Community and Social Health Cluster in Montréal-Nord

The Community and Social Health Cluster* project creates bridges between public, parapublic and community organizations for the benefit of the overall health of the population in the western sector of the borough of Montréal-Nord.
*Pôle communautaire et de santé sociale

Why a Community and Social Health Cluster project?

This project brings together various organizations and sectors of activity in the borough of Montréal-Nord which. Notwithstanding the strength of the community network and the wealth of services to the population at the overall neighbourhood level, these stakeholders wish to respond to some of the difficulties experienced in the field with respect to the physical, psychological and social well-being of the residents of the western sector of Montréal-Nord. In fact, an actual shortage of community and institutional services has been documented and validated by all partners, and it was around this assessment that the Cluster first mobilized.

Rather than opening several clinics, each specializing in a different field of expertise, the idea of doing things differently – and together – is supported by the project partners. Their wish is to go beyond the limits of their individual actions, optimize their ways of working in a more holistic approach and co-create by pooling their respective strengths and addressing the reality on the ground as adequately as possible. Indeed, the partners recognize that the symptoms of a health problem can often be explained by underlying reasons that are often multiple and not easily understood.

More specifically, the members of the Cluster are seeking to co-create an integrated service offer that will make it possible to reach so-called “ghost” populations, i.e., clients who do not avail themselves of services because the offer is not adapted to their needs or because of barriers related to access to services such as language, culture, lack of social or other ties.

Photo d'un atelier du Pôle communautaire et de santé sociale de Montréal-Nord, programme innovateurs sociaux en résidence de la MIS

To illustrate, let us take the case of a family with young children who does not make use of neighbourhood health services. Once the reasons explaining the disconnection between this family and the existing services are clearly identified and documented, the approach advocated by the Cluster would ensure the development of high-impact solutions with all the people concerned by the problem, namely by exploring the most relevant and determining points of contact and the means to consider to reconnect this clientele with the services that are most beneficial to their overall health.

Social innovation, the place of the user and social R&D

With the support of the Maison de l’innovation sociale through its Social Innovators in Residence program, the Cluster’s multidisciplinary team is venturing into a social innovation approach to develop and carry out the project that will respond to this complex issue. Several stages are taking shape:

  • _ The first step was to project and federate the partners around a common vision of the project, its values, the desired impact in the longer term, and the possible connections between partners on desired services that the Cluster could embody.
  • _ Develop ways of working and co-creating since many organizations (public, parapublic and community-based) are choosing to join forces here.
  • _ Deploy strategies and tools to clarify needs; gain a more in-depth understanding of the reality in the field and the needs and expectations of so-called “ghost” clients and clarify the social impact targeted.
  • _ Move on to the service design stage to concretely define the project and propose different service scenarios that will be prototyped and tested in real conditions by the people concerned.

For this, many questions arise:

_ First, who are these people who do not take advantage of the services offered in the community? Where and how do they live? Why are they not referred to the various resources?

_ Or what are their daily needs? How do they meet them? Why is it that institutional health services do not match their realities or expectations? What are the obstacles that prevent them from taking advantage of them?

Next steps in the project

The Maison de l’innovation sociale, as part of its social R&D work, has developed several support tools to guide teams through the start-up phase of their project.

In this particular case, the approach of a territorial residence will be favoured in order to allow the partners to immerse themselves in the field and to have a very practical understanding of the needs, constraints and aspirations of the people concerned. More specifically, the partners will temporarily occupy a space in the heart of the target territory and will be able to approach the target clienteles in their own living environment.

The MIS provides partners with tools prepared using different observation and interview methods, such as shadowing, which consists of following, as observers, the people concerned in their day-to-day lives; or creative meetings that take the form of different types of small group workshops and elicit anecdotes and stories that raise issues or help identify community leaders. These tools deployed in the field (physically or remotely) by the project partners, also contribute to bringing organizations closer to the clienteles and integrating in the creation of the project the people targeted by the services.

Partners mobilized around the Community and Social Health Cluster of Montréal-Nord

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