CCEDNet, Updates

Celebrating the Life of Rupert Downing

November 10, 2023

Rupert (seated) and the CCEDNet Board, 2008

CCEDNet is sad to share the news that former Executive Director Rupert Downing passed away on Nov 2. 

Rupert was key in the development of CCEDNet’s early years.  He was appointed Executive Director in 2002, less than three years after the Network’s incorporation in 1999.  Over the next six years until his departure in 2008, Rupert was fundamental in the organization’s initial growth and structure. 

But his history in social, economic and environmental efforts stretched back to the beginning of his professional life.  He was involved in managing sustainable development policies and programs for more than 40 years in rural, urban and Indigenous communities across Canada, in the UK, and around the world.

While leading CCEDNet, he helped to establish and directed the Canadian Social Economy Research Partnerships, editing one of the capstone publications on Canada’s Social Economy.  Prior to his time at CCEDNet, Rupert helped to establish and lead the Ministry of Community Development in the Government of British Columbia. 

Most recently, Rupert was named to the Government of Canada’s Social Innovation Advisory Council, a recognition of his expertise in social enterprise financing and development. 

Rupert (in orange) with staff, 2008

He also ran an international consulting firm specializing in sustainable community development, research and public policy development, and he owned and managed a Fair-Trade Social Enterprise operating on Vancouver Island, “Lalocal”.

But it was Rupert’s character and compassion that made an impression on many people.  Whether it was his background in theatre, his love of animals and nature and the world, his willingness to have fun, or his feathered friends that joined many virtual meetings, his passion for life, and social and economic justice, inspired people around the world. 

I learned so much and was inspired by Rupert. His ability to frame complex ideas, visions, and strategies into language that would command the attention of a room full of decision makers was impressive and I observed this skill attentively.

There was also a lot of fun and laughter, as his wit and intellect were accompanied by a theatrical humour and sense of adventure that created so many legacy stories.

Brendan Reimer, former CCEDNet-Manitoba Regional Co-ordinator

The poem below, which he posted on Facebook this past March, reveals a bit about what made him so endearing.

A celebration of Rupert’s life was held on Saturday November 18 with family and close friends. Budd Hall, Co-Chair of the UNESCO Chair in Community-Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education at the Centre for Global Studies at the University of Victoria, and friend of Rupert’s, wrote this poetic reflection for the celebration.

Every day brings a smile
When I get up and sit on my patio the Steller’s Jays cackle at me and I cackle back to their delight. And we smile.
The Ravens nesting in my conifers croak at me to which I reply and then they bring their fledging onto my deck to explore and steal baubles. And we smile.
The Eagles bring their fledgling to the beach to experience their first incoming tide, and we enjoy their first experience of the ocean. And we smile.
The rabbits bring their young out to nibble on the Camas sprouts and I fell them to mow the lawn. And we smile.
The squirrels cavort in the trees and search for their hidden stash in the raised beds. And we smile.
The stags rut in the backyard and sometimes gallop down to me and stand face to face, and we smile. Their families then curl up in the Spring sunshine in their safe place, and we smile.
My raccoon clan has been here way longer than any human. I have related to the matriarchs all my time here, through thick and thin, and they always introduce me to their successors. I’m now sitting on my bench every day with our current Mama chatting, and then dividing some food for the family. We always smile.
My dogs take me out to play every day, and tell me to not be so serious. And we smile.
My neighbours probably think I am crazy for all the talking I do to animals, but what the heck, I smile.
My cockatiel spends every moment he can on my shoulder, nibbling my ear, and singing. We always smile.
My wife and family bring me great joy and we smile.
Smiling is good, and talking to animals