The Atlantic Canada Great Ideas Exchange

Submitted by: Jim Mustard, Inverness County

Inverness County “Community Development” and “Sustainability”
Sept 23, 2013

Making the foundation strong – a municipally facilitated process of engagement that is ongoing, productive and dynamically driven by the needs of citizens, organizations and businesses. As a Municipal Councillor since 2010 I have facilitated 14 Town Halls as a way to understand the complexity of our regions development needs. The Municipality of Inverness is now moving to normalize the process across the whole county by hiring a Community Development Facilitator. This new position will help to consistently bring together individuals, organizations and business members to help organize, integrate and prioritize our needs to sustain what we have and develop what we need in our rural communities.

A healthy and business ready municipality is one that practices a more integrated and responsive model of governance. Where the diversity of local leadership takes the time to engage, build relationships and educate itself in the overall complexity of what constitutes a sustainable rural community.

The Municipality of Inverness is moving forward on a strategy to revitalize and sustain our region. Through an ongoing practice of engagement with our citizens, we will foster more adaptive, responsive, collaborative relationships and networks to strengthen our economy while improving the determinants of health.

These local and regional networks will operate on a set of shared principles of cooperation, open and transparent governance, compassion and creativity – to identify priorities, integrate planning and mobilize investments.

A revitalized and sustainable rural community includes both, an innovative business sector and a collaborative network of non-profit organizations (35 of these in Inverness District 3 alone that support the social well-being, cultural prosperity and recreational opportunities).

A revitalized and sustainable rural community also innovates to support the development of new identified priorities like; affordable quality housing, early child development, renewable energy systems, local food, and transportation.

As we move forward with this strategy a largely unrecognized sustainability challenge is the whole host of volunteers who are aging out. These volunteers have developed and taken care of their community’s health and wellbeing through years of consistent leadership. Filling that gap will become increasingly difficult as the demographic of 20 to 40yr olds are too few, often too busy and or missing (out west) as they get squeezed for finances, time and experience.

The Inverness Municipality must also update the Integrated Community Sustainability Plan ($700K annually) as a planning and monitoring framework to guide our county’s social, economic, cultural and environmental development. In order to do this we will facilitate the ongoing engagement of local and regional communities around our shared values to ensure we invest in the identified priorities by looking at the indicators, doing the research, developing the partnerships, integrating the planning and leveraging the investments.
Just as the Georgetown Conference is bringing together leadership that values rural communities and wants to change the practice for our future engagement, the Municipality of the County of Inverness is planning a spring conference with at least 20 representatives from each of the 6 districts to kick off a county wide strategic planning process that focuses on business readiness, retaining and engaging our population and attracting enterprising people to our county. This is a critical time for all our Atlantic rural regions and Municipalities, with their non-partisan elected representatives, can play a key leadership role in bringing together the creativity, innovation and relationships needed to revitalize our communities.