SOCIAL ENTERPRISE +”PLACE-BASED” DEVELOPMENT = A BRIGHT FUTURE FOR THE KOOTENAYS
It’s time for positive change in rural BC. It’s time for a fresh new approach to the challenge and opportunities that face rural residents and their communities. An approach that recognizes that the greatest asset any community has… is the place itself!
Enter place-based development.
So what is it? To paraphrase the Government of Canada’s Policy Horizons website, it’s about, “… …stakeholders engaging in a collaborative process to address issues as they are experienced within a geographical space….a neighborhood, a region, or an ecosystem.” A process that engages participants in collaborative creative and innovative thought and action.
Researchers at Simon Fraser, Guelph, Montreal, and Memorial universities have described place-based development as, “seek[ing] to reveal, utilize, and enhance the unique, physical and /or human capacity endowments present within a particular location for the development of the… community, and/or its bio-physical environment.” The Project for Public Spaces in the U.S. has referred to place-based development (what they refer to as “placemaking”) as having “… the potential to be one of the most transformative ideas of this century.”
Some of the most common approaches to place-based development include community economic development…
… often led by a social enterprise approach, that sees community-based non-profits create or purchase an appropriate local or regional for-profit business, using the resultant revenues to support the non-profit’s community-focused social, environmental, cultural, or economic goals. Much of the early social enterprise-driven place-based development has occurred in cities. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that this approach has tremendous potential in isolated rural settings as well.
For example, in the case of Newfoundland’s Shorefast Foundation, revenues generated by the spectacular Fogo Island Inn provide support for local entrepreneurs and existing small businesses on a tiny, remote island — place-based development leads to specific products and services that are steeped in the specifics of the place of their origin, adding layers of meaning and added value…
… in the process creating (and keeping) wealth in the community, while generating additional benefits ranging from job creation to a heightened sense of local and regional awareness, pride, and belonging.
We think it’s time to bring social enterprise and place-based development to the Kootenays. Harnessing the unique creativity, the authentic specialness of this particular part of the world.
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EXCITING NEW PROJECT IN THE OFFING
For some time now we’ve been working on a proposal to create a dynamic new economic development driver for our region and the rest of the Columbia Basin.
We call it the Kootenay Centre for Creativity, Technology & the Economy — or simply “the Centre.” The idea is to host summits and conferences throughout the year on themes that matter to Basin residents — that will spell more visitors and an economic boost for the region. Summits and conferences that will generate ideas and actions designed to create good jobs, and help us tackle our most pressing issues. And to create a robust, 21st century media hub that will leverage the Basin’s expanding high-speed broadband network (thanks, Columbia Basin Broadband!), allowing Basin communities to stay informed and connected — in the process helping shape a new sense of what it means to be in and of the Basin, and the capacity to share that new-found cultural confidence with the rest of the world.
WHAT? MORE CONFERENCES?
To paraphrase Voltaire, “It is with books as it is with conferences; a few good ones make all the difference.”
Last year Kaslo and the Kaslo Institute hosted the BC Rural Communities Summit. In May of this year, Salmon Arm hosted something called the Rural Development Conference. These are worthwhile events, bringing together presenters and participants who typically spend a couple of days addressing some very important topics.
Then everyone goes home, and nothing happens. Until the next conference, the next year.
What’s missing is an organization completely focused on making sure these kinds of events are worthwhile. That excitement momentum, and enthusiasm around outstanding ideas isn’t lost in the ensuing drive home. Events featuring timely, relevant topics. With fantastic speakers & presenters. An organization that ensures that things do happen after the gatherings. That talk is followed by action. An organization focused on ways residents, organizations, businesses, and governments can succeed in rural, isolated regions like ours.
This all requires more than a general gathering every year or two. It requires a steady stream of focused, engaging activity, year-’round. Including hosting events that zero in on specific, important topics. Then actively sharing the information that flows from them with residents, governments, businesses, and organizations across the Basin — follow-through by an organization with the resources to lead the communications charge, so that good ideas, useful suggestions, and potentially helpful connections aren’t lost or forgotten, like so many conference business cards shoved in a dresser drawer, then forgotten.
That’s why we’re proposing to create the Centre.
PUTTING TOGETHER THE PIECES
Ours may be a sprawling, sparsely populated part of the planet. But we also boast some world-class assets. Including our spectacular natural environment. Our charming towns, villages, and hamlets. An unusual number of highly entrepreneurial residents. Many lean, nimble small businesses (and a handful of big ones). Hundreds of community-run non-profits. And a handful of large organizations and institutions like the Rural Development Institute, College of the Rockies, Selkirk College, Community Futures, Columbia Basin Broadband Corp., and of course, Columbia Basin Trust.
So who’s pulling all these assets together? Who’s looking for ways to leverage our regional assets, to our mutual (and local) benefit? Who’s looking further afield to find innovative solutions to our challenges, searching out and reeling in meaningful strategic partners? Who’s providing the inspiration to go after new opportunities? Who’s out there making things happen?
Where’s our savvy, bold, economic (and social and cultural) catalyst?
We couldn’t find one. That’s why we decided to create the Centre.
FINE-TUNING THE VISION
Since last September we’ve thought long and hard about all this. We’ve met with thought leaders and decision makers from across the Basin, from across BC and around the world (and continue to do so). We’ve received strong statements of support from local, regional, provincial, and federal governments, with more in the works. We’ve reached out to potential partners, searching for innovative, appropriate ways to maximize the benefits of what we have in mind for as many Basin stakeholders as possible.
We’re getting oh-so close to a final version of a concept we’re completely pumped about. A concept that will clearly bring a new and much-needed dimension to our region’s economic, social, and cultural sectors.
And as soon as we do, you’ll be the first to know! Through this website, social media, and public events where we’ll clearly lay out our plans, and solicit your feedback and suggestions.