It all began in 1978 when a group of local citizens and service providers met to address their concerns about vandalism and lack of neighbourhood services. Soon after, they formed the Langs Farm Village Association, based on their shared vision to “bring organizations to the Langs neighbourhood to provide services to help address the substantial needs in this densely populated, isolated community”.
After securing operating space in a local townhouse, the association began offering services focused on prevention and health promotion, community wellbeing and quality of life. They outgrew this space and moved into a larger site in a local plaza. Fast forward to 2007, when the organization purchased 3.2 acres of land and began plans to develop a brand new building.
The Langs Community Health Centre (CHC), established in 1995, grew from the early focus on health and wellness. The CHC is one of a range of community and health focused programs offered by Langs at their various sites.
The HUB@1145 opened in Cambridge in 2011. This 58,000 square foot facility includes two community kitchens, a lounge, courtyard, gymnasium and walking track, and program and meeting rooms for use by its many partners and community groups. This eco-friendly site features two green roofs and a “living wall” in the main reception area. In 2018, the organization will open an extension providing an additional 8,200 square feet, and more parking. The Hub is an active and busy place with a Community Health Centre and other programs delivered by Langs, 20 co-located partners and relationships with more than 27 additional organizations and groups.
Hub Partners and Groups Using the Church Today
The Hub Lead
Langs – is an incorporated not for profit organization and a registered charity. A rebrand in 2011 led to a name change from Langs Farm Village Association to the much simpler Langs. It provides a variety of programs including Early Years, Diabetes Education, a resource centre, outreach services and also operates a Community Health Centre. It has six locations including the main location, the HUB@1145, and a second HUB@2958 in North Dumfries.
There are many program partners who use the space at the HUB@1145. Approximately 20 partner organizations rent space and upwards of 27 additional groups deliver services on a monthly basis. Onsite partners include: William E. Paulter Seniors Centre of the City of Cambridge, Waterloo Region Community Legal Services, Langs Medical Pharmacy, Canadian Mental Health Association, Lutherwood, Family & Children’s Services Waterloo Region Public Health, and many more. Partners are comprised of nonprofit and commercial organizations.
Langs seeks to create “changed lives, healthy communities”. The vision of the HUB@1145 grew from this vision and from their commitment to never say ‘we don’t do that’ or ‘we can’t do that’. The hub vision involved building “a welcoming, accessible and respectful ‘community home’ which reflects the interests and needs of the community and its service providers.” It’s a gathering place for community members to learn new things, access services, and enhance their health and wellness through a rich variety of programs and resources, including a gymnasium and walking track.
This section highlights interesting or unique elements of the journey to develop and operate the hub, rather than a comprehensive, beginning to end, story.
Hub Development and Financing
The Hub development process began in 2007 with the purchase of the land by a separate nonprofit corporation, the Langs Community Development Corporation (which has responsibility to own and manage the building and land asset). This nonprofit recently received approval as a registered charity. Langs received two-year funding from the Lyle S. Hallman Foundation in 2008 for staff to develop a partnership framework and model. When this funding ended, they successfully applied for two-year funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation for resource development staff.
Each of these grants provided much needed funding for early stage hub development of the Hub.
In June 2010, Langs received $4.9 million in funding from FEDDEV for development of the Hub. The City of Cambridge contributed $3 million in return for dedicated space for their William E. Paulter Seniors Centre. Langs also raised $1.4 million through a capital campaign, and arranged $3.9 million in financing, using the land as equity for the loan.
An application for Ministry of Health and Long Term Care capital funding was submitted in 2010, but the approvals were not obtained within specified timelines for the hub development. Langs did not meet the eligibility criteria for funding from available programs from the newly established Infrastructure Ontario.
Interestingly, Langs was also unable to secure funding for the gymnasium and walking track, both of which today are main attractions. Instead they fundraised money to cover these resources and now charge minimal user fees.
A groundbreaking ceremony took place in late 2010; the hub doors officially opened in September 2011.
While the $3.9 million loan is quite substantial, Langs was confident they could manage the payments. Having paid rent at the plaza for many years without a problem, there was no reason to expect that they couldn’t continue these payments towards a mortgage. With service providers indicating interest in moving into the hub space and they could also direct this additional rental revenue towards mortgage payments. According to the Vice Chair, Angela Asadoorian, the Executive Director of Langs, Bill Davidson, showed “strong and visionary leadership and presented a professional business plan with compelling arguments.” The hub concept had been well developed and tested, the Board Chair was a strong leader who was respected by the board, and the Board had an aptitude for risk and was determined to make it work.
According to Davidson, “the model is sustainable … but it is hard work”. While the new expansion will, of course, increase debt, it will also bring in new service partners and programs to help offset costs.
Fred Wagner, Executive Director of the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington, explains that his organization moved in to the hub “because of the opportunity for integration and to be part of a hub that included primary care.” Partners are required to sign a formal partnership agreement that sets out the vision and expectations regarding participation and engagement in the hub, and a conflict-resolution process. In addition to setting out affordable market rents, the lease outlines how to access and use meeting rooms, kitchens, the gym and walking track and includes a menu of options pertaining to reception, parking, and storage. The rental agreement includes three parts: base rent, common fees (contributions toward operating costs) and any optional business services negotiated by the tenant. For-profit organizations have higher rents than nonprofit groups.
The City-operated Seniors Centre has a different arrangement with Langs. Because the City contributed $3 million to the development of the Hub, they pay their share of the operating costs but do not pay the base rent charge that is applied to other tenants.
The initial 18 partners signed a five-year lease. Two of the partners signed two-year leases and relocated when the leases expired. Langs had a waiting list so that these vacancies filled quickly. Recently all 20 partners have renewed their lease for a second five-year term.
The Partnership Agreement is an important document. Langs describes the hub as “a central access point for a range of needed health and social services, along with cultural, recreational, and green spaces to nourish community life” (Langs. 2017). Partners are expected to contribute to the hub and to the community. Partnership is about more than ‘just being a tenant’. As Fred Wagner explains, “We want active participation, openness, flexibility and engagement from all our hub partners”, which is all “part of the philosophy of being there.” Langs Executive Director, Bill Davidson, speaks of the need to have basic policies and processes “but not too many rules or barriers” in place in order to “evolve a positive hub culture.” Hub partners don’t always have continuity of staff and so it is an ongoing process to build such cohesive relationships.
Langs hasn’t earmarked funding to support the hub partnership. Rather, with rent revenues being used to pay down the mortgage (over the next 20-25 years), Langs must support the partnership from its existing resources. Two Langs staff, a leadership team member and a support staff member, are seconded to work with the partners as part of their job. ‘Lunch and Learns’ and other activities are organized to provide partners regular opportunities to exchange information and share knowledge. Along with a partner newsletter, partner and hub tools have been created, including a process to evaluate the partnership experience. As well the hub hosts special events like community picnics and health fairs.
HUB@2958 – North Dumfries Hub
Langs moved its North Dumfries satellite CHC to a new multi-purpose community centre in 2011. The Township-owned facility includes a banquet hall, regulation sized ice rink, walking track, seniors and youth space, an exterior splash pad, soccer fields and community trails. Within this space, Langs CHC has partnered with seven other organizations to provide health services, adult and youth programs, counseling, a baby-friendly initiative and more. The Township relocated their offices to this site so as to provide accessible service to the rural community of about 9,000 people.
There are some unique challenges faced by rural hubs. The North Dumfries community lacked easy access to many programs, and the community need for health, wellness and community services was evident. Because the population is relatively small, local agencies are limited – and the few that are available tend to operate out of regional/district service providers. Budgets rarely support rental for secondary community locations. While co-locating and partnering in a hub is a way of supporting rural communities, it takes longer (and is harder) to interest prospective partners to join a rural hub.
Even so, the benefits of a rural hub are similar to those provided by urban hubs. Both meet the needs of the local population by providing more accessible and efficient services and programs, and offering programs that enhance wellbeing and community. From a service provider perspective, hubs make better use of existing infrastructure, connect service providers (less overlap and more collaboration) and bring benefit to the entire service system.
Langs has a board of 15 members, the majority of whom reflect the communities served. By all accounts, this diverse, strong, thoughtful and action-oriented team reflects the early commitment of the Langs founders towards ensuring community involvement in decision-making. The Board is involved in all strategic planning and in contributing to the vision for the future. Vice Chair Angela Asodoorian affirms, “board members are determined to make it work”. Asodoorian originally became involved with the organization after working behind the scenes to help with the original land acquisition and she “fell in love with everything they did.”
Along with the more standard board committees (Executive, Finance and Sustainability Committees for example), Langs has also introduced a Chair’s Innovation Council Committee which promotes the mission and vision of the organization. As well a North Dumfries Advisory Committee provides advice to the Board regarding their work in the rural community.
In addition, there is a 15 member Community Services Committee including 12 community members (with at least seven members from the Langs catchment area) including clients, volunteers, local schools, churches, the Waterloo Regional Police, a Regional Councillor, and City of Cambridge staff. In addition, there are two board members and the Director of Community Services at Langs (staff position). This committee plays a very important role in the Hub and the work of the organization.
Langs has a long history of engaging the community in decision-making regarding programs, services and partnerships. When plans were being developed for the new building, it was understood that Langs would need to grow its partnerships with local groups, and determine a process as to how and by whom the space would be used. The Community Services Committee sought input and advice from local residents and engaged in discussions with service providers. Once the vision for the hub became clear, service providers were given information and asked to submit Expressions of Interest to be part of the Hub. Thirty-five submissions were received by the Committee, which then created sub-groups to focus on reviewing the applications. A plenary session with 72 participants was organized to discuss findings and make recommendations regarding use of the space.
The Community Services Committee also handles ongoing requests for space (when a partner moves out or needs less space). In this case, interested organizations complete proposals and facility requests, background information and a statement as to how they will align with the Langs and hub values. Potential new partners must make a presentation to the committee, outlining their fit with the mission, vision and goals of Langs. The committee deliberates and makes a recommendation to the Board of Directors. The committee will use this same process to fill additional spaces slated to open in 2018 and is currently reviewing 15 new applications.
“In most cases, the organization has a good sense of whether or not they fit in – very few are turned down,” Sten Holmberg, a Board member and member of the Community Services Committee remarks. Langs is earnest about seeking a diversity of partners to align with their vision and mission and who are able to meet the needs of the community (although they have down one or two requests). The Committee will consider requests for space from for-profit businesses if they meet a need or bring benefits to the community.
Additionally, the Community Services Committee recommends new programs or resources, reviews research, evaluates user feedback and suggests service improvements where necessary.
In 2016, Langs began a process to evaluate the Hub. Perhaps not surprisingly, they did the evaluation in partnership with one of their partners, Family & Children’s Services of Waterloo Region. Both organizations had developed hubs and both wanted to tell the story about sustainability and impact. Together, they collaborated to develop evaluation tools and frameworks that could be applied to each of their hubs. Langs received funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation for the evaluation.
A joint evaluation committee was formed to guide the evaluation by an independent consultant. The process involved the development of a Theory of Change (reproduced below), document review, focus groups with clients, partners and staff, surveys of clients and partners, and key informant interviews. It probed the short, medium and long-term benefits and challenges of the hub and its impact upon each of the stakeholder groups.
For details of this diagram please contact Langs directly
As well as evaluating the Langs hub at one point in time, efforts were made to develop a tool that could be used to measure change over time. This particular evaluation will help inform future evaluations, for example by guiding tweaks to the tools and process. Adjustments to the Theory of Change are also expected based on learnings from the first evaluation.
As noted earlier the evaluation report was carefully reviewed by both the Community Services Committee and by the Board of Directors.
Benefits And Value Added
The HUB@1145 is a lively community space. Fred Wagner, Executive Director of the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington, likes the ‘feel’ of the place, commenting, “Langs has done an exceptional job of building community space into the hub.” People feel welcome. With so many services under one roof, there is lots of activity and no one notices why a client is there or which service they are accessing. At the same time, the 2017 evaluation reported that the HUB@1145 increased social contact between members of the community and contributed to increased awareness of and access to services and programs. Hub users like the range of programs, the way staff and volunteers help, the diversity of users, volunteers and agencies in the building, the ease of access, and the physical space itself. Angela Asadoorian, the Vice Chair of the Board, likes that “the hub model doesn’t lose sight of the small things…it isn’t just about medical services.”
The North Dumfries Hub is said to provide similar benefits and is considered a vital part of the community and recreation centre and plays an important leadership role in bringing rural service providers together to serve the community.
Partners benefit from the hub in many ways. Their shared commitment to collaboration helps them improve services to the community and paves the way for easier referrals and advice to clients regarding other services. Taking part in ‘Lunch and Learns’ and other activities helps staff teams get to know one another and build knowledge. And it is definitely more energizing being part of the hub than having a separate office in the community and a much better use of limited community infrastructure!
Community members also benefit in terms of leadership development. The Board of Directors and the Community Services Committee have requirements for local resident participation and the Hub development process featured community engagement and consultation. Board and Committee members are supported through orientation, ongoing leadership development and benefit from increased knowledge of governance processes, the local Langs community, and issues and opportunities in the sector.
The community also benefits directly from the leadership provided by the Board of Directors which collectively applies the ‘changed lives, healthy communities’ vision to all decision-making.
Langs continues its role as a network builder by leading a Health Link for patients with the most complex health needs (in Cambridge and North Dumfries). In partnership with the Region of Waterloo, it leads the Connectivity Table – a group comprised of medical and mental health professionals, social workers, teachers, police and parole officers – all of whom together support high-risk people who are vulnerable, or who may not fit neatly into the mandate of only one service provider. Langs also coordinates the Waterloo Region Community Diabetes Program.
Benefits to communities and partners will continue to grow as Langs considers expansion into other communities including a possible expansion into the Hespeler area of Cambridge.
Langs works hard at sharing their experience and learnings with other organizations considering hub development. As part of that work, they co-developed the Association of Community Health Centres (of Ontario) Framework on Community Hubs (below).
Lessons Learned and Advice
Lesson #1 – This case study describes a hub partnership model based on the development of relationships, the selection of the ‘right fit’ partners, diverse groups and services, a ‘low rules’ environment, support for partners, and a shared culture. These things did not happen by accident, they were intentionally developed aspects of the organization, and are embedded in the governance model.
Lesson #2 – Despite the many resources and capacity of Langs to support community-building, challenges remain. In the absence of hub operating funds or grants, Langs staff and resources are seconded to support the partnership. The only other option is raising rent to pay for hub and partnership support, however, unaffordable rents can lead to the loss of valuable partners.
Lesson #3 – In addition to developing relationships among hub partners, and managing the daily hub operations, leaders must be constantly aware and identify changes within the internal and external environments. Such critical work takes time and effort, and is often unfunded ‘off the side of the desk’ work. As is evident from the Langs case study, the ‘steering’ process never stops: hubs expand, they change based on new partners, adapt to opportunities and challenges, and evaluate and refocus.
Lesson #4 – While each Hub is unique and there is no cookie-cutter approach to development, there are different challenges in the development of rural versus urban hubs. While ultimate the benefits may be similar, the processes and resources for getting there can differ greatly.
Lesson #5 – Langs plays two roles in the Hub – developer/landlord and partner. These roles may conflict and it can be difficult for an organization to wear both hats. Over its long history, Langs has shown that it can be managed – but an organization does need to be respectful and clear about which ‘hat’ it is wearing when dealing with partners.
Lesson #6 – Successful hubs such as Langs are built on a foundation of relationships with the community and other service providers. As well, successful hubs are supported by research and analysis, and financial and business planning which guides them in taking necessary risks informed by strategic priorities.
Lesson #7 – HUB@1145 is built on robust partnerships with service providers working together to deliver effective support to the community. There is some interest in exploring what it might look like to take ‘the next big step’ towards fully integrated service delivery and a new service-delivery model. Such an ambitious goal requires strong leadership and the commitment of partners to give up their current ways of working ‘in partnership, but separately’. Langs is leading an initiative on Health Links that challenges local health care providers to consider opportunities for better service integration – perhaps this is a first step in the process towards greater integration in hubs like Langs.