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Convening for Action in British Columbia

What happens on the land matters. Apply ‘cathedral thinking’ – a far-reaching vision, a well thought-out blueprint, and a shared commitment to inter-generational implementation – to create a lasting water sustainability legacy. Convening for Action is a British Columbia process that is about moving from defining the problems (the ‘what’), to determining options (the ‘so what’), to taking action to achieve results (the ‘now what’), and after that, to replicating in other communities (the ‘then what’).

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WATER SUSTAINABILITY ACTION PLAN: Community-of-practice for ‘Convening for Action in British Columbia’ – “Having the waterbucket.ca website as a communication platform allows the Action Plan partners to ‘tell our story’ and ‘record our history’ as a work-in-progress,” stated Ray Fung (2006)


“Convening for Action is a provincial initiative that supports innovation on-the-ground. From the perspective of those leading and/or participating in regional programs, having this community-of-interest provides the opportunity to ‘tell our story’ and ‘record our history’ as a work-in-progress,” states Ray Fung. “It will turn ideas into action by building capacity and understanding regarding integration of long-term, strategic planning and the implementation of physical infrastructure.”

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DOWNLOADABLE RESOURCE: The Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia – Our Story (March 2018)


“Future planners, engineers, scientists, politicians and citizens alike will be called upon to demonstrate both vision and pragmatism, working as a team towards consensus, commitment and collaboration for the common good. Such collaboration is essential and must cross all political and community boundaries given that climate change is no respecter of such creations. The Partnership has accepted this challenge and its implementation,” stated Eric Bonham.

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Green, Heal and Restore the Earth: Ian McHarg’s “Design with Nature” vision has influenced implementation of British Columbia’s Water Sustainability Action Plan


In his 1969 book, Design With Nature, Ian McHarg pioneered the concept of environmental planning. “So, I commend Design with Nature to your sympathetic consideration. The title contains a gradient of meaning. It can be interpreted as simply descriptive of a planning method, deferential to places and peoples, it can invoke the Grand Design, it can emphasize the conjunction with and, finally it can be read as an imperative. DESIGN WITH NATURE!,” wrote Ian McHarg.

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: The Little Creek That Could” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in January 2022


“The challenges we face today are immense, but we just have to keep plugging away. I spend so much time with children; that is one of the reasons that led me to write the book The Little Creek That Could. The book speaks to the fact that nature can heal itself if only given a chance. It is a positive and hopeful message for kids. I also think it is very timely given where we are in time. While this book focuses on healing a single stream, the broader message is about healing the environment. My hope is that it will resonate with many regardless of where they live, whether in our province or in our country,” stated Mark Angelo.

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery in the District of Oak Bay” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in January 2022


“We have already started ramping up how much maintenance work we are doing, how much capital rehabilitation, and so on. The growth is going to continue. We are lucky that the community is asking for this. Now we are responding. It is a great situation. In some cases, we are being asked, Can you do this faster? In a lot of communities, it is a struggle because staff has a difficult time getting Council attention. In Oak Bay, we are fortunate to have folks who care about infrastructure and renewal. We can talk about it frankly. Things aren’t perfect but we are able to make progress…which is key,” stated Dan Horan.

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Blue Ecology is the Pathway to Reach Water Reconciliation” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in January 2022


“Our children’s children will be faced with daunting, complex, and urgent environmental problems. We owe them hope. Curiosity about other cultures draws us into a better understanding, and allows us to contrast and compare two worlds. The product of curiosity is an analysis whereby comparison and contrast enable the interweaving process. This is about creating a new form of knowledge through collaboration by interweaving useful threads from each way of knowing into a more robust way,” stated Michael Blackstock.

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TURNING IDEAS INTO ACTION: “I believe that engineers need to move away from a technocentric approach and adopt a sociotechnical mindset. By this I mean we need to start thinking about the ways in which the social and technical are always connected. These aspects should not be separated, with technical challenges going to the engineers and social challenges going to the sociologists,” stated Professor Gordon Hoople, University of San Diego (January 2022)


“Engineers spend much of their time absorbed in the technical aspects of problems, whether they’re designing the next generation of smartphones or building a subway. As recent news stories attest, this technocentric approach has some critical limitations, and the result can end up harming rather than helping society. We ask students to spend far too much time solving mathematical equations and far too little time thinking about the human dimensions of the problems they are trying to solve,” stated Gordon Hoople.

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Restore Hydrology in the Uplands to Protect Agriculture in the Lowlands” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in January 2022


“Although reference continues to be made in engineering reports to the ARDSA drainage criteria, there is an absence of recognition of the underlying cost-benefit rationale for the criteria. I believe this reflects a loss of understanding that could have potentially serious implications for current and future decision-making. In recent years, for example, there have been instances of the criteria not being correctly presented in various engineering reports on lowland drainage, with misleading descriptor words such as ‘should’ creeping into reports,” stated Ted van der Gulik.

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Asset Management Continuum for Sustainable Service Delivery” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in December 2021


“Implementation of asset management along with the associated evolution of local government thinking is a continuous process, not a discrete task. We needed a way to illustrate this diagrammatically, and thus communicate, what the journey by a local government to the eventual Sustainable Service Delivery destination would look like. This led us to the concept of a continuum. Over time local governments can achieve the goal of sustainable service delivery for watershed systems,” stated Glen Brown. “It’s all about the service because infrastructure assets are worthless IF they do not provide a service.”

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Creating a Culture for Urban Watershed Restoration” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in November 2021


Creating a culture for urban watershed restoration relies on knowing the oral history of an area. And as the First Nations who have settled these lands for 1000s of years tell us, passing on the oral history is key to sharing a collective memory over time. Each generation must be receptive so that experience is passed on. “We are inching our way to bring together Western science and our own (Indigenous) science. There are different ways of how the two interact when we bring them together. The observation record for us is in the oral history,” stated hereditary Chief Hanamuxw (aka Don Ryan) of the Gitxsan.

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FLASHBACK TO 2010 ANNUAL UBCM CONVENTION: “The philosophy behind the Water Sustainability Action Plan is quite simple: bring local and regional stakeholders together where there is a desire and energy to make some form of change,” stated Glen Brown at a study session for elected representatives when he provided a provincial perspective on a ‘top-down & bottom-up’ strategy for urban watershed restoration


“As we move forward with the Action Plan, it is making sure that we provide the people on the ground with the tools and resources that they need to help support action at the local level. A top-down approach does not work. When a community shows interest or a desire to move something forward, that is when we mobilize. The Action Plan purpose is to engage, listen, understand and support the local interests in moving forward. That is where we have been successful,” stated Glen Brown.

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FOUR COUNTER-INTUITIVE PRINCIPLES FOR GROWING A NETWORK THROUGH COLLABORATIVE LEADERSHIP: “It was exciting to hear about the work of the British Columbia Partnership for Water Sustainability and how their approach has exemplified network leadership as I have conceptualized it,” stated Dr. Jane Wei-Skillern, Haas School of Business, University of California Berkeley


“The network emerges around a common goal, rather than a particular program or organizational model. The community mobilizes the resources from throughout the network, and based on existing relationships in the community. The solution is emergent and comes from the community members themselves, rather than being pushed from the top down. And finally, once a network is up and running and proves itself to be effective, It becomes the primary vehicle for change, rather than the individual organizations themselves,” stated Dr. Jane Wei-Skillern.

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DOWNLOAD A COPY OF: “Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Growing the Network through Collaborative Leadership” – released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability in November 2021


“Embracing collaborative leadership, growing a network based on shared aspirations, and delivering results across organizational boundaries differs in every way from building an organization in any conventional sense,” stated Mike Tanner. “The Partnership for Water Sustainability is a legal entity. Operationally, however, we function as the hub for a network in the local government setting. This approach reflects The Partnership genesis, first as a technical committee and then as a roundtable, before morphing into a legal entity. We are growing the Living Water Smart Network. We are not building a conventional organization.”

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