I think we can say, looking back on 2014, that it was a rather remarkable year. We were focused on four thing. Three are the ways we deliver value to our members:
- Creating opportunities for board Skills development
- Connecting boards to boards
- Advocating for the Social Service sector
The fourth was continuing to explore our unique voice—the voice of the engaged passionate volunteer leaders of our community social service organizations.
How is that voice different from the many umbrella organizations out there? What are the issues that we should speak to? How do we reflect the governance voice of our boards, as opposed to the management voice of Executive Directors and CEOs in the sector?
And what do we actually do so that we make a meaningful contribution day to day?
In January, we began an internal reorganization to allow BoardVoice to focus on our strategic goals, increase our capacity and ready us for operational changes that would allow us to stand on our own as a non-profit organization.
We launched the BV Report from the Chair to communicate the work we were doing to our member boards.
Our Advocacy work on the Social Policy Framework got a major boost when Vice Chair Leslie Welin approached the City of Duncan and, on January 20th, they voted to adopt a resolution calling on the provincial government to begin a consultation to design a Social Policy Framework for British Columbia.
At that time we had 19 community social service agencies signed onto our call for a SPF called There is a Better Way .
By March, we were up to 28 organizations. Leslie penned an article titled Why we need a Social Policy Framework in BC that was picked up by community papers across the province.
Our small grant program to connect boards, called Community Boards In Action, helped launch a project called The Board Impact Forum: The Influence and The Issues was held in Kelowna on April 14. A panel discussed the impact of 350 local Boards on health outcomes, social barometers and economic indicators in the Central Okanagan, and addressed some priority issues facing their Boards.
April was the month the Portland Hotel Society unraveled. Some of us were quite concerned as the discussion in the media began to impact the reputation of the sector as a whole. We helped Family Services of Greater Vancouver and the Lookout Society to weigh in and bring a bit of balance to the coverage.
BV Board member Terry Moist’s letter to Campbell River City Council drove a council resolution to support the SPF and an article in the Courier Islander newspaper.
In May, Vantage Point and BV partnered to deliver a one day program in Fort St. John. We were hosted by Community Bridge and had 13 agencies from the region in the room.
Lynda Gherty from VP delivered Cutting Edge Board Practices. I facilitated a session identifying issues in the community and visioning what it could look like in 20 years, how theye could move towards it and who else they could partner with. We had a final session exploring the SPF.
On May 14, Vancouver City Council unanimously passed a resolution endorsing the call for a SPF, then New Westminster passed a similar resolution
The board of the British Columbia Association of Social Workers also joined the call. This is important because BCASW members are front line workers right across the sector. In Alberta it was the College of Social Workers that led the early conversation about a SPF which eventually became the government initiative.
We have made a big effort in this advocacy work to engage unusual players in this conversation, so were very pleased when the Surrey Board of Trade endorsed the call. Their CEO will be here with us this afternoon.
In June, Surrey, Burnaby, Richmond, Kamloops, New Westminster and the North Vancouver District joined the long list of municipalities calling for a SPF. The Federation of Community Social Services of BC also came on board.
On June 23, I met with RCMP Inspector Ted De Jager of the Operations Strategy Branch. He was very supportive of our work, saying it mirrors much of the thinking within the RCMP on a ‘whole government approach’ to crime prevention.
Abbotsford and Victoria came on board in August, thanks to Rod Santiago and Doug Hayman. Dawn Hemmingway led the charge in Prince George and, along with the mayor, was interviewed by CKPGTV , our first TV coverage on the issue.
We also got a full page editorial in the Vancouver Sun
In September we reported out to the Vancouver Foundation on the successful implementation of the Community Boards in Action project. Some of the high points included:
Victoria Boards Together partnering with the Victoria Volunteer Bureau to implement their project, leveraging an initial budget of 2K into 30+K through local fundraising. 96 youth did governance training and 10 boards were trained in youth engagement strategies.
In Prince George, a broad partnership including local community social service providers, the United Way of Northern BC, the UNBC School of Social Work and others delivered 3 training sessions with youth and a Board Fair attended by 30 youth and 20 agencies.
In the Cowichan Valley – They developed a joint initiative of Volunteer Cowichan and the Cowichan Campus of Vancouver Island University for training board directors in sustainable funding; building a strong foundation for an organization; financial literacy; and building collaborative relationships.
They developed an MOU among four agencies to develop opportunities to share resources
In September, we generated another major media hit. This time in the business section of the Vancouver Sun: Social Policy Has Big Economic Implications
I met with the VPD and Doug met with the Victoria Police department and their chief is joining our panel this afternoon.
We also met senior staff at the Representative for Children and Youth, and you saw John Greschner here yesterday.
Leslie Welin and I met with Duncan Mayor Phil Kent to prepare for the resolution going to UBCM.
And we released the Simon Fraser University Report commissioned last year by Board Voice, Making the Case: a Social Policy Framework for BC, We sent the SFU report to the premier and got on the CBC Radio’s Early Edition to talk about the report.
In October the BC CEO Network voted to endorse the call.
Then, the culmination of months of effort came when the Union of BC Municipalities endorsed the call for a made in BC Social Policy Framework.
I have to say this was a remarkable effort by people right across the province and has built connections between municipalities and the sector in their communities.
We sent letters to all members of the BC Liberal Caucus outlining some of the key ideas about the SPF and offering to brief them.
On October 14, Caroline Bonesky of Family Services of Greater Vancouver and I presented the concept of a SPF to the Select Standing Committee on Finance.
Dawn Hemmingway authored an article for the fall issue of BCASW’s newsletter Perspectives and June, Dawn, Paul and I presented a workshop on the SPF at the BCASW annual conference.
In mid October, we became aware of the threat to our societies contained in the BC Government’s proposed changes to the Societies Act. We were very alarmed at the new language in section 99 that would allow any interested party to apply to the courts to have the activities of a society declared “not in the public interest”.
We worked quickly with the West Coast Environmental Law Society to get the story out. 56 societies—including Board Voice—signed the Law Society letter sent to the government opposing the proposed changes.
Our website—boardvoice.ca—really is our most important tool in communicating our activities and sharing information, tools and presentations.
And it has grown. In Nov 2013, we had 76 users visit the site. In April 428. In October, over 1000. We have had 5000 users visit the site this year, up from 1,100 in 2013
The site allows us to communicate issues rapidly, and broadly. For example, on October 9th after posting about the threats to our organizations through proposed changes to the Societies Act, we had 500 unique page views of the post.
When we started the discussion about a SPF, we thought even if we never achieve the goal, the discussion was worth having because it raises awareness of the issues and our sector’s work
In that we have already been very successful.
This work also builds the interconnectedness between our boards, strengthens our networks, and develops our skills.
And it graphically demonstrates our unique voice. Not the voice of the agencies, the voice of the communities. And suggests the power we have in that voice.
So now what?
On the Advocacy side, there is no doubt more work to be done regarding the Societies act
In the last couple of days, the NDP has launched an online petition opposing the proposed change. You can find a link to it on the boardvoice.ca website.
I think we also need to watch the Canadian Revenue Agency and think about challenging them at some point.
On the SPF, we must continue to push. We recently had a response back to a letter we sent to the Premier, and was forwarded on to the Minister for Social Innovation. It took a somewhat—defensive posture responding to the SFU report.
We have gone back to them, praising many of the initiatives they mention, but pointing out what is missing is vision and engagement at the highest level, which is why we continue to seek a conversation with the Premier.
I think we should also seek to engage the standing committee on children and youth that John Horigan mentioned yesterday
The SFU report also suggest a parallel path. Government, as the primary funder and regulator of the social service sector often seems all powerful. But we hold our own power. We do the work. We deliver the services. We are connected to our communities.
I believe—with your help—we can initiate two campaigns, one at the community level and one at the provincial level.
At the community level, we can look at the work Leslie Weline’s group in the Cowichan valley has been doing. There, they brought together many interested groups including municipal officials, Community Social Service organizations, public health officials, first nations and others.
They proceeded to have a discussion about what could a SPF look like in their region.
Leslie has provided us with the beginnings of a template, that we can offer to other regions through the website, and encourage them to develop their own conversations in their regions.
Meanwhile at the provincial level, we could take a cue from the SFU report. What if we set out to create the BC Social Policy Reports. The goal could be to create very simple topline stats on our most critical social issues.
The ‘front page’ of our BC Social reports could be 8 or 9 boxes with a single stat. Each year we add another column. You would be able to drill down behind that topline stat for any level of detail you wanted.
We are not setting out to duplicate the work of other, but rather to engage the parties that already have this information. We could create a committee of BoardVoice, open to non-members, to coordinate this work.
As we set the criteria for what is included in the reports, we begin to articulate the principals of a SPF.
As we invite people onto the committee to provide their expertise and their information, we build the network that advocates for, and eventually helps guide the formation of, a SPF.
Once a year, we update and reveal the BC Social Policy Report, creating a focal point for media and a public discussion. We also set a benchmark and, over the years, a trend.
We begin to alter the context of the discussion. We become a media resource. A Common point of reference.
And, when the government finally decides to join our party, we have established the principals of the discussion.
We have a network of sufficient heft to be able to say, this is important. This needs to be done this way. This is not simply a photo op, but a long term imperative.
So that is what I am hoping we can start in 2015.
We need to keep showing you, our members, that we have value. That it is important for your agencies to support our work because it supports our sector.
But most importantly, we continue to explore the possibilities of the engaged volunteer leaders in our communities. Your possibilities. To influence our direction. To shape the future or our province, to inspire new ideas and conversations, new partnerships and collaborations.
To make a very real difference, for our clients, our communities, our province.