Friends of CityU Canada – Paula Carr

It’s a pleasure to introduce Paula Carr.

In the spring of this year Paula gave a blockbuster workshop in our Executive Leadership program at CityU in Vancouver called The Diversity Advantage: Intercultural Approaches. In addition to community participants a number of staff and faculty attended. This workshop will again be available as a part of the winter 2015 Executive Leadership certificate program.


Paula was the Executive Director, Collingwood Neighbourhood House, in Vancouver, British Columbia for 23 years and currently holds the position of Community Strategist and Consultant for Intercultural Neighbourhood Development. Part of her approach to community development comes from growing up in Wilcox in Saskatchewan, population 100. In a small town people are connected and they care about one another. Paula’s work focuses on creating the best of the small town in the large city.

About her approach Paula says: Interculturalism focuses on building bridges and exchanges between diverse people, and encouraging them to bring their unique gifts and approaches to creating solutions around common interests. In Renfrew -Collingwood, Paula helped to develop a collection of practices that has become a recognized approach to interculturalism. She worked with local residents, community organizations, governments, and businesses, to develop new facilities and meeting places, and new organizations. They revitalized local areas, addressed neighbourhood issues, and created over 200 new integrated services for Renfrew-Collingwood’s diverse population.

Higher diversity usually means greater isolation and lower social capital. Renfrew- Collingwood’s unique approach to interculturalism has turned this around. By working closely with local residents, the Neighbourhood House and its partners managed to bridge cultural differences to create a community that people describe as welcoming, a place where they feel at home, where they believe they can grow with the community.

The Collingwood Neighbourhood House and Renfrew-Collingwood community has received many awards including the European based BMW Award for Intercultural Learning and the Nesika Award for multiculturalism from the Province of BC. Paula has received the Province of British Columbia’s Queens Medal, and an Alan Thomas Fellowship award from the Carold Institute.

This following list of practices summarizes Renfrew-Collingwood’s approach to interculturalism. For a more detailed explanation of these practices see

  • Active convening
  • Grassroots co-creation
  • Multisector, multidisciplinary co-creation
  • Support for resident-led initiatives
  • A focus on building relationships
  • Taking time
  • Flexible leadership
  • Uncompromising appreciation
  • Fostering a family feeling.
  • Welcoming newcomers.
  • Creating a neighbourhood hub
  • Weaving together learning and growing
  • Weaving together service development and community development


Over the last 10 years the Renfrew Collingwood story has been told through many publications, films, and speaking engagements. Here are a few resources that describe the journey of this dynamic neighbourhood.