One year ago, in my last New Year’s Message, you may recall that I pined for a sign of good faith from the Trudeau government and in particular from our Minister of International Development and La Francophonie – Madame Bibeau. I am happy to report that 2017 was a pivotal year between the government of Canada and civil society. I am referring, of course, to the announcement of 100 million dollars of support for small and medium sized organizations that was made public in May. In a remarkable show of effort, the Development Impact portion ($79 million) of this window was open for applications just before the winter holidays. The Trudeau government has been criticized for a lot of talk and not enough walk. In this case, however, they have been metaphorically running… and at an excellent pace. Much credit needs to be given to the various dedicated civil servants within Global Affairs Canada who kept pace during the marathon and provided the needed impetus to turn the announcement into a reality. Indeed, it is a welcome change to hear civil society groups muttering that the pace is “too fast” as they race to get their proposals in by the deadline. This same enthusiasm for change has manifested on the policy front as Global Affairs Canada announced the new Civil Society Partnerships Policy and has opened up some standing advisory committees to inform how this should unfold. These are very welcome changes and bode well for Canada.
My own pre-occupation remains, as always, that time is of the essence. Government can only be expected to run as fast as accountability mechanisms can keep up. This is a simple and very real limitation that casts a long and influential shadow on expectations for change. There is a strong onus on civil society to push the pace of change. But our challenge is the pace of modernity, which continues to be driven by an insatiable appetite for fossil fuels and unsustainable consumption and production patterns, all while the gap continues to widen between those who can afford to squander our planet and those without enough to meet their basic needs. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which define humanity’s hopes and dreams, are being tested by the physical limits of our planet and the pace at which our species is able to adapt. We have 12 years left to achieve Agenda 2030; hence my preoccupation.
BCCIC is a remarkable network and has been doing its part. In the past year, we managed to influence politics in BC through our BC2030 campaign, show up at the United Nations for the High Level Political Forum with an in depth report on Canada’s performance on the SDGs, and send the largest Canadian youth delegation to the climate change meetings in Bonn. We worked with members to access funding, increase capacity and improve their work. We continued to host the Inter-Council Network of Provincial and Regional Councils and we worked closely with the Northern Council to add the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut to our growing Movement Map of the invisible mosaic. We were invited to numerous consultations, studied networks and networking, organized an ambitious number of meetings, worked with local academic institutions, and visualized how we as a network get work done through a data story. The list is long and our team and members have much to be proud of. The question, again, is one of pace and scope in a world that is rapidly changing. The world could use many, many more BCCICs.
Over the past year, our board of directors led a strategic planning exercise that will focus our efforts in the coming years on seven key strategic directions. As part of this strategy we will be focused on the concept of “praxis” with changemakers. Praxis is where theory and practice meet at the cutting edge of social change. How do we explore the very edge of what we are thinking and doing to push the evolution of social change work? How do we create more BCCICs, or deepen our impact? Over the past year we led our first boot camp for changemakers based on this concept. It was a lot of fun to travel across this province with a great group of young people exploring the SDGss. In the coming years, we will fine tune this capacity development initiative through collaboration with other institutions while continuing to integrate what we are learning in real world situations.
Creativity shows up through challenge, not repetition. Our goal is to reveal the invisible mosaic of change agents in our province and develop our collective capacity to address the SDGs, knowing full well that nobody has all the solutions to the complexity of our current global predicament. Praxis implies an exploration, not a known solution. It feels exciting and humbling to work with other changemakers to explore the potential of the SDGs as they unfold before us.
We have much to learn as we explore our own potential as a network through cyclical learning, adaptive cycles of growth, accumulation, restructuring, and renewal – these processes together can be described as “panarchy.” We have grown a lot over the past few years in terms of our scope and impact. The coming year beckons our network to deepen our collective impact, broaden our views and embrace a wider sense of identity. I look forward to that journey with all of you.
Executive Director, BCCIC