Green Infrastructure Partnership organizes consultation workshops in Metro Vancouver to launch provincial initiative


Convening for action in British Columbia to advance a ‘design with nature’ way-of-thinking and acting

The Green Infrastructure Partnership (GIP) is encouraging implementation of a design with nature approach to community planning and land (re)development, and is placing emphasis on educating stakeholders regarding the benefits by holding information sharing sessions and by developing guides on practice. The GIP has organized two Consultation Workshops within a 12-month period.

  • The first, in May 2004, was organized from the practitioner perspective.
  • The second, in May 2005, was organized from a local government manager perspective.

“Achieving higher levels of ecological systems  protection and overall environmental well-being is being successfully  pursued through changes to existing land use regulations, design guidelines and construction standards”,  observed Paul Ham, General Manager, Engineering, City of Surrey and the Chair of the GIP, when announcing the May 2005 Workshop.

2004 Practitioners Workshop

The 2004 event introduced the GIP to a selected provincial audience. It also provided the opportunity to test and validate the direction in which the GIP was heading. Participants included pioneer practitioners and/or  advocates of emerging green infrastructure practices. The primary purpose of the 2004 consultation was to explore the diversity of issues and difficulties inherent in defining and implementing a green infrastructure approach to land development.

Workshop outcomes are documented in the Report on the Green Infrastructure Consultation Held on May 11, 2004 in Vancouver . Section 4 of the report summarizes the event outcomes and provides a frame-of-reference for the 2005 REAC Workshop.

2005 REAC Workshop

 The 2005 event was conducted under the umbrella and work plan of the provincial Convening for Action initiative. The workshop was designed to engage the Regional Engineers Advisory Committee (REAC) of the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) as follows:

  1. Inform REAC participants regarding the over-arching Convening for Action process.
  2. Obtain feedback and input from participants regarding content and delivery of the Integrated Work Plan for the GIP.

The workshop was titled How Can You Help Us Help You Help Us? and was organized in three parts:

  • HELP US through Roundtable Sharing: Who is Doing What and What has Worked (or Not)?
  • HELP YOU though an understanding of Leading and Managing Change.
  • HELP US through Roundtable Input: What should the proposed Green Infrastructure Communication Guides look like?

The workshop gave participants an opportunity to share their successes and discuss the challenges they faced and dealt with in achieving on the ground green infrastructure results in their communities.  Ten GVRD municipalities participated. As highlighed by Erik Karlsen in his presentation on leading change, a key message was: To bring about changes in infrastructure practices and standards, it comes down to individuals innovating and taking great personal risk. The process for creating, leading and implementing change is summarized below.

Leading Change

In British Columbia, and over the past decade, green infrastructure has moved from Creating Change to Leading Change. The ‘early adopters’ trail-blazed in the early 2000s with the East Clayton and UniverCity sustainable communities in the Greater Vancouver region, and sustainable subdivisions in the Chilliwack and Victoria regions. Within the last year or so, the ‘fast followers’ have begun to emerge around the Greater Vancouver region.

The challenge is how to lead and implement the necessary changes in policies and standards of practice. In his book Leading Change, published by the Harvard Business School Press in  1996, John Kotter presented an 8-step mindmap for implementing change (reference:!leading):

1. Create sense of urgency
2. Create a guiding coalition
3. Develop a vision and strategy
4. Communicate the change vision
5. Empower stakeholders for action
6. Create short term wins
7. Consolidate gains to create more change
8. Anchor new approaches in the culture

It is events such as the REAC Workshop that create the guiding coalition and a common understanding of a change vision: the design with nature approach to community planning and land (re)development.

Consultation Outcome

According to Kim Stephens, Program Coordinator for the Water Sustainability Action Plan, “The workshop demonstrated how local practioners are meeting the challenge of moving from planning to action. By bringing people together to share their experiences,  it was evident that effective implementation of the design with nature can be addressed through practical changes in policies, programs, applied research, practitioner education and standards of practice for landscape (re)development, transportation and infrastructure servicing.”

The workshop crystallized a number of concepts for potential educational program elements that would facilitate long-term change:

  1. Green Infrastructure Project Tours– would enable sharing and cross-fertilizing of ‘how to do it’ case study experience.
  2. Green Infrastructure Workshop Roadshow– would pool municipal resources to address the staffing issue, ensure consistent messaging and build capacity within the member municipalities.
  3. Green Infrastructure Speaker Series– would be based on the Richmond model for educating elected officials (i.e. by getting them involved in speaker introductions).
  4. Green Infrastructure Website – would enable creation of a web library and interactive tools, as well as web delivery of case study information (i.e. by means of a case study template).

The REAC Workshop outcomes are documented in the report titled The Green Infrastructure Partnership: Convening for Action in British Columbia (July 2005 Progress Report). “The discussion underscored that there is critical mass for moving forward with an interactive and proactive approach to communication of the design with nature vision; and that this can be achieved through an array of educational tools that can inform change”, added Stephens.