Quartiers 21 : Description

Title: Quartiers 21 program under the microscope

Project description
The goal of the Quartiers 21 program is to develop sustainable neighbourhoods in Montréal. The City of Montréal and Direction de santé publique are jointly responsible for the selection, funding and supervision of Quartiers 21 project implemented by project leaders. Community groups concerned with sustainable development issues in their neighbourhoods can experiment with innovative practices that integrate environmental, economic and social elements. Four projects are selected every year and funded for a three-year period. More specifically, the Quartiers 21 public funding program supports development initiatives that aim to 
  1. improve access to businesses and local services within walking distance;
  2. improve infrastructures for active transportation (e.g. walking and bicycling) and collective transportation (e.g. bus and metro);
  3. improve walking and bicycling safety;
  4. improve urban safety (e.g. vandalism, feeling unsafe);
  5. foster greening and beautification of neighbourhoods (including urban agriculture);   
  6. protect and reclaim natural environments (e.g. waterways, parks);
  7. encourage composting, rainwater harvesting and energy efficiency.
Recent studies indicate that initiatives aiming to transform urban and social environments can influence health behaviours, health indicators and, ultimately, social inequalities in health. However, to date, few studies have documented associations between such initiatives and the built environment and social dynamics from the point of view of natural experimentation and health outcomes. The cohorts studied in this evaluation project are promoters who were granted a first year of funding in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
The goals of the program evaluation are to 
1. describe the logical model chosen by the funding parties (DSP and City of Montréal);
2. document changes in the built environments in neighbourhoods where projects are funded by the Quartiers 21 program;
3. describe the association between having a Quartiers 21 project in the neighbourhood and community mobilization, neighbourhood quality, social cohesion, physical activity habits and, lastly, Montréal residents' degree of openness to sustainable development policies. 
The project methodology consists of the three objectives.  An initial data collection is carried out through non-participant observation,  a method involving an observer being present without interceding. The observer takes note of the logic and dynamics that underlie the tasks and activities of each of the four operating committees (advisory, steering, technical and follow-up). The observer also collects information through archival research. By taking these steps, the evolution in tasks and tools developed by the four committees can be documented. Once a year, when the new cohort of projects is selected, the observer conducts semi-structured interviews with the heads of the Quartiers 21 program (City of Montréal and DSP); the goal of these interviews is to review how the committees operate and to understand perceptions.  
Then, to evaluate changes brought to the built environment, a photo journal is kept. For each project, 25 street segments are chosen randomly and photographed. This is done twice during the first year of funding, after which it is repeated annually for follow-up purposes.  
Finally, a population survey of individuals aged 18 and over residing on the Island of Montréal is carried out. The sample includes 2000 participants.  A polling firm conducts a Web survey to collect the data (March 2012).
Project results will inform funding agencies of the City of Montréal's and the DSP's most innovative program management strategies. 
The photojournal produced for the 12 projects included in the evaluation will preserve a record of the actions undertaken by project promoters and shed light on the scope of changes being made in the neighbourhoods as a result of Quartiers 21 funding. Occasionally, the Quartier 21 program works in synergy with other projects; however, it is first and foremost a lever for non-governmental organizations that ensures the sustainability of initiatives put forward by community project promoters. 
Data from the population survey as well as observations obtained with the logical model, and data compiled through the photojournal will be disseminated in scientific articles and presentations. Results will also be shared directly with project promoters and their communities.
This project is funded by the Applied Public Health Research Chair on Neighbourhoods, Lifestyle and Healthy Body Weight and the Urban Environment and Health Sector at Direction de santé publique de Montréal.