FLASHBACK TO 2009: The key message for the 2009 Comox Valley Seminar Series, titled “Getting Ahead of the Wave”, was about the ‘call to courage’ in order to ‘move from boundaries to commonalities’, and implement ‘design with nature’ solutions on the ground through partnerships and collaboration
Note to Reader:
In 2009, the Comox Valley was in the early stages of demonstrating what a ‘regional team approach’ looks like. A desired outcome in collaborating was alignment of goals and actions at three scales – provincial, regional and local. The essence of the regional team approach is that all the players will set their sights on the common good and challenge the old barriers of jurisdictional interests. The provincial government designated the Comox Valley as a pilot region for implementation of the regional team approach.
The primary purpose of the 2009 Learning Lunch Seminar Series was to advance the team-building process for aligning inter-governmental efforts. The ‘convening for action’ process was guided by a belief that partnerships, collaboration, innovation and integration would enable the four Comox Valley local governments to make the best choices over time for living water smart and building greener communities.
2009 Comox Valley Learning Lunch Seminar Series
The Comox Valley Regional District hosted the 2009 Seminar Series. “Three regional strategies – growth, sustainability and water – provided the backdrop for the series. The spotlight was on how to implement the regional team approach – that is, a unified approach from all levels of government,” stated Kevin Lorette, (former) General Manager of the Property Services Branch, and Chair of the 2009 Series.
“The theme, Getting Ahead of the Wave, described what we wished to accomplish via the 2009 Seminar Series. The regional team viewed the 2009 series as providing the springboard to advance integration of (then) current Comox Valley regional initiatives in 2010. By integration, this meant what all the plans will achieve,” contineed Kevin Lagan, (former) Director of Operational Services with the City of Courtenay.
The Hard Work of Collaboration
“The Learning Lunch Series comprised three seminars, but the three events by themselves represented the tip of the iceberg when compared to the total investment of time and effort by the four Comox Valley local governments and the other partners,” explained Kim Stephens, Exective Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia. He worked with the Comox Valley regional team to develop the curriculum and then facilitated the seminars.
“The exploratory conversations began in January 2009, curriculum development was initiated in April, and the Comox Valley organizing team met on a regular basis throughout the year. From the beginning, the four local governments had been looking ahead to the following year (2010), and what they wished to achieve through collaboration.
“One of the outcomes of the Learning Lunch Series was that the planners and engineers in the Comox Valley were talking to each other, listening to each other, and developing a common language. It was fascinating to observe the transformation over a period of many months.”
Reflections on the Power of the Series
“The power of the 2009 Series resulted from the fact that it was internally driven by staff. As a result, the process of organizing the series and developing the curriculum enabled people in all four local governments to work together,” stated Judith Walker, Municipal Planner with the Village of Cumberland. “The research conclusions by Tim Pringle really struck home for me, in particular his finding that proponents of major development projects are much better resourced than local government. We are always in a position of having to react.”
To Learn More:
Download a copy of Demonstrating Commitment to the Regional Team Approach in the Comox Valley, released in November 2009.
During the mid-July through mid-September period in 2009, the Partnership for Water Sustainability posted a series of seven articles on waterbucket.ca in order to progressively foreshadow and/or elaborate on what the curriculum would cover in the 2009 Comox Valley Learning Lunch Seminar Series. Click on the links below to download PDF copies of the seven articles:
- On July 14, 2009: Story #1 titled Comox Valley Regional District will host 2009 Learning Lunch Seminar Series introduced the purpose of a ‘regional team approach’ as a springboard beyond the Comox Valley.
- On July 28, 2009: Story #2 titled CAVI releases program details for 2009 Vancouver Island Learning Lunch Seminar Series provided context for a paradigm-shift that will result in regional alignment around the concept of settlement in balance with ecology.
- On August 24, 2009: Story #3 titled What Drives Settlement on the East Coast of Vancouver Island initiated a conversation about “one market, from Cobble Hill to Campbell River”.
- On September 9, 2009: Story #4 titled A Regional Perspective on Water Supply in the Comox Valley provided a broad-brush picture of source quality and watershed protection, population source capacity, infrastructure expansion and financing issues.
- On September 9, 2009: Story #5 titled An Integrated Watershed Approach to Settlement Change connected the dots between the Comox Valley Conservation Strategy and the regional team approach.
- On September 15, 2009: Story #6 titled The Comox Valley Learning Lunch Seminar Series is for Implementers reflected the perspectives of municipal staffs who will be tasked with implementing regional outcomes.
- On September 22, 2009: Story #7 titled Today’s Expectations are Tomorrowss Standards In British Columbia elaborated on provincial expectations and programs that provide direction as to where the Province wants to go with Living Water Smart and the Green Communities Initiative.
For ease of downloading, the seven articles are consolidated in a 68-page document that is the Story of the 2009 Comox Valley Learning Lunch Seminar Series.
To Learn More:
Seminar #1 – Call to Courage
In October 2009, the Partnership posted Story #8 to provide a record of Seminar #1. Titled Call to Courage: Demonstrating the Regional Team Approach in the Comox Valley, Story #8 highlighted defining moments, commented on the implications, and summarized resulting actions. It synthesized three key messages:
- the ‘call to courage’ by the organizing team underscored the passion and commitment of the local government players;
- through their actions, the Comox Valley local governments were already demonstrating what the ‘regional team approach’ looks like; and
- the Series spotlight was on working with existing legislation to achieve integrated outcomes.
Understanding the Nature of Settlement Change on the East Coast of Vancouver Island
The main focus of Story #8 was on what drives settlement on the mid-Island region of Vancouver Island. Tim Pringle, Director of Special Programs for the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia, presented the results of his market research that led to three three conclusions:
- There is one market for large-scale real estate development projects in the mid-Island region, from Cobble Hill to Campbell River.
- Communities have choices when considering development proposals – they need only accept ones that are aligned with community values, that is: the right development in the right place.
- A matrix-type Development Evaluation Tool has been developed to enable apples-with-apples comparisons of development proposals, and assess whether they provide Green Value.
To Learn More:
Watch a 5-minute YouTube video of Tim Pringle present the Conclusions from the Research.
Comox Valley Can Pick and Choose
“The one market way-of-thinking resonated with those who participated in the seminar series,” observed Geoff Garbutt, Executive Manager of Strategic and Long-Range Planning with the Comox Valley Regional District. “It made sense that mid-Island communities have choices. Knowing this, it means mid-Island communities could establish expectations as to what we want and what we will accept from developers.”
“Because it is one market, the Comox Valley can really differentiate itself with our strong environmental focus and our emphasis on quality of place. Because we can pick and choose, we can position the Comox Valley to be a region of choice for the right development in the right place.”
“An implicit message to the development community is that there is money to be made when green development is truly aligned with community values and regional goals.”
The Water Challenge
“Water is the underpinning of the community, and this is why an integrated approach to settlement and land development is essential for the Comox Valley,” stated Kevin Lorette, General Manager of the CVRD Property Services Branch, when he explained the multi-faceted ‘water challenge’.
“Water is a key component for all the regional strategies that we are currently developing simultaneously. All will have to be integrated into one plan. At the core is growth – we are bringing these strategies together in 2010 to manage growth. We will be looking at all aspects of water.”
“When we move into the action phase, it will not be one organization doing it. This involves everybody. Job functions will be modified so that everyone has a role in implementation. If we all work together, we will be that much more effective.”
To Learn More:
Watch an 8-minute YouTube video clip of Kevin Lorette describing The Regional Team Approach.
Integration Leads to Innovation
To provide seminar participants with an example of what integration looks like on the ground, Derek Richmond, Manager of Engineering with the City of Courtenay drew attention to a City project along Anderton and Cliff Avenues in the Old Orchard area of northwest Courtenay.
“In a nutshell, an infrastructure replacement project evolved into a neighbourhood rehabilitation program,” stated Derek Richmond. “We began with a traditional infrastructure project in our minds: replace a pipe with a pipe. And then something amazing happened – we lifted ourselves out of the traditional silo mentality and we began to function as an integrated, inter-departmental team.”
“Through teamwork, a seemingly routine engineering project became the springboard for transforming the look-and-feel of an entire neighbourhood.”
Imagine What We Could Do Regionally
“If we can do this internally, imagine what we could do regionally,” added Kevin Lagan, the City’s Director of Operational Services. “Integrated planning is all about teamwork. There is no limit to what we can do once we open our minds to the opportunities that can result from partnerships and collaboration.
“The value of the Regional Growth Strategy is that it provides a way to encapsulate all the regional plans…so that municipal implementers will have the mandate they need to ensure that ‘consistent integration’ happens on the ground.”