This fall the Sustainable Communities Initiative took a leap forward as members from the LAYC (Fort Chipewyan), OSLI (Oil Sands Leadership Initiative which includes partners such as the Carleton University, RCMP, Northland School Division) and Sekweha (Janvier) teams gathered as one large team to make plans for 2013. It was a great opportunity to build on the momentum thus far in the initiative. The overall experience was inspiring for everyone.
The Joint Planning Session began with three goals: to strengthen the relationships among participants (both organizations and individuals), to develop concrete plans for 2013 and to begin to identify measures of success for the groups 2013 plans including how to celebrate their progress. “It was a really beautiful experience to be part of. I think the values and spirit of the initiative itself was a big part of the success and everyone understood that we were all there with good intentions to help each other,” said Alli Marshall, a new member of the OSLI team whose artistic talents visually translated the proceedings into murals depicting the ideas and progress of the participants over the course of the event.
One of the board members brought his wife and baby. It was a powerful moment for Alli perceived that it was powerful for everyone to see a child of the next generation, so she included the child in the Welcome mural. It was emphasized by many people over the course of the event that everyone was there for their future, and the children’s future.
“I got a kick out of it, especially hearing the way people were building on each other’s ideas and giving constructive feedback; it was a high-performance team in action. I know there was a lot of work leading up to it and it was clearly worth it,” said Alli.
In fact, there were six days of long-distance planning for each day of the joint planning session. Craig Wiley, and Bart Crawford facilitated the three-day session. It was a collaborative process from start to finish. Bart and Craig spent a great deal of time consulting with participants prior to the Joint Planning Session, including assembling a planning committee and group that helped throughout the event.
“As a young adult, it was great for me on how to help others and build up my community for kids and everyone to have fun. Going to this years planning session in Banff Alberta was a good experience for me, and gives me the time to help my town and the LAYC. I’m happy things went well as we all talked about.”
Lucas Ladouceur, LAYC Board Youth Representative
“The challenge was bringing together a multiplicity of stakeholders,” said Craig. The challenge was also part of the success. “It was a place that highlighted what this group needs – which is time to be together. I see this whole initiative as different from just ‘A to B’. The human dynamic is the first part that needs to be built.”
“The facilitated process provided an opportunity for each community to present their goals to one another multiple times, which helped individuals clarify the goals for themselves. It also allowed for feedback from a variety of people, offering more opportunities to think deeply about the goals and how to achieve them,” said Bart.
One of the many highlights of the event for Alli was hearing a youth from Janvier say to a Fort Chipewyan youth that they could learn from Fort Chip as well. The youth were committed to learn from each other and give their support. The voice of youth was very apparent throughout the session, speaking up about what they felt was needed and more importantly, what they could do themselves to support the action items.
“It was inspiring to see the momentum and collaboration on the important projects the communities are pursuing.”
Mark Prystupa, Sustainable Communities Working Group
Bart noticed when one of the younger youth team members from LAYC was asked a question in a group. “She began to share that she was uncomfortable speaking in front of a group and one of the older youth members from Sekweha shared that she used to be uncomfortable speaking up as well and gave encouragement to the young woman that she will get more comfortable with it because she had,” said Bart.
A hallmark of the event came when a commemorative photo was arranged by a board member from each community to signify the importance of this session and also to celebrate the coming together. Youth were in front, board members and OSLI members standing behind symbolizing that we were all there to support youth and growing safe, healthy communities through youth engagement. Henry and Darren stood in the centre of the group of 53, and committed the entire group to continue this coming together, and supporting each other as we continue to build momentum.
“Positive attitudes moving forward are always great. The JPS showed us what positive “support” can achieve, we are not three groups coming together to do what’s right, but like minded folk who met doing what feels right. Sekweha, LAYC and OSLI, breaking trail is never easy… but we make it fun!”
Henry Herman, Sekweha Board Member
“People sacrificed and shared in so many ways and also made commitments around dreams they want to make a reality, as well as how they could empower each other”, said Craig.
“It’s hard to sum up how special the experience and team is. It really touched me. When you think about it, the accomplishment was pretty significant. Three large groups came together, thought about all the things they want to do for the next year, prioritized down to what’s important, then came up with measures of success and actions of who is going to do what and when; in addition to all the other conversations, personal developments, and strengthening of group bonds. A lot happened in a short time,” said Alli.
“The planning session was an opportunity to include new voices, in structures that were culturally welcoming and helped individuals learn from each other. The session also helped clarify our major directions for 2013. Now that those directions have been established regular check-ins are essential, and while we have existing structures through the community boards to do that, the challenge will be to continue to bring the larger team into these to keep the amazing momentum that we all recognized was built during this planning session,” Bart concluded.