PARTNERSHIP CELEBRATES 10-YR ANNIVERSARY: “We live and breathe collaboration. This plays out in everything that the Partnership does. Building trust and respect starts with a conversation. Listen, listen, listen. Conversations lead to dialogue. In turn, dialogue leads to consensus,” wrote Kim Stephens, Executive Director (November 2020)

Note to Reader:

November 19th 2020 is a major milestone in the history of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia. It marks the first decade since incorporation of “the BC water sustainability committee” as “The Partnership”, a not-for-profit society that provides services to government and local communities in support of Living Water Smart, British Columbia’s Water Plan.

Incorporation as an independent legal entity was a transformative decision. It ensures the legacy and sustainability of tools, resources and programs developed under the umbrella of the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbiaand delivered through inter-governmental partnerships. 



“As the Executive Director, I am proud to announce that the Partnership has reached the 10-year milestone as a legal entity. But our history began long before 2010. Our “partnerships & collaboration journey” actually commenced some two decades earlier. A group of like-minded and passionate individuals, including representatives of three levels of government, came together as a committee and created a “water roundtable” that evolved over time into The Partnership,” states Kim Stephens, Waterbucket eNews Editor and Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.

“And what was the mission of this water roundtable? Champion a water-centric approach to use and conservation of land. Develop tools, resources and programs to support water-centric planning.”

“All of us learn from stories. For this reason, and to celebrate our first decade since incorporation, I am excited to share this “story behind our story” on behalf of my teammates on the Partnership leadership team. We do so with the hope that a look behind-the-scenes will strike a spark and inspire you, the reader, to make a difference in your own community.”

“Time has passed quickly. Has it really been a decade? So much water under the bridge, literally. In taking stock of the Partnership’s rising trajectory, my teammates and I feel good about the Partnership’s track record of accomplishment through partnerships and collaboration with others.”

“The Partnership’s guiding philosophy is to help others be successful. When they are successful, we are successful.”

“The Partnership is led by a team of mission-focused volunteers, elders and collaborators. These individuals bring experience, knowledge and wisdom to the Partnership roundtable. This enhances the effectiveness of the Partnership as the hub for a convening for action network. Although many on the Partnership leadership team have retired from their day jobs, the water-centric mission continues.”

“We keep raising our game. And so do our collaborators. Shared successes leads to more successes. We judge progress by the distance travelled, not the distance remaining. We are optimistic about the future. Over the course of this past decade, the tide has turned. There is a track record to continue building upon.”


Consensus Results in Actionable Visions 

“The umbrella for our initiatives and programs is the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia. In turn, the Action Plan is nested within Living Water Smart, British Columbia’s Water Plan. Released in 2008, Living Water Smart was the provincial government’s call to action, and to this day transcends governments. I wonder what proportion of our Waterbucket eNews audience realize that the policy, program and regulatory framework is in place for community-based action to adapt to a changing climate?”

“The Living Water Smart vision: we take care of our water, our water takes care of us.”

“Living Water Smart successes are defined by collaboration and a “top-down / bottom-up” approach. Through our initiatives and programs, the Partnership brings together individuals and organizations who share a vision for moving from awareness to action through collaborative leadership. Consider, for example, the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Education Initiative (IREI). This is a unique mechanism for inter-regional collaboration. Endorsed by five Regional Boards, it carries forward the legacy of the late Erik Karlsen.”

“Collaborative leadership conceptualizes leadership as shared among members, rather than turning to one heroic leader to guide and be the expert. When you bring the appropriate people together in constructive ways with good information, you look to them to create authentic visions and strategies for addressing the shared concerns of their organizations and community.”

“In our Partnership programs, we focus attention on the 4Cs – communication, cooperation, coordination, collaboration. The 4Cs guide what we do. We live and breathe collaboration. This plays out in everything that the Partnership does. Building trust and respect starts with a conversation. Listen, listen, listen. Conversations lead to dialogue. In turn, dialogue leads to consensus.”


Shared Responsibility / Stewardship Ethic

“Sixty years ago, President John Kennedy issued a powerful and memorable call to action in his inaugural address. To frame the inter-generational mission for restorative development, I have taken what Kennedy said in 1961 and adapted his quote to reflect our contemporary context:

“Embrace shared responsibility. Ask not what your community can do for you. Ask what you can do for your community to reconnect people, land and water in altered urban landscapes.”

“In my experience, collaboration around a shared vision comes naturally and easily in the BC local government setting. This fills me with hope that reconnecting people, land and water is possible over time. Bringing this vision to fruition in urban areas depends on all the players being guided by a stream stewardship ethic; and being committed to the common good.”


Regional Team Concept is a Powerful Motivator

“The BC culture is that we choose to work together. For example, Randy Alexander, Regional District of Nanaimo, attributes the success of his region’s Drinking Water and Watershed Protection program to the following winning formula: Our success depends on our ability to leverage our resources with those of others to achieve common goals, and to understand what those common goals are.”

“In the mid-2000s, members of the Partnership leadership team pioneered a peer-based educational process for building local government capacity. The desired outcome for the process was a consistent regional approach to implementation of green infrastructure and water sustainability practices. Comprising seminars and training workshops, the process was a foundation piece for our “convening for action” programs in three regions. In the course of this work, we learned something important.”

“We observed a profound difference in how practitioners view their world when we used the phrase regional team approach rather than regional approach to describe collaboration. Insertion of “team” implies there is a personal commitment. It also suggests there is a game plan and a coachable context. It is a powerful motivator. It reinforces the notion of collaborative leadership.”


Cathedral Thinking in the Local Government Setting

“Our work related to collaborative leadership is inspired by an inter-generational vision for growing the restorative footprint of BC communities. This will take time. It requires all hands on deck. There is no shortcut. Collaboration between the stewardship and local government sectors is a lynch-pin.”

“When folks in the local government and stewardship sectors respect and trust each other, collaborate for the greater good and align their efforts, beneficial outcomes result. Time and again, I have seen that these ingredients are foundational in the quest to reconnect people, land and water in the urban setting. The phrase “cathedral thinking” aptly describes an inter-generational vision that transcends governments.”

“We can learn from our ancestors. The builders of great cathedrals in medieval times thought in terms of multiple generations carrying out their work, to complete a dream that would not be realized until long after the originator’s death. So what is my takeaway message? Replace short-term thinking with a long-term view that extends out 50, 100 or more years.”