Getting friends and neighbours involved is a great way to build a better community and create a sense of belonging for everyone. Find out how to:

Encourage local leaders

Very little can get done in a community without local leaders. These people work to make your neighbourhood a better place by doing things like

  • volunteering their time
  • recruiting helpers
  • organizing activities
  • raising awareness about important issues

Local leaders are often the unsung heroes in our communities. It’s everyone’s job to develop and encourage local leaders of all ages and backgrounds.

The City of Ottawa offers various leadership programs for young people aged 13 years and over. Youth can learn valuable skills, such as team building, communication and first-aid.

The Diversity in Leadership Ottawa (DLO) program aims to increase diversity in non-profits and charities across our city. It helps connect skilled people from under-represented groups to non-profit Boards.

For more information

Involve youth

Young people are a big part of our communities. They’re often creative and energetic, with lots of fresh ideas and technical skills.

Get youth involved in neighbourhood events and activities. They get to develop skills, knowledge and experience, which helps them

  • build self-confidence
  • learn to work with others, including peers and adults
  • take on leadership roles
  • gain experience to put on their resumé
  • develop a community spirit and the desire to ‘give back’

How to encourage youth to get involved

  • Ask them to participate: Invite them to help at a neighbourhood activity that you’re planning. You could also help them find a volunteer opportunity.
  • Empower them as decision-makers: Encourage them to play an active role on event or activity committees. They can even increase youth engagement by joining the Ottawa Youth Engagement Committee.
  • Support diversity: Involve youth who may not otherwise be included because of language barriers or a disability.
  • Focus on their strengths: Identify activities and tasks that focus on strengths such as planning entertainment for an event, managing social media for the community or filmmaking.
  • Spread the word: Encourage other adults to invite youth to participate or play a decision-making role in their programs and activities.
  • Consider their commitments: Organize meetings to fit young peoples’ schedules.

You can learn more about youth community engagement from the City of Ottawa.

Get youth involved with seniors

Youth can learn so much from working with seniors and can offer much in return. Why not plan a matchmaking opportunity or connect youth with the local seniors’ centre or retirement residence?

Here are some things youth can do with seniors:

  • Visit: Many seniors are lonely. Regular visits give them something to look forward to and give youth an opportunity to volunteer in a meaningful way. Take a look at The Good Companion’s Friendly Visiting program.
  • Talk: A young person can bring a breath of fresh air into a senior’s day. Tell them stories, make them laugh. In turn, seniors can talk about their experiences and life’s valuable lessons.
  • Do activities: Youth can lead a group of seniors in arts and crafts, group activities, puzzle-making or a discussion about the day’s news events. They can play board games, cards or even show them how to use a computer.
  • Entertain them: Many seniors’ centres and retirement homes bring in regular entertainment. Have local youth organize a talent show, sing songs or tell stories.
  • Adopt them: Some communities run ‘Adopt a Grandfriend’ programs that allow youth to connect with a senior. Some young people don’t have grandparents, or see them infrequently because of distance, and these programs are very rewarding for everyone involved.

Get youth involved with parents of young children

Give parents of young children the opportunity to mix with local youth so they can get to know each other. Encourage teens to:

  • Lead activities: Have them run a bike riding clinic, arts and crafts workshops, dance classes or music appreciation sessions to allow them to interact with young children, while contributing in a positive way.
  • Run sports programs: Ask them to volunteer as sports coordinators or coaches, teach kids to skate, or coordinate weekend gym activities.
  • Help on committees: Give them valuable experience while helping with a project.
  • Take a babysitting course: Local babysitting courses are often offered through the City of Ottawa, schools, school boards, Safety Tree and St. John Ambulance.
  • Tutor other children: Young people with reading, writing or math skills can put them to good use by working with children or peers.

Recreational activities for youth

Helping young people have fun in their community is an important part of keeping them engaged. It helps them learn new skills and develop their interests.

The City of Ottawa website is a great resource for young people, offering information about:

Organizations that offer youth recreational programs:

For more information

Start a positive ticketing program

Positive ticketing is a way to reward and encourage positive behaviours in youth. The ‘tickets’ usually come in the form of gift cards or certificates for free food, movie rentals or other similar incentives.

Positive ticketing is used by members of the community, including police, to recognize good behaviour such as:

  • Volunteering
  • Wearing bicycle helmets
  • Doing a good deed
  • Participating in community activities
  • Picking up garbage
  • Observing school crossing rules
  • Helping others

Research has found that positive ticketing helps young people become more confident, healthier and more successful in school. It also means they’ll be less likely to get involved in criminal activities, drugs, alcohol and violence.

Start a positive ticketing program

To start a positive ticketing program in your community, speak to local businesses to request gift certificate donations. Give the tickets to business owners, school crossing guards, Neighbourhood Watch leaders and others in the community to reward youth when they see positive behaviour.


Volunteering is a positive way to contribute to life in the City of Ottawa. The opportunities are endless — from volunteering at schools to supporting non-profit organizations, charities, local festivals, places of worship or community programs and events.

Find a volunteer opportunity

If you’re looking to volunteer, here are some good places to start:

  • Volunteer Ottawa lists thousands of volunteer opportunities from community organizations each year.
  • The City of Ottawa relies on 70,000 volunteers to support its many programs and activities.
  • The United Way/Centraide is one of many non-profit organizations that need the support of volunteers to run its programs and raise funds.

Start a newsletter

Community newsletters can be a nice way to share important information about your neighbourhood. Newsletters contain local news, events, promotions and may include safety or neighbourhood tips.

Paper or online?

Community newsletters were traditionally printed on paper, but many are now sent via email or posted on websites.

The benefit of a paper newsletter is that it allows you to reach all households and businesses in your community – including those with no internet access or residents who aren’t comfortable with technology.

An electronic newsletter is cheaper to create and send out, and it’s better for the environment. However, it can only reach members of your community who have internet access and technology skills.

The choice is yours. You may want to ask people in your community about their preference. You can even do a mix of paper and digital.

Getting started

To start your newsletter, consider the following approach:

The editor coordinates all content and often writes many of the articles. They should have

  • strong writing skills
  • an eye for detail
  • good interview skills
  • good recruiting skills to encourage community members to contribute to the newsletter

It’s a good idea to have more than one person working on the newsletter to provide ideas, take photos and develop articles. Ask community members who have an interest in writing, design and/or photography to become regular contributors.

Choose how often you want to publish the newsletter. It’s best to start with fewer issues, such as four times a year, and increase frequency once you have enough content and a good publishing process.

Community newsletters can cover a variety of topics, including:

  • Upcoming events
  • Helpful tips
  • Neighbourhood association updates
  • Messages from your community police officer or City councillor
  • Neighbourhood Watch news
  • Local services (e.g. flu clinics, community programs)
  • Local schools
  • Classified listings

There are many websites and programs that contain simple e-newsletter templates that you can personalize. There are also e-newsletter services that allow you to create your newsletter online, and store and update your email lists on their system.

Options include:

This document provides writing and production deadlines to keep the editorial team on track with each issue. Decide when you want to release your newsletter and, based on that, how early you need to begin working on it.

Consider planning, research, writing and design time, as well as printing, holidays, distribution, etc. Make sure everyone involved has the schedule. Your editorial calendar should include:

  • Each article or report in the upcoming issue
  • Deadlines for each item
  • Other requirements, such as photos and design
  • Who is responsible for what
  • Contact information for all contributors

Assign stories or photo shoots to members of your editorial team. If community submissions make up a big part of your newsletter, you may want to establish guidelines on editorial content, such length of articles, acceptable subject matter and the editorial team’s right to edit material. You can ask community members for input in many ways:

  • Ask them contribute ideas or stories
  • Approach them at neighbourhood meetings for story ideas
  • Ask for input on your community website
  • Gather material in conversations with neighbours and local businesses

Make sure that community members’ names are printed with their articles in the newsletter (unless they want to be anonymous), to recognize their contributions.

Consider involving young people

For example, you could include a column written by a young person that offers a youth perspective on local issues. If you accept advertising, you could ask young neighbours to distribute flyers with advertising rates to businesses serving your community.