I hope that you enjoyed yesterday as much as I did and was as inspired as I by Hildy and Dimitri. We recently heard from Hildy that a big organization in the US, called Board Source, is now thinking of creating something like Board Voice to mobilize board members across the US in support of the non-profit sector. Hildy has put them in touch with us and we will share our knowledge with them and learn from them as well, as they move forward. This may open a new and exciting chapter for us in our development.
Board Voice has been busy this year. We’ve met with Ministers Stillwell, McCrae and Cadieux – the latter on several occasions, and written to all the social ministers and the Premier. We’ve also met with executives from the ministries of Health, Social Development and Children and Family Development.
Before the election, we were very clear with ministers that we would be publically supporting the need for additional funding for the community care sector over the course of the election. We were clear that our purpose was not about who would win the election but about what any party should be doing after the election.
Unfortunately for us, the idea of eliminating the deficit and the pursuit of new economic development won the election for the Liberals and any ideas for new funding for the community sector was dead in the water, except in regards as to how it might relate to LNG developments. As we know, the small communities which will be most impacted by development in the north will require significant community support services, so we expect that some new development will be required.
Over the course of the election, Board Voice worked closely with the Roundtable of Provincial Social Service organizations. This group is made up of some key leaders of umbrella organizations in the province, such as Ending Violence Society, PARCA, a youth justice organization, the Transition House Society, the Neighbourhood House Society and a number of others. I was the Vice chair for the group and Doug Hayman, the coordinator.
This group produced 9 OpEds, which were in newspapers across the province on issues as diverse as early childhood development to community supports for senior citizens. A website and a Twitter site were also developed and we made significant efforts to coordinate our messages and talk to all of the political parties.
While our ideas did not rise to the surface during the political campaign, we were clearly more visible than ever before as a sector and will continue to work with other organizations to continue efforts to bring the realities and importance of community services to both our communities and our governments.
Our big project this year, Community Boards in Action, got off the ground this year as you heard yesterday. We intend to start up another five projects this year and hope to find additional funds to broaden this process to communities across the province. This is an important way for Board Voice to expand its membership, but also to exercise one of the important elements of Board Voice and that is to engage board members in taking community leadership in their communities. I very much hope that you will feel confident in bringing the messages and tools Hildy Gottlieb brought to us, to your communities.
Last March, our board held its annual strategic planning meeting and came away determined to promote the development of a social policy framework for B.C. Five of our larger member agencies in Vancouver decided to take on this idea as a Community Board in Action project. They developed a plan of action to speak publically about this idea and to talk to the government about how they might approach it.
We have broached the idea directly with several ministers and let them know that we believe a social policy framework could begin to drive the change necessary to bring about better policy coherence and better social outcomes through the creation of a shared vision and goals, integrated plans, clarified roles and responsibilities and clear expectations and accountabilities. You will find a briefing note on the subject in your folders.
The idea of a social policy framework will take some time to flower in B.C. Currently, many people don’t even get the concept, so it will take time to convince the government of its efficacy. The board determined, however, that even if it doesn’t happen right away or ever, that the discussions we have about this idea are important and useful. The city of Vancouver has recently developed their own version of a social Policy framework and we met with them at their request to understand what they were doing. Most communities do not have the capacity to do this. We also met with UBCM and the provincial Legal Aid society about the idea. So many aspects of our work are related, but policy and program delivery are largely still delivered in silos. We have asked that your boards endorse this idea and then let us know as we are establishing a list of supporters.
As was done last year, Board Voice made a presentation to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services. Doug and I made the presentation in Victoria. In presenting to the Committee I made the point that while health costs have risen by 34% over the past decade, social services costs have declined by 23% over the past decade. Research is clear that only 40% of health outcomes are due to the health system and that the rest come from such factors as inclusion, community supports and income security (in other words, these are the factors that determine health). As well, research tells us that investing in community supports will offset many of the downstream costs currently involved in the courts, and high- end medical services. We offered a proposal in our presentation to the Select Standing Committee as an investment in the future of our province – viz., to begin a provincial dialogue leading to a social policy framework for the province. A Social Policy Framework would guide decision-making, set future direction, identify important connections and support the alignment of policies and practices. All social policy ministries would be a part of this – Health, Education, Attorney General and Solicitor General, Ministry of Children & Family Development, the Ministry of Social Development and the broader public as well. We urged the government to invest in a broad consultation process over the next year so that BC would be prepared to make strategic investments in future years guided by a framework of ideas and goals transparent to all.
Two of the decisions made by the board of Board Voice this past year resulted in Board Voice becoming a signatory to the B.C. Poverty Reduction Plan and a signatory to supporting $10.00 a Day Child Care Campaign, as well as signing onto the Charter for Compassion.
On November 12th of this year, Board Voice issued a press release in response to the most recent report by the Representative for Children and Youth, Mary Ellen Turpel Lafond – When Talk Trumps Service, A Decade of Lost Opportunity for Aboriginal Children in BC. In the press release I noted that “The issues affecting Aboriginal and non-aboriginal children and families are not easy to deal with in silos. For example, employment, housing, health care, child protection, day care, food security, and disability supports, are generally linked. They require solutions that are linked across government ministries and from government to community organizations to business. We hope the Representative’s report on this failed policy direction will spur work towards the development of a social policy framework for BC. We must do better than this for our children.”
There were countless other meetings: working with VOCBC, SPARC BC and the VanCity Foundation on a new narrative for the community sector is part of a national initiative spearheaded by Imagine Canada, meeting with boards of prospective members and with other organizations around specific issues, such as the so called ’Cooperative Gains Process’. This latter issue is one that has affected all agencies in the province; it essentially means absorbing a three percent cut to budgets.
Financially, Board Voice always lives very close to the bone. This is not an organization with a big staff and big budget. Outside of this conference, which is self-financing, we exist on about $50,000 dollars per year. We get a lot done with your fees and so hope we can increase our membership to do even more. I’d like to ask that you please talk it up with your sister agencies. We will be stronger with more members.
Before I conclude, I want to draw your attention to the new Board Voice website. If you haven’t yet checked it out, please do. It’s been designed in such a way that new stories will appear in it on a weekly basis and we hope that it will become interactive. We are also on Twitter so if you are as well, please sign on! In fact start tweeting right now about this conference at #boardvoice. I want to thank our Communication Committee chair, Michael Davis, for doing the work to make this new website possible.
I believe that some of you know I will be stepping down as the chair of Board Voice for health reasons. I will continue to sit on this board because I believe in Board Voice and hope that in 10 years, it will be a large and vibrant organization, integral to thoughtful planning and discourse about services in this province.
There is much to do, and as concerned citizens and board members, we are building the tools and expertise to become a real force in British Columbia. Thank you for being here today and for your great support of Board Voice and of me personally. I look forward to the rest of the day and to working with you over the course of this next year.
Let me close with a VERY BIG THANK YOU to each and every board member – people who have passion and expertise and live in pretty well every region of our province. They are citizens who want their communities to be good places to live, learn, work and play for their families, their grandchildren and the people they work with. As I call your name, please stand – Leslie, Craig, Alyson, Ron, Lynn Carter, Michael, Judy Hayes, Dawn, Rick, Tina, Terry, Lyn, Judy, June and Deb. I’d love to hug each and every one of you for your commitment to BV. My other VERY BIG THANK YOU goes to Doug Hayman – Doug – you are a prince of a man. Thank you for all you do for BV. Your support is immeasureable and is one of the big reasons BV has been recognized as a force for the community social services sector. THANK YOU from all of us!
This Conference and AGM has had a lot of “behind-the –scenes” support from Donna Francis of the Federation of Community Social Services of BC – a million thanks, Donna. And at every conference since Board Voice was launched in November of 2009, Alison Robinson of PLEA has been our very competent person at the Registration Table. A million thanks to you, Alison and to PLEA Community Services Society. My personal thanks goes to Caroline Lillico and Diana Gucake of Burnaby Family Life for taking the minutes of our Board Voice board meetings. Many thanks!
And to close this report, a huge thank you to our financial supporters – the Federation of Community Social Services of BC and the Vancouver Foundation. And a special fund we have, called the Bringing Us Together Fund, was supported by the following sponsors: AimHi Prince George Association of Community Living, The Cridge Centre for the Family, Family Services of Greater Vancouver, Greater Vancouver Community Services Society, Options Community Services Society and PLEA Community Services Society.