Monday, 9 September 2013

Planning for Indigenous Communities

By Nathan McCorrister, 2nd year (part-time) MDP student
This past summer (2013) I had the privilege of undertaking my domestic field practicum at the University of Winnipeg Community Renewal Corporation (UWCRC).  I was pleased to be able to receive approval from the University of Winnipeg (U of W) Masters in Development Program (MDP) to choose my field practicum with the UWCRC given my personal interest and area of focus in community economic and business development.  Given a past working relationship with the UWCRC with my current career (I’m a part time student) and my knowledge of the work the UWCRC does in terms of community and business development for the U of W, it was an obvious choice for my domestic practicum.    
The UWCRC is a non-profit charitable corporation, created to support the U of W by developing a sustainable university and is guided by a four pillared concept of sustainability: environmental, social, economic and cultural.  The UWCRC is mandated to develop partnerships with community, private and public sector organizations.  The UWCRC developed a comprehensive campus development plan that has and continues to expand the campus and the land scape of downtown Winnipeg (The University of Winnipeg Community Renewal Corporation, 2013).  

Wayne Flamand (L) and Nathan McCorrister
I was given the opportunity to work with senior staff, particularly Mr. Wayne Flamand, on a few of the projects the UWCRC is currently developing including work on the Merchants Hotel redevelopment considering various options and uses for the building and developing a new business proposal within a new public institution developing financial projections and cash flows based on market conditions and other related factors.  One of the valuable lessons learned working with UWCRC is that in any business venture careful planning and assessment must completed and followed through to increase successful outcomes.

As many Indigenous communities are turning to social enterprise economic development as one of the tools to improve social conditions in their community, there is an increased amount of Indigenous communities that are venturing into new businesses.  As there is such a scarce lack of resources, monetary and human resources, with Indigenous communities, all the more effort and time that should be given to careful planning and assessment of any business idea and or plan. Many Indigenous communities across Canada have great examples of successful business ventures and related business or community economic development plans.  As some of my experience and research has shown, business success takes time it doesn’t happen overnight, it will take careful planning and foundation building both from governance and business perspective.

Just as important as planning and assessment is, our sustainable development course work, and as experienced by some of you had in the field, has proven that it’s also important to take the time ensure a participatory approach to community economic development.  The participatory approach can often take some time and or a community may already have a good vision or plan that they would like to see occur or implement, in any event it’s important to take the time to meet and communicate with community members in identifying a community’s vision, goals and objectives whether for economic development reasons or other.  Here at the UWCRC this is an approach that was undertaken with its comprehensive campus development plan and that is now successfully being implemented.

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