Development Group Solidifies
~ by Heather Graham -
This past Sunday, February 17, the fifth in the series of meetings discussing Malcolm Islandâ€™s future was held at the Firehall. Thirty people turned out to â€śkeep the conversation going.â€ť Once again, as has been the case at all of the previous meetings, some of those present were there for the first time, but a good number had attended at least some of the earlier meetings. Oonagh Oâ€™Connor acted as facilitator.
After a quick recap of the first four meetings (â€śHow did we get here?â€ť), Oonagh called on the facilitation committee to report on the work they had done since the last meeting. At the third meeting, held in August 2012, attendees had agreed that a facilitation committee was needed to keep the process going. At the following meeting in the fall it was decided to expand the committee and give it a bigger role, so it was asked to come up with recommendations for a mission statement, name and model for the group, goals that the group should try to achieve, and to identify challenges that might be faced in moving ahead.
The six members of the enlarged facilitation committee are Ros Bangham, Morag Carter, Gord Curry, Shane Field, Hans Madsen and Tosha Nelson. The committee met five times over the past three months, and on Sunday they presented the results of their deliberations. They proposed the following mission statement as a guide for the emerging economic development group: â€śBuild connections between organizations and individuals to foster and support community and economic development on Malcolm Island.â€ť
Shane then spoke about the recommended goals for the economic development group: (1) build on community pride; (2) promote ways to attract and retain families; (3) improve employment opportunities; (4) support local businesses and promote business development. A few people pointed out how important it is to have timelines and ways to measure the progress or success of any project undertaken to achieve these goals.
Gord Curry introduced the recommended model the economic development group should adopt. He cited a seven-step model that the committee had come across in their research and that they considered applicable to the situation on Malcolm Island. The seven steps are: create a coordinating committee; build on past community successes; study what has worked in other communities; do a self-evaluation of Malcolm Island; make decisions based on objective information; start projects that are popular with the community so that the support will be there; and finally, maintain the momentum.
As for what the group should call itself, Shane Field put two names up for consideration: Malcolm Island Grassroots Development Forum and Malcolm Island Grassroots Development Society. The committee felt that either of these names recognized the islandâ€™s history of individualism and cooperation. A few people found both names too long, or not catchy enough, but almost everyone supported the forum idea; comments from the floor suggested that the society concept had a â€śclosedâ€ť feel to it, and inclusiveness is definitely something the committee feels is critical to the groupâ€™s success. The committee believes the forum could be changed into a society sometime in the future to facilitate more effective fundraising.
The room was then asked to contribute ideas for â€śprojects,â€ť meaning something that would benefit the community and contribute toward achieving the goals outlined by the facilitation committee. Ten proposals were put forward:
Ros Bangham: Beautify Sointula
Errol Fifi: Promote the island
Gord Curry: Do a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)
Shane Field: Build connections between the Grassroots Forum and other island organizations
Dave Parker: Build shantyboats for providing tours
Richie Shaw: Make Sointula a hub for commercial fishing
Ramsay Farran: Build a public sauna on the island
Stephanie Eakle: Host more festivals and events
Alex Morton: Alternate energy sources
Ron Minshull: Get a focus, i.e. choose an idea and go with it.
Ronâ€™s idea wasnâ€™t really a proposal, but it did move things along to the next stage. Eight tables were set up to consider the proposals from the floor, and attendees went to the table with the idea that had the most appeal for them. A good half-hour of discussion followed, after which the tables reported back to the whole room. A few notable ideas or comments: clean up Malcolm Islandâ€™s presence on the web; advertise Sointula as a place that welcomes and supports commercial fishing; look at the â€śtransition townâ€ť model when exploring energy alternatives; develop an online discussion forum via the Ripple. Before breaking up, some of the tables made plans to stay in touch and keep their discussions going.
All in all, it says something about interest in a topic when thirty people are willing to give up two hours on a warm springlike Sunday afternoon to discuss it. And interest in Malcolm Islandâ€™s future is something that hopefully concerns everyone who loves living here. These discussions have been going on for nearly a year now, and thereâ€™s every sign that the commitment is there to keep them going.
Next meeting: Thursday, April 18, 7.30 at the Firehall.