Written by Gurleen Grewal
Hosting this year’s Annual General Meeting with an eye fixed on both the histories and the horizon of our work, BCCIC has arrived at a better understanding of how we started out thanks to a presentation by Dr. Jill Campbell-Miller. A SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of History at Carleton University, Campbell-Miller worked with a collection of archival materials to trace the story of how BCCIC began. Chronicling the changes that rocked the boat, and the fierce advocacy and commitment to representation that enabled BCCIC to come so far, Campbell-Miller helped illuminate the intangibles that help civil-society organizations address challenges and stay focused on operations. Campbell-Miller’s interest in BCCIC’s history extends from her work with the Canadian Network on Humanitarian History (CNHH).
In the era of the throwback, Campbell-Miller’s presentation at BCCIC’s 30th AGM was a cherished reminder of the organization’s journey, and the partnerships that have been and continue to be vital to its success. The founding meeting that launched BCCIC into the civil society sector was held, May 8th, 1989. Here, founding members sketched out the premise of BCCIC, beginning with a bold promise to uphold, “Representation and Participation or DIE.” This focus on capacity-building remains a large part of what informs the core identity, and value of BCCIC as a network organization. From the very start, there has been an insistence on and attunement to engaging with members in order to exist.
The early years of BCCIC were a difficult time as board members faced burnout because of staff shortages, funding sources loomed in varying states of precarity, and surviving became the animating goal of the organization. However, responding to these hardships with calls to diversify funding and welcome new staff who could work at helm and on deck, BCCIC navigated this patch of rough seas without disbanding. Reiterating their focus on members in the 2000s, BCCIC joined forces with the Inter-Council Network (formed in 2006), while upping the ante through advocacy initiatives like the Make Poverty History Campaign. It was during this period that BCCIC began, in earnest, to invite youth to conversations around international development, recognizing the ever- present need to support their voices in hard-to-access spaces.
Throughout the last decade, BCCIC has advanced their attention to initiatives supporting youth, and boosted their focus on public engagement through international development week and the framework of the sustainable development goals. In the past year BCCIC has worked to express the sentiment of the adage, “Representation and Participation or DIE,” by holding 17 training and learning workshops, going national with the Movement Map that now shows 11, 651 civil-society groups across Canada engaging with the SDGs, and attending policy and dialogue forums at local and international levels. Looking back into the history of the organization proved an illuminating exercise, and as BCCIC considers its next steps in responding to the SDGs, and imperative issues of social justice, this glance informs the long gaze into the future.