Thursday, January 25, 2007

Peering through the rain clouds to the future

Perhaps they used Johnny Nash’s “I can see clearly now” as the mood music, while the skies were rather dark and ominous on the weekend, local residents gathered at the Museum of Northern British Columbia to look into the future and the kind of Prince Rupert they would like to see.

The small but dedicated group were taking part in the SFU sponsored Imagine B. C. process, which has communities across the province looking at where they would like to be in 2037.

Erika Rolston was the facilitator for the local event and guided the group through the project towards their mission statement, a hope and a goal that will see the community as follows: “Prince Rupert leads the world in community development that is socially, economically and environmentally sustainable.”

The Daily News had a recap of the weekends brainstorming session in the Wednesday paper.

Imaginative Rupertites share vision
By James Vassallo
The Daily News
Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Throughout the weekend, a small collection of Rupertites came together and imagined what the future might hold for the community. And surprisingly, when those participants broke into groups and were tasked with coming up with The Daily News headline for 2037 they all hoped for more or less the same thing: “Prince Rupert leads the world in community development that is socially, economically and environmentally sustainable.”

“One of the things that came up again and again is that those options are still all open for us,” said Erika Rolston, who helped bring the SFU-facilitated Imagine B.C. tour to the North Coast.

“We could really be world leaders. In 2037 people in Europe or Asia could be going ‘Wow, have you seen what they’re doing in Northern B.C.? It’s amazing. They’re working their resources but they’re doing it in a way where they’ll be doing it forever.’”

Participants envisioned a future in which people are taken care of in a thriving economy based on environmental sustainability. The issues that were seen to stand in the way of that goal were largely poverty-related along with a lack of social services.

“The hope was that it’s a community that takes care of people that have fallen through the cracks, that the holes have been repaired by then but also that we’ve reduced our dependence on that social safety net. That was really clear, we don’t want to see a region that depends on EI for three-quarters of its income — we want a region that has options for employment.”

The challenge is also finding a way to keep people in the community and empower them to the point where they have the skills and the motivation to act when the employment opportunities come, she said.

“That lag time between where we are now and a moment when we have lots of options is the challenge,” said Rolston. “How do we keep people ready and not just for entry level jobs, we want to see people here taking leadership roles in the business here.”

There was a feeling that the first dialogue for Imagine Prince Rupert was incomplete as it brought together largely people with a socially-oriented background.

With those questions of economy being so prevalent, there’s hopes of a future dialogue that will not only bring in more business-minded perspectives but also be more regional in nature.
“We want to see more of that aspect in expanding dialogues, and ... make sure we bring in more people that have a purely economic focus,” she said.

“It’s very difficult to get people to come out and have dialogue there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what dialogue is, what its for and why you would bother.

“But you have to get people thinking about it in terms of long-term investments — the idea is that if you ... dig down past all of the politics you find that place where we’re all acting out of the best interests for our area.”

Imagine B.C. is a series of dialogues that seeks to create a forum for diverse perspectives about the future of the province. B.C.-wide the initiative has looked at things like the province’s culture and the relationship between economy and British Columbia’s unique environment.

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