Strengthening Community Connections

Feb 28, 2024

Strengthening Community Connections event - February 2024

“Could Quadra Island benefit if we were more connected?” This question was posed by the Quadra Island Foundation to the community groups and organizations that were invited to the Strengthening Community Connections event that was held over the weekend. All 84 of them. Yes, Quadra has a lot of groups! Fifty-six of them were represented and all came to the conclusion that “yes, Quadra Island could … and will!”

The event involved an enticing journey of “Connect, Discover, and Explore” and the participants were there for the ride. The event opened with everyone being invited to leave the outside world behind for a few hours and “connect to each other and to this precious place we call home.” They took a deep breath and held something from our island’s forests and beaches …. a rock, a shell, a piece of driftwood.

Connecting as community members in groups of three (a magical number for great conversations) with people they didn’t know, participants had a chance to talk about what “community” meant to them through a series of provocative questions. Abso-lutely everyone in the room met someone new, if not a few new people!

The “Discover” portion of the day unfolded in a massive “putting names to faces” exercise, alongside a series of slides featuring the different organizations and groups in attendance…their purpose, their priorities for 2024, and their size, structure, and number of years in existence. Some organizations had been around for generations, like Quadra Concerts (50 years), Folk Dancers (42 years), Quilters Guild (31 years), and Quadra Children’s Centre (38 years). Others were brand new, including the Discovery Islands Affordable Housing Society (1 year), Discover Islands Pride Society (2 years), and a brand new group you are sure to hear more from soon, the Society of GRIT. Common strengths (115 of them!) were shared and celebrated. Common challenges were also listed, with aging volunteers, finding and attracting young volunteers (or new volunteers for that matter), and funding topping the list. These were not surprising, especially given how clear it was how many groups were looking for the same things. Many people came out of “Discover” wanting the contact info for everyone so they could collaborate, and one person even wanted to join a few more groups!

When it came time to “Explore” and “Discuss” the participants joined tables with other groups with a similar focus. The choices were People, Culture, and Environment. They were then asked to explore and discuss “What are some ways Quadra groups and organizations could work together to combine our strengths and address our challenges?” and “What would help create or build stronger community connections?” These conversations bore much fruit! The event ended with a promise by the facilitator to type up and share the re-corded words, and a hope to meet again soon!

Some of the suggested ideas were:

• A contact list for all groups and orga-nizations on Quadra, on the Founda-tion’s website (in long form) and in the phone book (in short form).
• A list of all projects, for possible collab-oration and merging
• Find themes/challenges that are com-mon and invite other groups to work with you
• An online hub with a centralized event calendar, a centralized volunteer op-portunities board.and a suggestion box
• Find out what younger people are looking for and do stuff that attracts them
• A fun event to thank volunteers and showcase needs
• Joint hosting of community consul-tations, surveys, and data collection. Joint work, joint benefit, shared results.
• Role modeling, “art of mentoring,”
“cross-pollinate boards” and exchange board members.
• Having skill building workshops, like grant writing and board governance and developing a Skill Share list of people who are willing to donate their services or can be hired.
• Hiring a staff person or two – like a
“Volunteer Coordinator” or “Funding Coordinator” or “Community Devel-opment Officer” and/or a “Technology Consultant” to help organizations with volunteer recruitment and training, grant writing and other things.
• Support the role of “inbetweeners” to promote relationships between Indige-nous and settler community members and groups.
• Share space (e.g. storage), resources, equipment (e.g. for events), even people.
• Some of the bigger organizations
(Quadra Rec Society, ICAN, Quadra Island Foundation) getting together to implement some of the ideas men-tioned on behalf of the community.
• Have an “inter-organizational” group to share info and identify ways to collaborate, and possibly implement them too.
• Meeting together once a year, or even several times a year, possibly as a
“think tank.”
• Learn from the Cortes “Social Profit Network” and possibly share resources and have joint events.

Written by Jennifer Banks-Doll, published in The Bird’s Eye, February 28, 2024