The Connected Rural Communities Collaborative (CRCC) is working to reduce social isolation by strengthening connectedness and inclusion. In 2019, the Grand Bend Area Community Health Centre (GBACHC) partnered with the CRCC to apply for and received a $75,000 seed grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) to study the factors affecting connections and social inclusion in the area.

Social inclusion involves a positive sense of belonging that a person has in their community and how engaged they are in that community. Social isolation is when a person is lacking those qualities and connections. An earlier study found that approximately one in four people in area municipalities experience social isolation.

The grant was used to hire a community developer, Matthew Maynard, and summer student, Angela Piaskoski, to help the CRCC research social inclusion. The information they gathered gave insight into the realities of the current situation in each participating community and helped identify common strategies that can be applied to them. This information is also useful for recruiting future CRCC partners. Ultimately, this research gives actionable goals for strengthening social inclusion and connections, as well as, reducing social isolation for community members.

The following social inclusion themes emerged from the research:

  • Access to basic needs
  • Navigation, communication and awareness of community resources
  • Compassionate interactions and welcoming accessible spaces