Bojan Fürst, manager of knowledge mobilization with The Harris Centre of Policy and Development at MUN is very pleased with the results of the recent Baie Verte Thriving Regions workshop he co-facilitated with Harris Centre knowledge mobilization coordinator, Amy Jones.
“We had 50 to 60 attendees, a mix of people from the voluntary sector, all levels of government, and different sized businesses," Fürst said. "It was a great conversation. It was really interesting to be there and to see how willing people were to participate in the discussion.”
The first Thriving Regions workshop was held at the Baie Verte Campus of the College of the North Atlantic on March 28 and 29. The remainder of the events will take place throughout this year and into 2019 and involves three more community workshops and three research projects. The Harris Centre has funding from the federal and provincial governments to support the process here and in three other regions in the province.
This first workshop was designed to bring together a variety of interested parties to discuss the strengths of the region, the challenges the region is facing, and to identify priorities for the future.
Colin Forward, a board member with Emerald CBDC and the chair of a local seniors wellness group, who has an ongoing interest in rural sustainability, found the mix of attendees to be beneficial for the discussion the area’s priorities.
“It was an excellent way to interact with other community volunteers, municipal representatives, industry, as well as Harris Centre and university and college staff,” he said. "I was surprised by the convergence of themes that were arrived at in spite of the varied interests of the groups represented.”
Jennifer Whelan, executive director with CBDC Emerald, was initially contacted to be part of the planning committee and attended the event. Her particular interest was in the research that will come as a result of the economic priorities identified by the workshop attendees.
“Economic stability is a concern for CBDC Emerald - we have invested in several businesses in the area and we want them to succeed,” she said.
The workshop gave her further insight into the potential in the region.
“We may be a small region but there is a lot going on here,” Whelan said. “The skillset and the opportunities that are here are endless - it’s great to come together and find the champions who have a passion for their community and are willing to take the risks and has a vision for the future of the peninsula.”
While she was pleased with the workshop, Whelan would have liked to see even more participants.
“I was surprised that more didn’t show up and want to have a voice at the table," she said. "Very surprised that they didn’t see it as an opportunity to come together and share ideas and be a part of something big… something that could possibly have a huge economic and social impact on our peninsula. It’s time to think outside the box and be innovative.”
She hopes people who were unable to attend the first session will become engaged in the process as it develops.
Forward, who, in addition to his current positions, has previously served on the now-defunct RED zone board as well as the Central NL Rural Secretariat, feels that the Thriving Regions process will be an asset to the area.
“The research opportunities facilitated by the Harris Centre will be of benefit to the development of opportunities and a better lifestyle for our peninsula.”
Fürst is looking forward to the next steps in the process.
“We’re at the early stages, still ironing out details but it was really interesting to be there,” he said. “We are quite excited to be able to do this and we’re looking forward to going back to the region."