Article originally published on South Shore NOW, Everything you need to know about Nova Scotia's South Shore ...
MAHONE BAY - Leaders from across Lunenburg County gathered at the Mahone Bay Centre last week to learn more about initiatives happening in the area.
The event, hosted by Now Lunenburg County, highlighted 16 projects based on topics ranging from entrepreneurship, to education, youth engagement, politics and more.
"This is a new way of approaching project work and bringing about change," said Elspeth McLean-Wile, one of Now Lunenburg County's founding members.
Last week's event was a follow up to Now Lunenburg County's launch event in May, where community members from across sectors were invited to a public forum to discuss the challenges facing the area and take action.
The Now Lunenburg County initiative was inspired by the Ivany Report, which encouraged Nova Scotians to take the lead on change they want to see happen. A variety of initiatives were brought forward during the May event. Some were already in the works, and others were being presented for the first time.
Some of those included municipal government re-imagined, university and Lunenburg County partnerships, the Ross Farm Museum Heritage Learning Centre, and a community investment fund.
"In the room were a lot of people that saw a positive future, believed that we could change and that we as individuals could lead action here," said Ms McLean-Wile.
Now Lunenburg County held events throughout the summer to keep project leaders and the broader community updated on the development of some initiatives.
To date, the funding for Now Lunenburg County has been provided by private sources such as members of group's core team and their businesses. These include Wile's Lake Farm Market & Bakery, Belliveau Veinotte Inc., Lighthouse Media Group, Tim Merry and the Lunenburg County Community Fund.
The group doesn't provide funding for the individual projects; however, it's offering a different approach to getting things done. Every month, project leaders meet to connect, problem-solve and engage others with their work. The idea is to connect them with like-minded people who will help them reach their goals.
Last week, project leaders presented what they've developed since May and got feedback from the community on where to go to next.
"This is about the community deciding what should happen," said Ms McLean-Wile.
She adds that anyone with an idea is welcome to come forward and participate with Now Lunenburg County.
About 130 people from across the county attended the October 15 event, which Ms McLean-Wile said was very encouraging.
"I like how everyone really got to give their input and how there was such a range of different ages here," said Skylar Barkhouse, a junior high student at Bayview Community School.
The age of participants ranged from about 13 to 80 years old.
"It's just bringing the whole county together," she said.
Riley Whynot, another Bayview student who took part in the event, was happy to give feedback on the projects.
"I thought it was good to [give] our input into it, so that people know what the youth think," she said.
During the event, visitors had the opportunity to connect with projects in small groups and share their thoughts.
Dan O'Rourke was one of the project leaders presenting on behalf of a provincewide organization called Engage Nova Scotia. Part of his role at the event was to figure out how to connect the work happening in Lunenburg County with the rest of the province.
Mr. O'Rourke, who also worked on the Ivany Report, told Now Lunenburg County participants that they were "the vanguard of awesome." He added that the group's work was attracting attention from other people in the province.
Now Lunenburg County's next major event is scheduled for April 14. For more information visit http://www.nowlunenburgcounty.com.
Check out this recent article in the Chronicle Herald. Originally published here. Thanks to Quentin Casey, Mahone Bay resident and freelance journalist, for picking up on the story.
Now Lunenburg County project leaders will meet as a group once a month to discuss their projects and share ideas. There will also be three community gatherings over the next few months. That activity will culminate Oct. 15 with what organizers are calling Now Lunenburg County 2.0. That event will be used to present progress reports on the individual projects, as well as the larger goal of creating change in Lunenburg County. (Contributed)
Elspeth McLean-Wile was sitting in her office, staring at her computer, on the morning of Feb. 12. On her screen, Ray Ivany, the president of Acadia University, was releasing the final report from the Nova Scotia Commission on Building Our New Economy, which he chaired.
“As we explored current economic and population trends we became more and more alarmed,” Ivany wrote of Nova Scotia’s prospects. “The evidence is convincing that Nova Scotia hovers now on the brink of an extended period of decline.”
Streaming the report launch in her office, McLean-Wile, the owner of Wile’s Lake Farm Market & Bakery, was left troubled but motivated.
“After it was over, I said, ‘I just can’t sit here anymore and think that somebody is going to do something. Why shouldn’t I try to do something?’” she recalled. “That was the start of it.”
The “it” McLean-Wile refers to is Now Lunenburg County, an initiative formed by her and four other local business owners.
The aim of the initiative is as easy to describe as it is difficult to achieve: to promote local solutions to the many problems and issues outlined in the Ivany report. Following the report’s release, McLean-Wile and her fellow collaborators met to discuss how they could, locally, respond to the report.
“It had to be action from ordinary people,” McLean-Wile said. “And this wasn’t going to be about talk. This was about getting something done that would make a difference in our community.”
Initially, however, the group struggled with how to avoid traditional approaches that, in the words of McLean-Wile, “haven’t gotten us very far.”
They settled on holding a large community gathering but were unsure of who to invite. For instance, how many politicians should they ask to attend?
The group settled on a by-invitation-only gathering of what McLean-Wile calls the “doers, influencers and decision-makers of Lunenburg County.” As for the meeting’s format, they decided to spurn “conservative and traditional” in favour of “edgy and innovative.”
That edginess presented itself in the form of Tim Merry, a United Kingdom expatriate who lives in Lunenburg County and works as a change leadership consultant for groups and companies across North America and Europe.
It is difficult to describe exactly what Merry does. On May 13, at the Now Lunenburg County event, he was part host, part motivational speaker. He brought life to an event that could have easily been staid and unmemorable.
The one-day session, held at the Blockhouse firehall, drew more than 100 people. It started with a discussion of the questions facing Lunenburg County. Among the questions posed: What will it take to motivate our citizens to action? How can we attract and support young families? Are we afraid of bold new ideas? How can we expect growth when we can’t even sustain the status quo?
There was also a discussion of the root causes behind the county’s woes. A fear of change and a lack of communication and collaboration were cited. The gathering, which included community leaders, small-business owners and some town mayors, culminated with a call for projects or proposals that could benefit the county. Eighteen proposals emerged, covering topics from tourism to municipal governance, public transit and the arts.
Each proposal was assigned a project lead. Leena Ali emerged as the leader of a group looking to create a series of events for young people.
The project is in its infancy and doesn’t yet have a name, but an initial event — focused on citizen engagement in the democratic process — is tentatively planned for September.
Ali, 23, was the youngest person at the Now Lunenburg County event. She’s now seeking other young people to help plan events, such as concerts, festivals or workshops.
Ali grew up in Mahone Bay and now lives in Bridgewater.
“Sometimes it can be boring here for a young person, and it can be kind of isolating at times,” she said. “So we want to come up with something where young people can really take part in the community and have fun.”
The Now Lunenburg County initiative is unique, compared with similar, previous efforts because it is about more than a single event. The project leaders meet as a group once a month to discuss their projects and share ideas. There will also be three community gatherings over the next few months. That activity will culminate Oct. 15 with what Merry and the organizers are calling Now Lunenburg County 2.0. That event will be used to present progress reports on the individual projects, as well as the larger goal of creating change in Lunenburg County.
The October event will also provide an opportunity for new projects to be presented. The goal is to hold such events every six months. “It’s a process that is constantly iterating and redesigning itself based upon where we are,” said Merry, now under contract to manage Now Lunenburg County.
The initiative has a budget of $35,000 that is expected to push it through to the October conference. That funding is flowing from the Lunenburg County Community Fund, a foundation comprising private money.
“It makes me really happy that there is no government money. There is a really strong feel that if this is of the community, then the support must come from the community,” Merry said. “We don’t want somebody from far away deciding what we do in our community. We want to be able to dictate that. And that means the money must come from here.”
The biggest challenge at this point, he said, is in ensuring the enthusiasm generated at the May kickoff doesn’t evaporate.
“We want to ensure this does not become one of those things that just fizzles out. The great thing is that none of the current projects are dependent on us. The purpose of Now Lunenburg County is not to do things for people. It’s to create the conditions for them to do what they’re already doing more successfully. We’re not here with solutions. We’re here with the infrastructure and conditions that make your success more likely.”
Quentin Casey is an author and journalist based in Mahone Bay.
First published in the Progress Bulletin - click here to read it online at South Shore Now
Three months have passed since the release of the report, "Now or Never - An Urgent Call to Action for Nova Scotians". This report, prepared by the Nova Scotia Commission on Building Our New Economy, received unrivaled media coverage and public discussion during this period.
The seriousness of the report's findings continues to be echoed by government and business leaders, environmentalists, community groups and ordinary citizens. All quickly cite the reasons for our problems – out-migration of youth, an aging population demographic, lack of exports to bring new wealth to the province and a heavy dependence on government spending to fuel and support our economy.
I suggest it is time to move on. We have talked enough and action is what is needed to change the course of events and assure this province has a prosperous future.
I was fortunate enough to participate in the Now Lunenburg County launch and saw a group of citizens begin to take action. Ninety people from across Lunenburg County talked about the community they would like to see in 10 years.
We all wanted the same things – a place where young people could find meaningful jobs and opportunities, a community that was open and accepting of immigrants and retirees, less government, and preservation of our pristine landscapes and coastal areas. There was an underlying sentiment expressed in various comments that we must respect our traditions without feeling they are limiting our future.
The participants that day identified "fear of change" as one of the biggest impediments to moving ahead as a community. Even the exercise of discussing the root causes of our challenges is an important first step toward meaningful action. At the end of the day, 15 projects were identified that will contribute to making Lunenburg County a better place. Project leaders volunteered and a timetable of events to support the projects was posted. Within the next month, work will begin on the projects, if you have a project idea or want to become involved, visit the website for more information on this initiative. You can sign up for the newsletter and get the details about what will happen over the next four months (http://www.nowlunenburgcounty.com).
Now is the time to think clearly about the future we want. We need to break down the silos we work in, find ways to collaborate and begin taking action that will assure future prosperity for Lunenburg County.
Keep up to date with NOW LC events, projects and learnings. This page is updated regularly - come back and check it out!