One of the most frequent questions I'm asked at LIN is about leisure trends - and the answer to that question would be huge and always changing. So this week I attended a  webinar on how to be a trendwatcher, sponsored by Foresight Blog from Rethink
Handout from the Trendwatching webinar
Recent article in Municipal World

Thanks to Brenda Herchmer, ACE Communities, for sharing this with us.

During tough economic times, we must take action to ensure that Canada’s economy grows, but those actions must not be at the expense of other aspects of lives. The recent release of the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) brought attention to the importance of looking beyond just economic indicators when considering how well we are doing as a country. Over the 15 year period covered by the CIW, we saw Gross Domestic Product per capita (GDP) increase by 31% and the CIW increase by only 11%. While this trend is troubling enough, of even greater concern is that among the eight domains that comprise Canadians’ wellbeing, leisure and culture has fared the worst. Our leisure and culture actually declined by 3%.

Several factors have contributed to this decline: people are socialising with family and friends less often, less time is spent engaging in arts and culture activities, fewer people are visiting our National Parks and National Historic Sites, and fewer hours are being spent volunteering for recreation and culture organisations in our communities. And lower levels of volunteering affects not only the wellbeing of the people who enjoy giving of themselves, but the wellbeing of the people who receive the benefits of the volunteers’ efforts and the wellbeing of the community as a whole which benefits from a more vibrant and connected populace. There are, however, some positive trends – participation in physical activity has increased, we are taking slightly longer holidays, and fewer of us are spending long hours at work each week. Nevertheless, the overall patterns suggest we are having less fun and feeling much more time stressed.

Some observers have suggested that we must step back and make better choices, that we should be more active, be more engaged in our communities, and change our behaviour. However, we must resist feeling that the decline in leisure and culture, and hence our wellbeing, is purely a consequence of personal choice. Rather than “blame ourselves”, we need to address the broader systemic problems that have relegated leisure and culture to an afterthought. Recent cuts in support for the public agencies and non-profit and voluntary groups typically responsible for leisure and culture activities reflect the lack of priority they have on the minds of policy makers. Setting policy is all about making choices and deliberate reductions in our capacity to develop and provide meaningful venues and opportunities for participation in leisure and arts and cultural activities threaten the wellbeing of individuals, communities, and Canadian society at large.

We must strengthen our resolve to sustain and further develop leisure and culture resources. We must demand more from our elected officials and bureaucrats to protect those opportunities and places where we celebrate our culture, our humanity, our sense of ourselves. Without those opportunities, we are less well as a society.

Bryan Smale is the Director of the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) and a Professor in the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies at the University of Waterloo. For more information on the CIW, please visit www.ciw.ca

LIN has been delivering outstanding online services to over 6,000 professionals and volunteers in the leisure services and lifestyle sector since 1995. It has actively sought to continually expand the National Recreation Data  Base with studies, policies, research findings, presentations and other forms of information that contribute to the advancement of the sector – and to post secondary students preparing to serve in it.  

It was a natural transition in 2010 when LIN moved from being a stand-alone non-profit organization to coming under the stewardship of the Alberta Recreation and Parks Association and its partners in the Canadian recreation and parks sector. The involvement of LIN at the recent National Recreation Summit was just another example of the key role it can play in information gathering and dissemination for the sector.

The original name of LIN was the Leisure Information Network. While it was broadened to the Lifestyle Information Network several years ago, it is now fitting that it returns to its first name. This doesn’t mean that LIN has narrowed its scope in information gathering, it rather emphasizes the broad scope and meaning of leisure and its contributions to individuals and communities.

Don Hunter, Chair of LIN 2008-2010  

Just looking through the photos from the last day of the Summit - I especially like the one of the whole group which captures a moment of many emotions - triumph, that we got through the entire agenda, thoughtful musings about the presentations we heard, and a little bit of sadness that it was over.

But... it's not really over as the final summary should be out soon with some next steps identified.

It's been a long day with so many really exciting and challenging ideas, that it's hard to know where to start. We have slides from most of the presenters today, so I won't try to summarize those for you, but Graham Clyne spoke today with some thought provoking (and provocative) statements:

  • Benefits of social programs splatter across systems and recreation has the biggest splatter
  • In recreation it can be difficult to develop the evidence of the benefits because rec programs are not tightly controlled situations, but we must embrace a culture of evaluation
  • We need to produce evidence that will resonate with local decision makers
  • What passes for diversity is people from different cultures who agree with us
  • Be careful about creating a national recreation statement when recreation is done at the provincial and local level
  • Recreation needs to be positioned squarely at the centre of human and social services
  • You can frame your evidence from the point of view of fear or opportunity - fear often works well

You have been getting only a skim of the surface from these blogs, but after the summit I hope we will find ways to augment the information that is available online now.

Looks at the trends that could significantly influence the future of leisure services in Canada, and five ‘game changers’ that could dramatically shift the way we do business in the future. Argues that future leisure service opportunities will be based on leisure anarchy, integration and devolution, and virtual service provision and facilitation, and summarizes implied and anticipated shifts in recreation interest and leisure services.