Using a network to strengthen community
Nelson at its Best is a non-profit society formed in 2006. It is a network of organizations and individuals that exists to help make Nelson a healthy community by providing and promoting a view of community planning and development through the lens of well-being and quality of life for all citizens. Their goal is to strengthen community well-being through multi-sector collaboration, community participation, research and action.
Over the years, the group has been incredibly successful in building momentum, raising awareness, and conducting research on priority issues – many on the road to poverty reduction.
Implementing a Community Action Strategy
Together Nelson has become one of the primary projects of NAIB, having been launched in 2020 to better understand local poverty.
After the release of the four-year Community Action Strategy (found by scrolling down on the Together Nelson website) that identified tangible, measurable actions to lift people out of poverty and prevent people from falling into poverty, the group worked hard to keep momentum going and support projects on the ground. But they had reached a turning point.
Like many groups, it is volunteer driven and populated by passionate individuals, people with living experience, and representatives from business, local government, and non-profit organizations.
Following the creation of the strategy, they faced similar challenges to many collaboratives – what to do first, who to take the lead and where to get the funding? It was a daunting task.
Being realistic about capacity
NAIB took a hard look at its own capacity (or lack thereof) for delivering projects into the future. They realized that, when members with in-kind capacity could work ‘off the side of their desks,’ things moved forward.
Now, with primarily volunteers at the table, this was neither sustainable nor desirable. The table agreed that it was time to look to community partners to deliver on the action strategies – one step at a time.
Finding capable partners
For year one, the Kootenay Career Development Society (KCDS) agreed to take the lead and deliver one key activity within the Education and Skill-building pathway of the Strategy.
KCDS had all the necessary infrastructure and network to do this well. A customized financial literacy and job readiness program blends the most successful aspects of past projects, including NAIB’s financial literacy program (for young women, 2019) and KCDS’s PEERS program (job placements for low-income workers, 2020).
A Memorandum of Understanding between NAIB and KCDS formalizes the relationship, with KCDS as the ‘Community Service Delivery Partner’ and NAIB as ‘Community Animator’ to assist with knowledge transfer, take an advisory role, connect mentors with lived/living experience to the project and help ensure a Collective Impact approach.
Continuing to play a key roleWhile Nelson at its Best will no longer strive to be an active service provider, it will continue to play a key role in the following ways:
- Maintaining the Leadership Roundtable, where community partners have taken on priority projects. For example:
- The local Food Centre became a Living Wage Employer and plans to begin hosting the Volunteer Income Tax Clinics
- The Nelson & Area Economic Development Partnership, which includes the City of Nelson, is undertaking a feasibility study to create a separate entity whose mandate is affordable housing
- The Kootenay Kids Society is implementing child care expansion
- Maintaining the Community Voice Advisory Group (people with lived/living experience) to advise on program elements and future activities planned for year two and beyond
- Identifying priorities, giving partners motivation and assisting with funding development to support future projects
- Developing the network further to keep the poverty reduction conversation going by establishing a tool for regular communications
- Exploring opportunities that support ongoing reporting, access to data, measurement and evaluation
Navigating transitionNelson at its Best successfully navigated a challenging transition. Key factors of success were clarifying the role and actions of the Leadership Roundtable to manage both commitment and engagement, while at the same time empowering community partners to take the lead on the ground.
With the year one project well underway, Nelson at its Best is turning its attention to year two. We await with bated breath to see what comes next!
Deepen Your Learning:
- Nelson at its Best (NAIB)
- Together Nelson
- A Community Action Strategy to Reduce Poverty in Nelson & Area (2022 – 2026)
- NAIB – Past accomplishments, contributions and initiatives