Community Development Institute to Open in Fort St. John
Fort St John, B.C. – The Community Development Institute (CDI) at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) has formed a partnership that will see them open an office in Fort St. John.
The partnership was approved by Fort St. John City Council last month and has been billed as a way to help the community realize the potential of both its people and its economy.
The City says the office will work in partnership with the community, industry, local business, non-profit and community organizations, First Nations, and all levels of government “to develop and implement strategies for economic diversification and community resilience.”
“The CDI as you know has worked very closely with communities right across northern BC and has been very successful in assisting communities with coming together to discuss social issues or economic issues, revitalization, etc.,” says Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman.
“So we felt that they were well suited to assist us in addressing economic development and social development in Fort St. John.”
The office will be funded by the City at a cost of $350,000 per year for four years and will see the CDI deliver programs and services in four broad areas:
- Community transformation and renewal
- Dialogue and policy discussion
“I’m really excited because what we heard very clearly when we had our conversation with the community around the impact of Site-C, was as the economy here continues to grow, we need to make sure that in the social sense everyone from our vulnerable population and our disenfranchised citizens all the way to our arts, culture and recreational communities all need to be cared for,” says Ackerman.
Marleen Morris, co-director at CDI, says that’s what sets the organization apart from a city development corporation, like the now defunct Initiatives Prince George.
“If you’re just an economic development corporation, you’re looking at the opportunity for job creation and business development,” she says.
“We look at a fuller, rounder package around that. So we are looking at both social and economic opportunities. There can be lots of jobs but the community also has to be a place where people want to build their lives and to build their families and that’s the equation that we work on.”
Though CDI has worked with communities on a project basis for years, Morris notes it’s the first time that they’ve actually opened up an office in a community.
She says the City has essentially told them: “We want you to become part of the community, get to know our organizations, get to know our people and work with those organizations, with community leaders of all stripes and from all sectors and help make our community stronger, more stable, more sustainable, more vibrant.”
Morris says growth can have its upside, but it also brings challenges such as an increased demand for housing and other pressing concerns.
“You see pressures put on a lot of the infrastructure and programs in the community so all of a sudden you’ve got a need for more recreation programs and facilities. There’s need for more schools and school facilities. There’s more need for health care and health care facilities. Just generally a need for more social services. Growth can be a good news scenario for a community if it’s prepared for that growth and we want to help them prepare for that growth.”