Cooperation, collaboration, community organizing, collective impact…whatever you call it, and however you go about it, the fact of the matter remains – we need to work together.
We need to work together because…
- together we can get more work done, avoiding duplication of efforts, accessing a greater variety of skills and other assets, and tackling multi-faceted social issues from a variety of angles and in coordination with each other.
- too many people are left out of the economy, left out of the community, left out of the conversation. The cost of inequality and exclusion are too great and we only end up losing out on human potential.
- together we can hold each other accountable. By working in our own silos we might not recognize a need to change.
Community economic development (CED) emerged as a response to the failures of the ‘attract and retain’ model of economic development to address issues of local and regional economic decline and the systemic economic and social exclusion of marginalized members of the community. Central to the CED approach is having people within a community (whether one of place, identity, or organized around specific issues) work together to identify their collective strengths, find opportunities and collectively make an action plan. What a CED plan looks like and how it is developed in one community could be totally different in another community.
Intentionally, most of the work of the Canadian CED Network is collaborative in nature, working with and for our members and in partnership with other organizations with whom we share an affinity in mission. EconoUs2017 is a great example.
Every year we tender proposals from prospective co-hosts. With the successful co-hosts we identify strengths and opportunities at the local, regional and national levels, including other potential partners who could be involved in various aspects of the conference planning and program. As a result, each conference we’ve co-hosted has been different, reflecting the culture, mission, and networks of the local co-hosts.
Past National CED Conference Co-Hosts
|Montréal | 2016
|Winnipeg | 2009
Ka Ni Kanichihk and SEED Winnipeg
|Saskatoon | 2008
Quint Development Corporation
|St. John’s | 2007
Futures In Newfoundland And Labrador Youth! (FINALY!)
|Vancouver | 2006
Fast Track to Employment
|Sault Ste. Marie | 2005
Community Economic and Social Development Program of Algoma University and the Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition
|Trois-Rivières | 2004
CDEC de Trois-Rivières
This year our co-hosts in Calgary are Thrive, Momentum, Calgary Economic Development, REAP, the Institute for Community Prosperity, and the Calgary Regional Partnerships (the table to the right shows who some of our co-hosts have been over the years). Planning EconoUs2017 has truly been a partnership between all 7 organizations, each bringing their own team, networks, resources, and unique perspectives to the table.
To help us develop a program reflective of the diversity of the CED field in Canada we also assembled a Program Committee charged with the difficult task of reviewing workshop proposals, making recommendations about what workshops are to be selected and where there might be gaps, and guiding the development of other program elements like speakers, networking time, special events, etc.
Of course, the program wouldn’t come together if not for the participation of workshop leads and plenary speakers. They provide the real substance of the conference, delving into a diversity of topics that include anti-racism, economic empowerment of women, indigenous leadership, local investing, co-operative renewable energy, microlending, agriculture, and so much more! At the time that I am writing this, we have 72 confirmed speakers, 51% of whom are women and 35% of whom are from the host province. A full third of workshops will have simultaneous translation, showing our dedication to inclusion of both official languages. The speakers also represent a wide diversity in types of organizations/professionals involved (co-operatives, social enterprises, SMEs, government, nonprofits, funders, researchers, etc.).
While we have a lot of experience working in collaboration with others (see other examples below) that doesn’t mean we’re perfect at it. Every new working relationship is different and demands an openness in everyone to learn from each other and to be called out when expectations aren’t met. At last year’s conference, ECONOUS2016, we were rightfully called out for a lack of racial diversity in both the program and the overall participation. Our staff team took it seriously and met for the full day after the conference to start a conversation as an organization about diversity: ‘what do we mean by diversity,’ ‘what kinds of diversity are we talking about,’ ‘what are we already doing well,’ ‘what we could do going forward.’
We know that this is going to take some time, that more relationships need to be built. In our values statement we say that “the Canadian CED Network and its members are committed to the values of inclusion, diversity and equity.” This is no idle talk. We are open to suggestions and continued feedback on how we could do better.
The Manitoba Gathering
At the Gathering, everything is collectively planned by a team of about 15 representatives from as many of the kinds of organizations we hope to serve at our event. This includes United Way, health care, post-secondary, neighbourhood or place-based development, co-ops and credit unions, social enterprises, women’s/newcomers/Indigenous serving organizations, and others. This team starts meeting 9-10 months ahead of the event and starts with a review of the previous year, a high level brainstorm about themes, speakers, and program, and then moves into program planning and logistical support. They curate the program, suggest sponsors, promote the event, and are the key volunteers. They bring in new stakeholders and ensure we use the event to role model CED principles in every aspect possible. While staff operationalize and implement their vision, the event is theirs