Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Richard Walsh-Bowers

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


In a world increasingly “globalized” through advances in transportation and communication, place still matters. Our urban communities, dense and mixed in character, are homes for important social, economic, and political institutions and relationships (DeFilippis, Fisher, & Shragge, 2006), with volunteer-run neighbourhood associations bringing the voices of community residents into the conversation. My research with two such groups in Kitchener, Ontario, originally focused on organizational characteristics that aided their work in addressing neighbourhood issues such as crime, but later expanded to include considerations of the urban context within which both groups belong. Semi-structured qualitative interviews with association members and external actors highlighted the importance of leadership, organizational structure, flexibility, and partnerships with external organizations. Safety concerns in the communities provided an initial impetus, with both groups focusing on specific issues and engaging in ongoing learning to improve their neighbourhoods. The associations also appear to benefit their communities indirectly by fostering residential pride and informal neighbouring activities. Based on insights from empowerment theory, urban studies, and my own critical reflections on my experiences living in urban neighbourhoods, I suggest that the associations are uniquely shaped by their settings, with structures and behaviours that respond to the complexity of life in our cities. In turn, these neighbourhood groups have the potential to address the paradoxes often encountered in urban living: by bridging the individual and the community, they serve as an example of a “third way” (Newbrough, 1995). This research provides suggestions for neighbourhood residents, groups, community practitioners, and researchers.

Convocation Year