Below are links to the downloadable Vital Conversations Report and Appendices.
We hope that we have captured the essence of our conversation on May 31st, 2014 and that it provides, for all of us, a basis for reflection, further conversations and, ultimately, action.
As the community addresses the issues identified, the Scribes’ full notes are on file for further reference, should there be interest.
The Community Foundation Board continues to reflect on what was said and heard. Starting with the release of the Report, it has moved forward with what was learned. Since the “Vital Conversation”, the influence of your collective thoughts has been woven into the work of the Foundation.
With kind regards, and our sincere thanks for your contribution to our community.
The Board of Directors of the Bowen Island Community Foundation.
By Pauline LeBel – Bowen Island Undercurrent, July 3, 2014
All of it is nurtured by ongoing discourse about who we are and how we want to care for the island. This requires openhearted, purposeful conversation, and the more people involved in the conversation, the more transparent, the better.
On May 31st, the Bowen Island Community Foundation (BICF) began a process to evolve our community conversation. Under the direction of Soren Hammerberg, Joyce Ganong and Kathy Bellringer, they initiated and organized a Vital Conversations to take a good look at where we are as a community.
For those of you unfamiliar with the work of the BICF, they have been contributing to Bowen vitality since 2002 when they started connecting donors to community needs. Through a volunteer board, they build and manage endowment funds to support organizations and initiatives to address the general wellbeing of the island. There are many ways to donate; the foundation is included in my will.
I was one of 60 people – of various ages and backgrounds – invited to participate in the Vital Conversations, to explore community with fresh eyes. I saw familiar old faces, some new faces, and fortunately a few young faces. The idea was to lead discussions that are more positive, inclusive and expansive. And to speak for those who were not able to speak.
BICF Director, Kathy Bellringer, who has a background in business, encouraged us to think big about Bowen. She asked us to consider what was working well on the island, to start from a positive position. Some of the positive things we identified were how we care for our children, how we protect the natural environment, and provide for the disadvantaged through the Food Bank.
From there we moved on to what was missing or needed improvement: better care for our elderly, and for the homeless; improved access to the water and beaches; intergenerational connection; housing diversity; transportation issues; better access to health care; the Snug Cove entrance; and more education on the natural environment. We identified several root causes for these omissions, including self-interest taking precedence over community needs, and economic drivers out of touch with what the island can sustain.
Although there wasn’t time to come to consensus on any issues, we offered solutions: more vital conversations; more community gathering places; an Elders Council; a Youth Council; street parties; support for those marginalized in society; a car-free weekend; and the need for a Community Economic Development Committee made up of diverse backgrounds to consider the overall island economy.
Ann Silberman talked about her experience many years ago working on the first Official Community Plan. The group met over a period of eight months – consensus takes time – to discover what social services were essential to Bowen. “The only way to come to conclusion,” she said, “was to see where we could meet. By letting go of one’s view and being able to see the other person’s view, we came to something that met in the middle.”
Conflict in community is, of course, inevitable, and can lead to just the right amount of creative tension necessary to move forward. Vital Conversations was but a first step; it gave us the opportunity to see what community can look like, and offered proof that we have the collective ability to talk about difficult things in a respectful manner. I wanted to know more, so I invited Soren and Kathy for tea, and discovered they were relative newcomers to the island. As Soren points out “it’s not the number of years but the amount of heart that counts.” And it’s clear they both shine in that department.
“People can burn out on negativity,” said Kathy, who retired 15 years ago. “It’s the root cause of why things don’t get done here. We want to create an environment where positive discourse is the norm, a discourse that leads to solutions.”
By the end of June, the Foundation will distill the results of the Vital Conversations event into a working plan for our Municipal Council and charitable groups on the island so all can benefit.
If Soren has his way, and I hope he does, the Foundation can “help create a caring community by creating programs that are widely accepted, that will make people say: this is my community. I wouldn’t leave it because I live in a community where I am heard, respected and cared for.”
The Foundation is planning more Vital Conversations. I’m not waiting till then. I’ve begun my own vital conversations on difficult issues, learning as I go how respectful dialogue and openhearted curiosity can lead to increased trust, how finding the middle ground can lead to the ability to move forward.
The Bowen Island Community Foundation is one of 200 Canadian foundations that work to support their local community’s charitable needs. This year, we are celebrating our 10th anniversary of giving back to Bowen Island.
In its first decade, the Foundation has grown an asset base of close to a million dollars. Year after year, the Foundation produces income that gets distributed in the form of grants to projects that touch all aspects of life on Bowen Island. Our anniversary year project is to develop a clear picture of community needs and a corresponding set of funding priorities. We are looking for community guidance from a range of perspectives to help develop this picture. And we have created a short event called Vital Conversations to gather that community input.
The Vital Conversations event will bring together 60 people from around Bowen Island to discuss the types of projects and charitable initiatives that will keep our community strong and make Bowen Island an even better place to live. We have invited Tom James, a very skilled and experienced facilitator, to lead the 2.5 hour event. We will be working in a mix of large groups and smaller groups, with breaks and refreshments to help fortify us throughout the morning. The Foundation will use the results of the Vital Conversations to guide us in our work with donors and grant recipients in the years to come.
We are asking participants to give us a morning of their time to participate in this Vital Conversations event. In return we hope they will take away new knowledge about community initiatives, and with ideas about what might make Bowen Island an even better place to live. We also hope they will enjoy the chance to meet people from around our community in a well-facilitated, friendly, and comfortable set of conversations.
The Vital Conversation event is happening on Saturday, May 31st from 9.30 am to 12.00 pm at Cates Hill Chapel.
If you have any questions contact at Kathy Bellringer or Joyce Ganong at this email address – firstname.lastname@example.org