Creating a Network of On the Land Leaders
On Thursday, February 25, 2016, the NWTRPA hosted a round table of on the land leaders in Yellowknife. Twenty-six people representing each of the regions in the NWT gathered at the Yellowknife Ski Club to talk about the rewards and challenges of delivering on the land programming and to identify concrete actions to support on the land leaders.
The round table grew out of the On the Land Funders Collaborative Workshop spearheaded by Tides Canada in the fall of 2014. That event brought together stakeholders in land-based programming and education to “brainstorm and discuss how support for on the land programs in the NWT could be enhanced and strengthened.” While much of the discussion centred on funding-related barriers, the meeting highlighted other areas for improvement including, but not limited to capacity, communication, and collaboration. The workshop led to the creation of an On the Land Collaborative Fund; the fund received its first round of applications in January of this year.
Concerned that the non-funding related observations and suggestions that emerged during the original workshop might be lost, the NWTRPA offered to host a round table for OTL leaders to continue the conversations begun in 2014. While the NWTRPA served as the lead organization, an advisory committee was assembled to guide the planning process. Steve Ellis (Tides Canada), Erin Freeland-Ballantyne (Dechinta), Jill Gilday (Northern Youth Leadership), Kyla Kakfwi-Scott (Health and Social Services), Jess Dunkin (NWTRPA), and Geoff Ray (NWTRPA) all contributed to the development of the program and the invitation list. Invitations were extended to individuals from across the territory working in land-based programming (broadly understood) for schools, cultural institutions, First Nations, community governments, non-profit organizations, and the territorial government.
At the most basic level, the round table was an opportunity for people working in land-based education to meet face-to-face, in many cases for the first time, and to learn more about other programs and activities happening around the territory. A number of the participants were the only person in their organization working in land-based education, so they appreciated having the opportunity to connect with others in the field.
The round table was also an opportunity to identify and address non-funding-related barriers to the successful delivery of culturally relevant, meaningful, and safe on the land programming. Participants identified four broad categories of challenges: Capacity referred to human and material resources; Commitment included both institutional and individual commitments to supporting and participating in on the land programs; Outcomes captured the challenges OTL leaders face in developing and evaluating meaningful programs, but also in communicating their successes to funders; and Safety highlighted the barriers to developing programs that are physically and emotionally safe while still challenging participants.
Round table participants developed a rich suite of possible solutions to each of the challenges identified during the brainstorm. Here again, there were common themes, many related to working collaboratively. While a number of actions were identified as priorities for the group, perhaps the call heard most consistently was for a network of on the land leaders. An OTL leaders network seems an important first step in better supporting land-based programming in the NWT. Not only will it provide an opportunity for sharing resources and best practices, another key objective for the group, but it can serve as the foundation for other priorities such as training, advocacy, and resource development.
A network requires an organization/individual to take responsibility for its functioning. There seemed to be a general consensus that the NWTRPA was well- suited to take on this role given that they are a non-profit with a history in the field and a mandate to “promote the inclusion of recreation and parks as key to our way of life…by supporting leaders, communities and partners through training, advocacy and networking.” With that in mind, the On the Land Programs Consultant at the NWTRPA, Jess Dunkin, has begun work on building the infrastructure for a network including developing an online hub for sharing resources and organizing a second face-to-face meeting in the fall. As the network takes shape, we will work toward meeting the other goals and priorities set out during the round table.
A full report of the round table is forthcoming. If you have any questions, please contact Jess Dunkin at 669.8376 or firstname.lastname@example.org.