Cardus Communities supports the ongoing development of the common good at a city scale, exploring social structures, relational networks, and emerging ideas and practices.
Research & Policy
The giving of both time and resources in the form of volunteering and charitable donations is a part of the fabric of a way of life: a mark of healthy citizenship and flourishing society.
This report summarizes the first documented quantitative national estimates of the economic value of religion to Canadian society.
The study's mid-range estimate puts the value of religion to Canadian society at more than $67 billion annually.
Cardus is offering a clear plan of action to equip Canada’s governments to supply immediate financial support to charities in order to protect their capacity to provide crucial front-line services during and after the immediate crisis.
Religion and religious groups have been integral to villages, towns, and cities for millennia. This remains true for communities today where the presence of congregations is evident. In the case of Guelph, iconic stone churches reflect the long-standing work of the faith community. The work of these communities isn’t always as visible. In this brief case study, we examine a particular set of dynamics that involve a range of congregational actors as they have developed strategies to make Guelph a better place to live for everyone.
How can a local congregation directly support its neighbourhood economic growth for the common good? This Social Cities profile examines the lessons learned when the congregation of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Buffalo, New York undertook to establish the Westminster Economic Development Initiative to improve the quality of life for their neighbours and extended communities.
Much academic research and popular media coverage neglects the vital role of religion and religious communities in North American cities. This roundtable report can help stimulate a conversation on how to begin to bridge that gap in your community or sphere of influence. Focusing on the future of both cities and religion, it is the third report in a three-report series on the social and cultural good of religion in the city. Future collaboration in cities requires intentional focus and investment. How will this investment become more difficult in the coming years? How will it get easier? What is necessary for religious faith and spirituality to be seen as vital contributors to the common good that we depend on?
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Much academic research and popular media coverage neglects the vital role of religion and religious communities in North American cities. This roundtable report can help stimulate a conversation on how to begin to bridge that gap in your community or sphere of influence. Focusing on the state of research into religion, it is the second report in a three-report series on the social and cultural good of religion in the city. What insights does research provide that could inform people and help shape public relations and policy efforts on behalf of the socio-cultural good of religion? What are the stories that need to be told? What do educators, journalists, and cultural influencers need to know? How could this work be undertaken today?
Read the other reports:
The City Soul Explorer Toolkit offers four modules and practical tools to facilitate communication and closer collaboration between city planning and faith-based organizations. The Toolkit outlines a way in which the often distinct worlds of city planners and administrators and community-serving religious organizations can be bridged and brought closer together to build the social capacity of cities, towns, and neighbourhoods.
Popular communication and even academic research have tended to think it proper to overlook the contribution of religion to the social and cultural goods of the city even where evidence has suggested that it exists in substance and extent, both historically and at present.
In this, the first of a three-part series, we ask: How are we advancing the understanding of the socio-cultural good of religion—especially Christianity as a dominant faith in North America? How does religion contribute to the well-being of cities? What form do these religious public goods take? What are their shortcomings that would be valuable to address?
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This report is the first chapter of a dissertation project that examines how one might better understand the social infrastructure of our communities. The difficulties of measuring intangible social structures require ongoing experimental projects. Some of these experiments will lead to insight, others will identify dead ends. This current effort builds on existing work and proposes how that work could be applied in new ways.
Measuring phenomena as intricate and difficult as those arising from human interactions at neighbourhood scales requires careful methodological and conceptual framing. A strategy that balances directive progress with permissive exploration is needed. Around and through this open approach to exploration, novel methodologies such as the relationship between social capital and spatial use in urban areas can be considered for their potential to assist urban planners in understanding and evaluating the social impact of past, present, and future plans as a means of increasing the sophistication and effectiveness of urban planning strategies and evaluations.
Trust, cooperation, and belonging are vital contributors to resilience. How well do understand these dynamics at neighbourhood levels?
Vibrant civic life requires effective balancing of freedom and responsibility at all scales of society. How do we discover and foster this balance?
Churches and faith communities of various traditions have a great deal to offer to society and to the common good. Typically, these contributions have focused on qualitative contributions that congregations make to the cultural, spiritual, and social well-being of the communities that surround them. Few studies, however, have assessed these contributions in quantitative monetary terms. Even fewer, qualitative or quantitative, have begun to explore how these realities might create a space for faith communities at the social policy table. Welcome to the Halo Project.
Though seldom sensational, Canada's charitable activities are essential to our civil society. Our charities provide meaning, purpose, and belonging amid the dark labyrinths of alienation that characterize our time.
Following a series of meetings, consultations and document reviews over the past two years, Cardus is pleased to release this City Soul context report for the city of Cambridge, Ontario. The Cambridge City Soul project has four objectives: that the City learns more about faith communities; that faith community leaders learn more about city planning; that stronger relationships between both are developed; and that stronger collaboration is explored.
Good decision making depends on good information. Municipal leaders need a reliable way to evaluate progress on goals and aspirations for their communities. The International Organization for Standardization is introducing a new data standard, ISO 37120:2014, to help municipalities measure standards ranging from firefighting capacity to public transit to water quality. But before decision-makers adopt this new data standard, they need know how well it frames sustainability and quality of life.
In an article published in Municipal World, Milton Friesen, Cardus' Director of Social Cities, identifies key questions that can help evaluate the merits and limits of ISO 37120. At the centre of these questions is an understanding that assumptions and values are built into all measures, and that safeguards are needed to account for the unique nature of Canada's cities.
Indwell is an Ontario organization that has worked for many years to establish effective and sustainable approaches to housing support for people suffering from mental illness.
Cardus studied Indwell because they represent an organization that has found an innovative solution for a significant challenge: Indwell combines three primary elements to achieve significantly improved, efficient and stable housing support for people suffering with mental illness. None of the three elements is unusual, but Indwell has found an integration method that allows organizational growth; greatly decreases transience among the people they serve; and prevents Indwell from relying on government funding.
Download the first entry in the Cardus Case Studies series today, and discover an organization renewing North America's social architecture.
Cardus is interested in exploring how subsidiarity could rejuvenate and bring cohesion to public and private thought and practice including both civil service and political processes and engagement. Through papers, research, and events with key leaders and thinkers, we hope to strengthen the discussion and practice of subsidiarity. This white paper from Cardus explores what it might mean to re-engage the ideas of subsidiarity as a non-partisan underpinning for wider and more effective civic and public policy engagement.
The City of Edmonton is planning for continued rapid growth and therefore considerable effort has been put into long term strategic planning for current and new residents alike. However, a critical component of the municipal fabric appears absent in these documents: faith communities.
The Social Cities research report "Strengthening Vital Signs Through Urban Religious Communities" is now available. The report was supported in part by the Calgary Foundation and is based on a series of community roundtable consultations, primary research, review of official documents, and statistical data from the Canada Revenue Agency. While earlier work focused on Calgary's downtown, this report considers the city as a whole.
Calgary has a history of strong engagement between faith-based organizations and the communities they serve and are part of. After making changes to the Centre City Plan in May 2013 to make formal provision for the role of faith-based organizations in long-term structural planning, it was natural to continue to explore how that dynamic might play out across the city of Calgary.
One of the central findings of the report is that there are untapped resources in faith-based organizational networks that could enhance long-term structural planning in the city. At the same time, faith-based organizations are challenged by a lack of common organizational structures that would allow them to interact with established planning and development processes.
"Strengthening Vital Signs Through Urban Religious Communities" provides a review of the planning landscape of the city of Calgary, the size and extent of faith-based organizations in the city, and strategies for enhancing meaningful collaboration between these two significant strengths.
"It is incumbent on those of us who make it our business to think through such things to imagine how the 'Big Society' agenda could provide opportunity and hope within a cultural arc where both seem to be in short supply." —Ray Pennings
A transcription of proceedings from the Manning Centre Special Briefing, held June 10, 2011 in Ottawa. The papers served as the basis for initial presentations, followed by responses from panelists and questions from the floor. A joint project of Cardus, the Manning Centre, and the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada.
(See also the accompanying letter to Mayor Naheed Nenshi, and the Calgary City Council.)
Cardus is pleased to present Phase Two of its Calgary City Soul project. Undertaken in cooperation with the Arlington Group, the Calgary City Soul project was conceived following a one-day Cardus seminar in September 2008. At that time, it was noticed that the City of Calgary's Centre City Plan—a comprehensive and visionary planning document designed to attract an additional 40,000 to 70,000 residents into the civic core—had overlooked the city-building role that institutions of faith play.
Beliefs may be private or personal matters, but the institutions that nurture them have long been and remain public and part of, not apart from, the secular society represented by governments. Faith institutions have long played a critical role in the social fabric of vital cities.
Phase Two, supported in part by a grant from the Calgary Foundation, was assigned to the Arlington Group, an established urban planning consultancy. This study's comprehensive conclusions are available at length in the report, but in summary, indicate:
- Institutions of faith play a vital role in the enhancement of the civic culture, the availability of public space, and the provision of social services in a fashion that greatly benefits the wider civic community.
- The effectiveness and efficiency of these institution's social services often surpasses what can be delivered by government agencies, owing in part to the very localized and socially embedded nature of the service delivery represented by faith institutions.
- The nature of Calgary's faith community is changing dramatically and the current inability of the Centre City Plan to adapt to and reflect those changes is likely to lead to social exclusion, which will in turn increase pressure on both the delivery systems of government and the public money that fuels those systems.
- The physical infrastructure of faith institutions has been a vital part of the aesthetic landscape in the City of Calgary, and this valuable presence should not only be preserved but must also be extended in a way that is commensurate with other aspects of city growth.
Accompanying the report is a direct letter to Mayor Naheed Nenshi, and the Calgary City Council, with specific amendments proposed for Calgary's Centre City Plan. Read the Centre City Plan amendments proposal here.
The City of Calgary's Centre City Plan may create an unintended disincentive to diversity, to the distribution of vital social services, and to continuing widely accepted social virtues, according to a preliminary study released October 20, 2010 by Cardus.
This is Calgary City Soul Phase 1: Inventory of Physical Worship Space in Calgary's City Centre, an audit report conducted over the summer of 2010. Cardus analyzed the physical infrastructure that supports the work of faith communities in the area defined by the Centre City plan—25 spaces devoted to worship, mostly Christian churches and one Buddhist Temple. There are no synagogues, mosques, Latter Day Saints, Sikh or Hindu temples currently within the civic core.
Calgary's Centre City Plan is designed to provide room and services for 40,000 additional residents in the civic core in the years ahead. If the plan makes no reference to the need for continued growth of the faith institutions in the Centre City, what will flourishing in the future be like?
This report is the first phase of a multi-phase undertaking titled Calgary City Soul. Watch www.cardus.ca for more.