The future of the Columbia Basin wrap-up

Crowded boat traffic on Kootenay Lake's Kaslo Bay
Crowded boat traffic on Kootenay Lake’s Kaslo Bay


The two-and-a-half day conference on the future of our region held in Creston, October 18-20 is now, officially over. The Kaslo Institute hosted an online hub at Kaslo’s Village Council chambers over the course of the conference. We posted a blogpost that summarized Friday’s plenary sessions yesterday. Here’s a similar summary based on Saturday and Sunday’s sessions.


Marlene Morris of the University of Northern BC shared her experiences working on various community development projects around the world. She highlighted initiatives in the UK’s Yorkshire and Northeastern England regions, areas that share many of the traits we exhibit here in the Kootenays — lots of isolated, small communities, past reliance on single (now waning or disappearing) industries, relatively small populations. Morris highlighted three things that seemed to be present in those British projects that were most successful:

Leadership: successful initiatives featured someone or an entity capable of bridging gaps between various stakeholders, of “translating” between groups, individuals, businesses, and government. These leaders also displayed an ability to inspire stakeholders, even in cases where there initially appeared no clear way forward.

Time & Space: ie the luxury of being able to accommodate formal meetings, as well as more informal gatherings, away from stuffy rooms and stiff agendas

Good information on which to base discussion


Paul Born, author and director of the Tamarack Institute, had some thoughts on effective collaboration:

– Most issues are either simple, complicated, or complex — each requires a different collaborative approach

– remember that every problem has a corresponding solution — focus on the latter

– he discussed various ways to stimulate positive, collaborative discussion and action, emphasizing the need to think about connecting seemingly disparate stakeholders and ideas. To put that in a local context, try this on for size: Kaslo Trailblazers + Kaslo Community Forest + Chamber of Commerce + frontline health practitioners = “forest therapy zones,” resulting in enhanced quality of life for locals, reduced physical and mental health care costs, increased (appropriately-sized) tourism = economic opportunities for locals, ranging from foresters to massage therapists

In the resultant discussion, a comment was made regarding the fact that for most organizations in small towns, the “killer combo” is that there are too few people (the ones who always seem to be doing “everything”) with too little time to do all the community work that needs doing.



This was the day the conference looked at the future of Columbia Basin Trust, which is essentially a Crown Corporation. The CBT over the next few years is looking at significant increases in the funds that flow to it.  Today’s session zeroed in on considering what to do with those new funds. Here are a few comments gleaned from the resultant discussions:

– the question was raised as to whether CBT should spend all its funds on an annual basis on projects, or set aside some money, investing it for future use. Most in the crowd leaned toward setting some funds for the future — 5% to 10% was the suggestion, for example, from the online group

– even if the Columbia River Treaty is ultimately cancelled (highly unlikely), the CBT will remain viable, given its assets

– some folks pointed out that funding certain kinds of projects or initiatives can serve as a form of investment

– areas of potential focus mentioned by folks in attendance included agriculture, education, infrastructure, and human capacity (like helping non-profits better manage and govern themselves, improve their collective ability to collaborate when and where appropriate, etc.), existing small businesses, start-ups, and youth

– some called for placing greater emphasis in future on larger projects, ones with a greater likelihood for long-term sustainability, and a better chance to create jobs for locals


Most of the conference’s proceedings, including far more detail than I’m able to provide here, will be forthcoming soon. We’ll provide links and analysis as it becomes available.

Finally, we’ve learned that the Kemball Centre’s an excellent place to host sessions like these. Bring on the 100 MBS bandwidth!


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