Cowichan Board Meets Board

grassroots-164x164On May 17th, thirty board directors, executive directors, municipal politicians and other interested parties gathered in Duncan for our sixteenth Board Meets Board conversation.  This time, the gathering was to celebrate some of the innovative successes achieved by four Cowichan Valley agencies, under the title “Weaving the Threads: When Social Innovation Meets Economic Development”.

 After dinner, Leslie Welin – our lead – presented a lively and effective ‘pow-toon’, which illustrated the history of our previous fifteen conversations, in successive four-second images.  Interesting and entertaining, and all over in a minute.

ED Lynne Weaver and Board President Marcel Aubin, who spoke of their desire to depend less on funding while remaining true to their primary work, assistance of all kinds to new immigrants, represented Cowichan Intercultural Society.  Taking a big-picture look at their situation, CIS was able to purchase a successful business (Global Education) that provides CIS unallocated dollars
to develop the social benefit agency and still keep a close connection to the community.

Cowichan Green Community, represented by ED Judy Stafford, has been able to maintain its grass-roots level of democratic structure and decision-making, while pursuing one of their goals – development of social housing (not ‘affordable’ housing).  CGC accomplished this by purchasing a hotel, and creating space for people needing housing.   CGC credits their success to the hard work of the Board and its supporters, and to their commitment to the community selection process that lies at the root of what they do.

Clements Centre Society’s ED Dominic Rockall explained how the CCS Board wanted to move beyond the history of sheltered workshops and training programs in order to employ the people served.  This was accomplished by converting a lunchtime cafeteria (Lunch on Clements) into a business with contracted sales of selected bakery products.  Building on previous infrastructure and training, the transition has been achieved while preserving the dignity, respect and worth of all involved; the people served are now making wages.

Social Planning Cowichan, represented by ED Michelle Staples, reminded us of the North American Indigenous Games, and Duncan’s call to the Union of BC Municipalities for the development of a provincial social policy framework.  SPC has produced an in-depth sociological study of the Valley in partnership with the social benefits sector, and is moving to produce a regional social policy framework for the Cowichan Valley.  Michelle was emphatic that as we grow outside the box, we must remain cognizant that culture is the heart of the community, and that even while we are being open to evolution and change, we must remember that social innovation with heart is social planning around interconnectedness.

The presentations were followed by a question and answer period for the panel, and a directed small-table discussions on related issues.

 Richard Neil

For Board Meets Board Organizing Committee