Putting the Pieces Together for Healthy Rural Island Communities
Over 125 islanders, stakeholders, allies, and representatives from all levels of government gathered at The Haven Centre—located on the traditional and unceded territories of the Snuneymuxw First Nations on Gabriola Island—from April 25-27 to ‘put the pieces together” for BC’s rural island communities at the 2023 RIEP Forum.
It was the first such in-person gathering since the inaugural Forum event in 2019, which led to the formation of the Rural Islands Economic Partnership Society (RIEP). Virtual Forums were held in 2021 and 2022, along with four virtual ‘Connection Cafes’.
At the 2022 Forum, the focus was on ‘Connect, Reflect, Moving Forward’, and was notable for its outcome—the creation of the Rural Islands Values Framework, inspired by the Doughnut Economics model (which you can read about here).
The Rural Islands Values Framework is a set of intentions for what’s needed for BC’s rural islands to be sustainable. Developed by and for rural islanders, it serves as a starting point for a common approach to addressing the present and future challenges of BC’s rural islands, one that is rooted in social and environmental responsibility. It is also one which would provide a basis of respect for each island’s individuality, while also serving commonalities of the islands as a whole.
This is what served as the starting point for the RIEP 2023 Forum – where to go next with both the Framework …islanders and allies – and as RIEP – what could we achieve together, and without delay?
Connect + Reflect + ACT!
In pre-Forum 2023 promotions, you may have seen promotions using the tagline, “Connect, Reflect, and ACT”. The first two were easy because, as with most in-person conferences, the delegates, speakers, sponsors, and event hosts—in this case representing over 15 islands, local businesses, community NGOs and activists, and several government bodies—were able to connect in meaningful ways and reflect on what had brought us back together (or in many cases, together for the first time).
The third call-to-action was ‘ACT’—the idea that the Forum could transform the ideas, energy, and intentions incubated over the 3 days into actionable expressions of island values.
That’s exactly what happened. Attendees in 2023 Forum Action Labs formulated ways to activate initiatives related to:
- Rural Housing Policies That Work
- Engaging Shared Services as a Means for Building Local Economic Capacity
- Fostering Travel As A Force For Good
- Incorporating Islands Style Climate Adaptation Best Practices
- Adopting Circular Economy Methods To Address Food Sector ‘Take-Make-Waste’ Streams
- Securing Regional District Economic Development Staff To Serve the Islands In their District
These six resolution statements can take the shape of aspirations, requests, demands; however, what they say is grounded in collaboration, through a rural islands and reconciliation lens, and between visionaries, innovators, change makers and community organizers from organizations focused on regenerative economic development, rural housing, Indigenous business, local food, and destination management, and more.
So What Happens Next?
In many ways, it’s up to you—along with the RIEP Board, members, and volunteers, supported by our small staff team—to stand ready to breathe life into these Resolutions.
Whether it’s due to population fluctuations, climate impacts, changes in land use, access to vital services or issues of significance to us all, we believe the RIEP movement serves as a platform for collaboration and collective action.
RIEP is YOU.
To make a positive difference Islander movers and shapers must play an active role in championing rural island values by making a commitment to have ‘skin in the game’.
That’s what these resolutions are all about.
We are forming Working Groups to refine content and propose a action timeline for:
- Moving the Resolutions forward through a intentional collaborative process, that will engage RIEP members, local community organizations, allies – local and regional NGOs, government, and private industry; and
- Seeking ways to secure financial, human resource, legislative and regulatory support to make fundamental changes in how BC’s rural islands navigate the next few years and decades of change.
An Opportunity To Keep The Islands Vibe Alive & Flourishing
If this sounds like an opportunity for our all islands community to get ahead of our present and future challenges – and if challenges sound like opportunities to you – then we invite you to join RIEP and help make these resolutions to become a reality.
RIEP Membership supports this ongoing work and opens up opportunities to participate going forward—join RIEP now, for as little as $25/yr.