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Contextual Resources

GEORGIA BASIN INTER-REGIONAL EDUCATION INITIATIVE: “The IREI is a unique mechanism for growing a network based on shared aspirations and delivering results across organizational boundaries. It differs in every way from building an organization in any conventional sense,” stated Derek Richmond, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC


The pressing need for timely, affordable, and effective solutions is the driver for the IREI. A goal of collaboration is to build local government capacity, capability, and competence to deliver on expectations. The IREI program brings the right people together in constructive ways with good information, such that they create authentic visions and strategies. “The Ambassadors Program complements the IREI Program and is emerging as a foundation piece for inter-generational collaboration. This was the breakthrough to articulate our need for succession planning and sustainability of the network,” stated Derek Richmond.

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GEORGIA BASIN INTER-REGIONAL EDUCATION INITIATIVE: “By accounting for and integrating the services that nature provides, communities can achieve the goal of Sustainable Service Delivery for watershed systems,” stated Liam Edwards, (a former) Executive Director with BC Ministry of Municipal Affairs, when Beyond the Guidebook 2015 was released


‘Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework’ makes the link between local government services, the infrastructure that supports the delivery of those services, and watershed health. “The BC Framework points the way to integration of natural systems and climate change thinking into asset management. Resilient cities will be the ones that can absorb water and manage the water cycle as a closed loop,” stated Liam Edwards. The BC Framework provides context for the Ecological Accounting Process for operationalizing natural asset management.

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GEORGIA BASIN INTER-REGIONAL EDUCATION INITIATIVE: “History is important. It is important to understand how we got to where we are. And we need to celebrate that work,” stated Brian Carruthers, Chief Administrative Officer (2014-2022), Cowichan Valley Regional District


“I had a real incentive to come to the Cowichan Valley Regional District in 2014 because water was the primary focus. The region was in the midst of a watershed governance study. It was looking at how the CVRD could take a more active role in watershed governance. The Board Chair and I did tours of First Nations communities and met with their chiefs and councils around the intent of this initiative and what would their interest be. We realized that this was bigger than we could take on at that time. Instead, we turned our attention to the Drinking Water & Watershed Protection (DWWP) model for a regional service,” stated Brian Carruthers.

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GEORGIA BASIN INTER-REGIONAL EDUCATION INITIATIVE: “One can have implementation without integration, but implementation will likely be ineffective without integration,” stated Tim Pringle, Past-President of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia, when he explained the process for designing with nature in a systems context


“The purpose of the IREI is to learn and apply what ‘designing with nature’ looks like in practice. Integration means a holistic approach to use and conservation of land and water. The process involves drilling down from the vision and goals of a regional plan to explore the ‘how-to’ details of implementation and integration. It encompasses physical infrastructure, the built environment, and the ecosystems within which we work and recreate. And it includes all practitioners whose profession, work, volunteer role or responsibility as a landowner affects land and water sustainability.”

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FLASHBACK TO 2013: “Collaboration among Vancouver Island local governments, and with Metro Vancouver and its member municipalities, has grown steadily since 2007. The Inter-Regional Educational Initiative provides a framework for consistent application of tools and understanding on both sides of the Georgia Basin. Everyone benefits from sharing information and experiences,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability


“Collaboration is the pathway to a consistent approach to implementation and integration of water sustainability and green infrastructure policies and practices within and between regions. Yet there is no formal mechanism to enable or facilitate inter-regional collaboration. The Partnership fills this gap. At the heart of the IREI is ‘Beyond the Guidebook’, an ongoing initiative to provide local governments with the tools and understanding necessary to integrate the Site with the Watershed and the Stream. The IREI will help all local governments bridge the ‘implementation and integration’ gap,” stated Kim Stephens

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GEORGIA BASIN INTER-REGIONAL EDUCATION INITIATIVE: “In the IREI program, we focus attention on the 4Cs – communication, cooperation, coordination, collaboration. The 4Cs guide what we do. We live and breathe collaboration. Building trust and respect starts with a conversation,” stated Richard Boase, Founding Director and Vice-President of the Partnership for Water Sustainability


Launched in 2012, the IREI facilitates peer-based learning among local governments located on the east coast of Vancouver Island and in the Lower Mainland. The IREI builds on the legacy of Erik Karlsen whose leadership inspired the original Georgia Basin Initiative in 1994. “The IREI is nested within the Water Sustainability Action Plan which, in turn, is nested within Living Water Smart. Cascading is the reverse way to think about this nesting concept. Each successive layer in the cascade adds depth and detail to enable the move from awareness to implementation – that is, action.,” stated Richard Boase.

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GEORGIA BASIN INTER-REGIONAL EDUCATION INITIATIVE: “Local governments need ‘real numbers’ to deliver outcomes. Getting it right starts with recognition that hydrology is the engine that powers ecological services,” emphasized Kim Stephens when he updated Metro Vancouver elected representatives (Sept 2018)


“On behalf of the Metro Vancouver Utilities Committee, I invited Kim Stephens to provide us with an update on inter-regional collaboration through the participation of five regional districts in the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Education Initiative,” stated Mayor Darrell Mussatto, Chair. In 2017-2018, federal-provincial funding enabled the Partnership to move forward with three parallel initiatives that have further strengthened the ‘twin pillars’ of the IREI.

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LOOK BACK TO LOOK FORWARD: Experience and relationships flowing from the precedent-setting 2008 Vancouver Island Learning Lunch Seminar Series ultimately led to the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Education Initiative (IREI), recalls John Finnie, CAVI Chair during the period 2006 through 2011


Five provincial guidance documents formed the curriculum backbone for the 2008 series. Local case study experience informed the program design. Each series comprised three sessions that provided an inter-departmental learning opportunity for collaborative exploration. Each series was conducted as a cumulative process, from philosophy to tools. “It came to fruition because of the commitment, the energy and the dedication of our local government partners in three regional districts – Cowichan, Comox and Nanaimo,” recalls John Finnie.

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GEORGIA BASIN INTER-REGIONAL EDUCATION INITIATIVE: “B.C. communities can adapt to the New Normal. They can create a water-resilient future where flood and drought risks are reduced,” wrote Kim Stephens in an op-ed published in the Vancouver Sun (June 2, 2018)


“In Living Water Smart, the lynch-pin statement is: All land and water managers will know what makes a stream healthy, and therefore be able to help land and water users factor in new approaches to securing stream health and the full range of stream benefits. This vision statement guides the work of the Partnership for Water Sustainability, the hub for a ‘convening for action’ network in the local government setting,” stated Kim Stephens. “The Partnership develops and mainstreams approaches, tools and resources that advance ‘design with nature’ outcomes.”

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GEORGIA BASIN INTER-REGIONAL EDUCATION INITIATIVE: “The IREI helps the champions in each region understand what the other regions are doing, what works and what does not,” stated Mike Tanner, Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia


“We are working with practitioners involved in water resources functions to foster integrated protection and management strategies through enhancement of practitioner expertise (i.e. “developing talent”), and through further evolution and delivery of program elements developed under the umbrella of the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia,” stated Mike Tanner. “The IREI provides local governments with a mechanism for sharing and learning from each other through collaborative processes.”

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