CELEBRATING A DECADE OF SUCCESS: Mission Possible is ‘Settlement, Economy and Ecology in Balance’


Convening for Action in BC

A decade ago, the Province of British Columbia made a conscious decision to follow an educational rather than prescriptive path to change practices for the use and conservation of land and water. Practical research and new tools are now enabling engineers, planners and other disciplines to do business differently.

The Water Sustainability Action Plan for BC promotes settlement change that is in balance with economy and ecology. Use of the phrase ‘design with nature’ is facilitating a paradigm-shift in the local government setting.

Top Down and Bottom Up Approach

“Major breakthroughs happen when decision-makers in government work with grass-roots visionaries in the community to create the future desired by all. Collaboration grows from a shared vision about the future and commitment to action: Collectively this is what we want to incrementally achieve and, over time, this is how we will work together to get there,” states Eric Bonham, a former Director in two provincial Eric Bonham_2012_120pgovernment ministries, and a founding member of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC.

“This is the ‘top down and bottom up’ approach. It is about turning the whole game around to ‘design with nature’ as a consistent approach to development and redevelopment, urban infrastructure practices, and protection/restoration of stream and watershed health.”

Creating Change

Case study experience demonstrates that creating change on the ground revolves around four basic ingredients:

  1. Start with a unifying concept that makes sense (e.g. ‘design with nature’ goal);
  2. Develop a science-based and pragmatic methodology for undertaking technical analyses (e.g. water balance);
  3. Create a web-based calculation tool that has a user-friendly interface and is accessible to anyone (e.g. Water Balance Model for British Columbia); and
  4. Implement a multi-audience outreach and professional development program that is defined by consistent messaging.

A fifth ingredient is patience. It takes time to incrementally change the practitioner culture in the local government setting and implement a new way of doing business.

To Learn More:

Released in June 2010, Beyond the Guidebook 2010: Implementing a New Culture for Urban Watershed Protection and Restoration in British Columbia describes how a ‘convening for action’ philosophy has taken root in BC.

Released in February 2004, Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia provides a partnership umbrella for on-the-ground initiatives in the local government setting.

Water-Sustainability-Action-Plan_about the Venn diagram