Monday, April 25, 2011

Building Community through 'Third Places'

Much of the activity in cities occurs in its various public and private spaces. How this space is organized is a means by which our interactions can be choreographed and encouraged.

One space that is important to citizen wellbeing is called the third place. Not the home and not the workplace, a third place is somewhere that promotes conversations and encounters with friends and neighbours, often with some sort of shared connection. The feeling evoked is a sense of belonging. This could be a café, a pub, a park, or a library. Imagine what Vancouver would be like without our beaches, Stanley Park, or the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Ray Oldenburg, author of the book “The Great Good Place”, calls these spaces essential to community and public life. He argues that third places are “central to local democracy and community vitality”. He adds that though they are radically different from a home-like setting, the third place is “remarkably similar to a good home in the psychological comfort and support that it extends”.

At Quest, part of our mandate is to build community. We have relationships with many social service agencies in Vancouver, and provide volunteer and work placement programs for those in the neighbourhood. We also operate several of our very own ‘third places’: our three low-cost grocery stores. Food can be an item that evokes a shared connection. It is a basic necessity of life and has the incredible ability to bring together people. Food can become a powerful relationship builder with family members, friends, and even strangers.

Our stores provide a welcoming environment from people of all walks to life to shop for the food they need to fuel their bodies. Most importantly, we provide a variety of options for people to choose from. We believe that income level should not prevent people from having access to healthy, nutritious food on a regular basis.

We can thank our friendly staff, helpful volunteers, and wonderful clients for creating this environment in our stores.

What’s your favourite third place?

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