Convening for Action to Change the Way We Develop Land: “Designing with Nature” explained
Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation in Metro Vancouver: The 2007 Series
The projected growth of the Metro Vancouver region and resulting cumulative impacts are drivers for reassessing how land is developed and water is used. To promote a new way-of-thinking related to infrastructure policies and practices, the Green Infrastructure Partnership has organized Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation in Greater Vancouver: The 2007 Series.
The goal in showcasing innovation and celebrating successes is to promote networking, build regional capacity, and move ‘from awareness to action’ – through sharing of green infrastructure approaches, tools, experiences and lessons learned as an outcome of designing with nature.
The second event in the 2007 Series was hosted by the Township of Langley, Ray Fung, Chair of the Water Sustainability Committee and the BCWWA representative on the Green Infrastructure Partnership, delivered an opening statement on behalf of Paul Ham (the Chair of the Partnership) that provided participants with context. To downloiad a copy of his PowerPoint presentation, please click on this link to Convening for Action to Change the Way We Develop Land: Design with Nature
Convening for Action
According to Ray Fung, “All of us have attended workshops, seminars and conferences where we simply sit and listen all day. And at the end of the day, we go back to our offices and we carry on doing what we were doing.”
“Convening for action…when we are convening in a forum such as the Showcasing Innovation Series, however, it is not just for the sake of listening,” he continued, “Rather, when we leave the forum we want to use what we have learned so that we can take action and make a difference in our professional lives. That difference is to change the way we develop land.”
Designing with Nature
“When we refer to designing with nature, we are borrowing from Ian McHarg and the title of his 1969 book,” Ray Fung explained, “We are consistent with what McHarg intended in terms of ecological planning and letting the landscape inform development.”
According to Ray Fung, “In practical terms, what designing with nature means…is essentially a restatement of Smart Growth principles. What we have found is that the term Smart Growth is sometimes highly charged and political. People often get their backs up because they associate ‘smart growth’ as being all about imposing higher density development.”
“We find that people intuitively understand what designing with nature means. It is non-threatening.”
After explaining the basis for designing with nature, Ray Fung asked and answered the question: So, how did we get here?
In May 2005, the Regional Engineers Advisory Committee (REAC) of the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) endorsed a Consultation Workshop that the City of Surrey hosted. “At that time, we were wondering whether we should be developing green infrastructure guidance documents for elected representatives and senior managers in local government,” explained Ray Fung.
“What we heard was…that would be fine, but documents wind up on book shelves,” continued Ray Fung, “The genesis for the Showcasing Innovation Series actually occurred during the around-the-table introductions. It quickly became clear that even though we were neighbours….collectively, we simply didn’t know what was going on throughout the region.”
According to Ray Fung, “As one-by-one the participating municipalities described what they were doing, people said: Wow, we didn’t know you were doing that…can you tell us more…can you take us on a tour?”
“As the conversation progressed throughout that afternoon in 2005, comments that we heard included: we really find ourselves stretched…we’re doing green infrastructure off the corner of our desk…when you try something the first time, who do you ask for advice?,” added Ray Fung, “It soon became apparent that we should get together and help each other out.”
The result was the Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation Series. “The intent of these sessions is to help you out by showcasing what the host municipalities have done, and sharing their lessons learned with you”, concludes Ray Fung.
There are a lot of good things happening throughout Metro Vancouver. Because people are so busy in their own world, it takes a third party to connect them. That is the role the Green Infrastructure Partnership plays in organizing the Showcasing Innovation Series. The goal is a simple one: build regional capacity.
Each event in the Series is structured as presentations in the morning and a tour of project sites in the afternoon. “Learning is achieved through conversations that take place when we are in the field,” observed Ray Fung, “So it is very interactive.”
“The series is structured this way to create opportunities for practitioners to network and share ‘how to do it’ experiences on the ground,” added Ray, “The host municipalities set the scene for the field tour by providing comprehensive and in-depth presentations.”
The program is designed for engineering, planning, land development, operations, parks and environmental departments in municipalities.
The Showcasing Innovation Series is a building block process – each time the objective is to raise the bar when celebrating successes in municipalities.
2006 Pilot Series
The Stormwater Interagency Liaison Group (SILG), a technical committee of the GVRD, has provided the funding that has enabled the Green Infrastructure Partnership to take the Showcasing Innovation Series from concept to reality.
The 2006 Series established what has become known as the ‘inside-outside’ format. It combined two elements of the 10-element Outreach and Continuing Education Program (OCEP) that the Green Infrastructure Partnership configured as an outcome of the 2005 REAC Consultation Workshop.
A Unique Forum for Local Government
The Showcasing Innovation Series creates pride and enables local governments to tell their stories. “We believe the Showcasing Innovation Series is resonating because no other forum meets this need. The success of the pilot program has resulted in parallel series in Metro Vancouver and on Vancouver Island in 2007,” observed Ray Fung.
For six consecutive Fridays in September/October, there are alternating events on both sides of the Georgia Basin.
On Vancouver Island, three regional districts (Nanaimo, Cowichan Vallley and Comox Strathcona) have partnered with member municipalities to co-host Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation on Vancouver Island: The 2007 Series.
According to Ray Fung, a Green Infrastructure Partnership theme is that it often takes a third party to bring busy people together. This is the Green Infrastructure Partner role. Experience shows that intra-region communication among local governments tends to be exception rather than the rule. The Green Infrastructure Partnership objective is to turn the exception into the rule.
Posted October 2007