of the neighbourhood organizations (a total of fifteen participants) and one with six service providers from Cambridge. Although it is somewhat artificial and difficult to distinguish between stages in a lifecycle, it is helpful as a framework of understanding in the life of neighbourhood organizations. One framework, provided by Jones and Silva (1991), describes the tasks, processes and system interactions that are a part of community organizations. I have used this framework to present the findings of this study. Using this framework there are three types of themes (tasks, processes and relationships) that flow through the four stages (initiating, building, stabilizing, and consulting) of neighbourhood organizations. The task themes from this study include the tools and resources that are needed to get the centre started and the structures and activities that the centre uses to respond to community needs. The process themes from this study that flow across the lifecycle include how volunteers come together, work together, the stresses they experience and the shift in their role to managers and employers. The relationship issues across the lifecycle found in this study describe the tensions between the lower- and middle-income group members, aspects of power and control in their relationship with the sponsoring agency and the shift from wariness to acceptance in the organizations’ relationship with the surrounding community. The critical issues across the lifecycle capture the overarching tasks of neighbourhood organizations at each stage in their lifecycle. They start with “developing trust,” move to “developing credibility,” continue to “developing a reputation” and conclude with “maintaining vitality.” Both citizen participation and neighbouring are pervasive themes in this study. This study describes the progression of citizen participation and the ways in which staff can support and nurture this progression. It also highlights some of the barriers, benefits and stresses that participants experience in their involvement in neighbourhood organizations. Neighbourhood centres can also play a critical role in fostering and nurturing neighbouring. They can provide a place for people to meet, with opportunities for social interaction, as well as a forum and structure within which people can voice their concerns and take collective action. Furthermore, neighbourhood organizations can also provide resources such as staff and community contacts that can further help residents to take strategic action. Other main themes from this study are the critical role of ideology, a continuing sensitivity to the dangers of “professionalization”, and the ways in which prevention work has changed over the course of the lifecycle of neighbourhood organizations. In many ways neighbourhood organizations have come into their own; they are seen as an important part of the community. Increasingly they are consulted by other agencies in their development of strategic plans and they are also seen as a conduit for professionals seeking access to the community. Neighbourhood organizations have also become more politically astute over time and more recently have been lobbying alongside other groups when there have been concerns with funding cuts to services that are important to neighbourhood organizations. While there is a growing understanding and expertise in doing prevention work in neighbourhoods, there is still much to be learned and communicated in a way that is helpful to neighbourhood organizations.

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