Newsletter Summer, 2019
We have a new organizer!
Chet Phillips started with GVAT on Monday, July 15 and engaged with a “Connect the Dots” workshop and participated in his first
Housing ART meeting. Chet is doing a 5-day training in Los Angeles and will return to begin to get to know the wonderful individuals and organizations that make up GVAT.
Chet is a recent arrival in Victoria after 22 years in southern Arizona, where his work focused on organizing and empowering student organizations to create positive institutional change. Prior to that he worked with grassroots organizations in southern Arizona on collaborative conservation planning and institutional relationship building. Chet originally moved to southern Arizona to be mentored by Jim Corbett, co-founder of the American Sanctuary Movement. In all his work, as with GVAT, he is guided by Jim’s saying that “An individual can resist injustice, but it takes a community to do justice.”
WHAT’S BEEN GOING ON THIS MONTH?
• Concerning membership: GVAT is a growing concern with new member organizations joining us all the time. This month Mustard Seed, next week ... who knows. As individuals your participation comes about through your membership in your organization. But if you are not an active participant in any organization and would still like to join us please contact: email@example.com
• We are still getting encouraging feedback from those who attended the 5-day Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), Regional LeadershipTraining sessions held in Vancouver May 13 to 17th, 2019. “It was an amazing experience” said Matt Poirier, from the Camosun StudentSociety. “The week reminded me ... that the learning we’ve gained needs to be shared with the active members of our organizations, and that changing the cultures of our organizations can only happen if we are empowering our members...It was an experience I would recommend to anyone who has the desire and resources available to attend”. Thank you, Matt!
•“Connecting the Dots” Sessions on intersectionality of issues.
Sixty-five folks have already attended two sessions exploring the intersectionality of the topics and lenses that GVAT has chosen to
focus on in the coming months. Housing, along with mental health and addiction, are the first two main areas GVAT members will be researching and addressing, and these will be viewed through the lenses of climate change and indigenous reconciliation. Evidence suggests that these issues have much in common with one another.
The two leading questions addressed at each session:
In light of Naomi Klein’s insight that “Climate changes everything how then shall we “be”?
In looking through a more historical lens what lessons and traditions can we draw on from our own organizations?
Lots of new ideas were generated that will inform our efforts as we move ahead, and you have a chance to add yours - all are welcome.
There is one more “Connect the Dots” session planned for Tuesday, July 30 at 6:30pm at the Church of St. John the Divine, 1611 Quadra Street. To register visit the Greater Victoria Acting Together web-site.
The Action Research Teams (ARTs)
Initial meetings of research teams have started to identify various organizations or individuals that have the specific knowlege we need access and gather. Groups of two or three persons will be going out into the community to talk with those identified in order to gain their perspectives on the chosen issues.
At its July 15 meeting, the Housing ART reported on upcoming meetings with Pacifica Housing, numerous Mayors, Developers and
Together Against Poverty. Victoria’s new housing strategy was discussed and the group continued to brainstorm people and groups we want to interview. Homelessness was further discussed and some lively discussion on different forms of consensus decision-making. This team has many experienced people in areas of housing who are motivated to research broadly the possibilities for expanded affordable housing for all
Mental Health and Addictions ART:
The Mental Health and Addictions ART is off to a great start. Meetings are well-attended and participants have expertise, experience and passion. In our first meeting, we began engaging in relational discussions to build our team and develop our understanding of the topic.
In our second meeting we started thinking about what groups, individuals, and experts we want to talk to as we formulate our action plan. We expect to begin holding action meetings by the end of the summer. We’re still early in the ART process but the team is firing on all cylinders and making real progress towards an actionable plan.
Newsletter May, 2019
LEADERSHIP VICTORIA IS LISTENING!
Peggy Wilmot: A lifelong leader receives a 2019 Victoria Community Leadership Award.
Peggy Wilmot, as many of you GVAT participants know, is an inspirational leader. She has spent the last 35 years of her life in this city enriching the lives of so many of us. She has worked tirelessly, and so successfully, to make our community a better place to live, and she has done so with grace, kindness and a gentle sense of humour. So this Victoria Community Leadership Award is well deserved. And we are so fortunate to count her as one of our GVAT colleagues.
As a teacher and school principal, Peggy inspired young people in many classrooms. As a volunteer and activist, she has enriched her communities in so many ways: Project Connect, Together Against Poverty, Faith in Action, the Food Bank at St. John’s, Downtown Service Providers, and now, for the past three years, Greater Victoria Acting Together (GVAT).
Peggy continues to “ ... go where there is no path and leave a trail” as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said. She has faith in those around her and believes in a world where no one is left behind. The concepts that inspire us in GVAT run through her veins: collaboration, action, education, communication, empowerment, persistence, positivity, the common good.
She is an inspiration to us all! Congratulations Peggy!
www.leadershipvictoria.ca/past_winners www.timescolonist.com/opinion/op-ed/comment-food-banks-a-band-aid-on-a-gaping-wound-1.1637099 canadianchristianity.com/bc/bccn/0109/i01homelessness.html
WHAT’S GOING ON NOW AT GVAT?
The Latest News.
After the great excitement on the November 2018 Discernment Day, and then the sad day when Flossie Baker had to leave us, you might have been wondering why the voices of GVAT seem to have gone quiet. Not quite! Listen and you will hear - there is a constant rumbling in the background and it is not Whidbey.
The GVAT Board and StratHub have been working hard over the past few months. Firstly, they have been busy with the search for a new “organizer”. There has been considerable interest in the position, so their task ofsorting through the applications to nd potential candidates with just the right t is not an easy one. We arenearly there - so watch this space.
Secondly the Group have been diligently exploring throughout the community for potential member organizations that might join us. We now can count twenty-one organizations among our number and these represent 47,000 citizens all told. We are sure that numbers such as these will inspire others to join us. People power is just what we need!
JOY, COURAGE, REWARDS, CONNECTIONS, ENERGY, OPPORTUNITY
Nine representatives of GVAT attended the 5 day Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), Regional Leadership Training sessions held in Vancouver May 13 to 17th, 2019. The goal of this training is to provide participants with a greater knowledge of the key concepts, and practices that are central to successful organization building at all levels. Most importantly they learn how to understand power; think and act strategically;
and how to engage in real conversations about the mission of our institution, while forming and maintaining collaborative relationships that ultimately lead to democratic action.
These workshops are held regularly across the USA, but the opportunity to participate in them here in Canada is less frequent. We encourage our members to consider attending them when the opportunity arises. They certainly bene t each participant as an individual, as well as providing the essential skills for contributing to making our organization successful in any strategies and actions we undertake.
Past participants have described the experience as life-enhancing! Listen to what this month’s attendees have to say. Patricia Sanders told us that her “experiences ... shared with 29 other learners from Vancouver, Calgary, Seattle, and Montana , inspired a desire to continue to support and work to strengthen (her) own organization” The most “rewarding experience ... was the joy of having time and energy to connect with the eight other participants from Victoria. Patricia returned with a “greater sense of courage to hold conversations with people I don’t know in the broader community”
So this training comes highly recommended. And the participants would be very happy to offer to share their experiences with anyone who might be considering taking up this opportunity in the future. We hope to offer more experiences from participants in the next issue.
GREATER VICTORIA RISING
On May 23, 300+ energetic people attended a Town Hall in Victoria to develop a vision for a Green New Deal
to tackle climate change and inequality together. Common themes emerged such as a green transportation strategy, indigenous rights, ending fossil fuel subsidies, food security and tackling social reforms. Well publicized and supported by a diversity of groups including several GVAT organizations, students and youth were dramatically noticeable in the leadership. Early in the event, two organizers delivered a stellar welcome as an inclusive strategy encompassing all who were present. A follow-up Green New Deal brainstorming meeting is planned for Wednesday, June 19, 6:30 pm at First Metropolitan United Church in Victoria.
This event echoed several strategies used by GVAT and the timing couldn’t be better for GVAT to be holding two intersectionality luncheon and dessert meetings on June 7th. Both GVAT sessions are now fully subscribed
by member groups who will gather to determine how to act together on housing and mental health through the lenses of Climate Change and Reconciliation. What do these topics have in common with each other? Can we make a new story out of their interconnectivity? How can we use this moment to strengthen our organizations and each other? Our intrepid team of reporters plans to cover these two GVAT gatherings and keep you informed.
Our organizer, Flossie Baker is stepping back from GVAT.
Below is a message from her:
As many of you know, it is with a heavy heart I have decided to step back from GVAT due to delays with my visa. I have a good candidacy but the wait time is still predicted to be 4 months (at least) from now.
Since I know that GVAT is well on the way to a thriving and exciting future, it is a good time for GVAT to move forward and find my successor. If my visa allows, I will be very open to being on hand to help with the transition if that would be useful.
In the meantime, I am gratified to hear that new leaders are stepping forward and will be guided by the expert support from the IAF Network. Together, united, I know that you will sustain that audacious vision of the World As It Could Be and continue to strive for it everyday.
It has been my honour and my vocation to be your organizer. My life is so much richer for knowing you - all of the stirring conversations, the discussions, the laughter, the tension, the rehearsals, the performances, the imagining, the flip chart(!). It has culminated in the most remarkable two years.
I will write more again soon and hope to thank you in person in the coming weeks. Until then, Flossie”
Please come and say your farewells to Flossie - please mark your calendar for 7:30 PM Thur Feb 7. Location tbd.
We are calling a StratHub meeting shortly to operationalize carrying on with the important work that is needed. We are going to accelerate the amazing momentum we have been building so we hope that those who are able will step up to offer more help!
2018 Round Up
One of the first steps in hope is for people to first cry out in pain – but then figure out: is there some mechanism for people to make their pain articulate? (Walter Bruggeman).
It has been an incredible year for Greater Victoria Acting Together. We trained new leaders, conducted listening campaigns and came together as 22 diverse organizations to set our platform for 2019.
Here is a quick review of some of the highlights:
Building the Leaders of Tomorrow
We trained over 100 people at our “Building Power for the Common Good” workshops (bringing the total to more than 300!)
In March we held a Civic Academy “A Community Organizing Response to the Opioid Crisis” to learn more about the multiple dimensions of this ongoing tragedy from the perspectives of our member organizations. Minister for Mental Health and Addictions, Judy Darcy attended and pledged to build a public relationship with us.
A Thousand Conversations
We launched our Listening Campaigns to listen to the concerns of our members. Susan Layng from the Unitarian Church reminds us about the importance of listening and the experience she had helping to organize a listening campaign at her church:
“We begin to see that respect, dignity, honesty, kindness and generosity are not empty catchphrases, but real ideals to aspire to when dealing with others. By initiating this process and I have developed a profound understanding and grasp of shared values and concerns in common within my faith community. What a privilege and gift this has been!” Susan Layng, First Unitarian Church.
A Thousand Conversations later...
We came together to set our priorities for 2019 at our Discernment Day. The stories and concerns we heard throughout our listening season were brought forward. Out member organizations voted and by the end of a long Sunday we had landed on the two ‘problem areas’ we, as a whole alliance are going to focus our collective energy on. These areas are Housing and Mental Health and Addiction. The way we approach and develop policy around these problem areas will be done through a Climate Change and Reconciliation lens.
“We are not looking for charity, we are not looking for hand outs. We are looking for justice and we are looking for goodness…none of us are free until we are all free. None of us are really going to flourish until we all flourish. Each GVAT member group comes with its unique talent, its unique world views. Unique ways to solve these problems… ” Rabbi Harry Brechner
TOGETHER WE CAN!
"The French poet Victor Hugo once said “there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” What better than an organization, inspired and led by all of us, that allows us to get out of our bubbles and get into relationship with each other and actually bring about concrete changes to our neighborhoods and our city in the process?"
Courtney Baldwin of the UVic Graduate Students Society speaks at Together We Can
In June the Baumann centre was packed with 120 people representing 25 different organizations. Together we celebrated how much we had grown in strength and power over the last year. We laid the ground to move into action as we act as a force for the common good in Greater Victoria. We heard inspiring testimonies from representatives from the BCGEU, First Unitarian Church of Victoria, Catholic Diocese of Victoria, Young Parents Support Network, Greater Victoria Teachers Association, and the University of Victoria Graduate Students Society.
BCGEU Executive Vice President, Doug Kinna: "Last week I walked the picket line for 8 hours through the night. When you walk a picket line you understand what solidarity means. I want others in the wider community to understand what these workers are going through. For them to see that fighting for economic justice is this is their fight too – but they won’t unless they have opportunities to come face to face with workers and hear about what working on a crushing wage means to them and their children."
ANSWER singing in honour of the celebration.
A THOUSAND CONVERSATIONS
We launched GVAT's Listening Season! Each member organization is tasked to conduct listening campaigns inside their organizations. The purpose?
- To engage the members within our organizations in a discussion around what is important to them, as well as the pressures bearing down on them and their families.
- To find out what our members are passionate about, and what they would be willing to invest time in.
- To stir up people’s imagination about why their organization matters to them and the role their organization can play in bringing about the changes they care about.
If your organization would like support getting its listening campaign off the ground, please get in touch!
Here is a link to the Listening pack, which was available on June 5th. See how it fits for you, and let us help you get started.
CONTINUING OUR LEARNING.
In March, 2018, we held a civic academy on the theme of 'Destigmatizing the Opioid crisis'. Our alliance is committed to continuing to educate ourselves on this crisis as we move into acting on the issues that exacerbate it. With that in mind, we toured the new Westshore AIDS Vancouver Island Health Clinic and received naloxone training. The fantastic staff provided us gave us a warm welcome and great learning experience.
We will be working over the summer for our meeting with Minister for Mental Health and Addictions, Judy Darcy which will be scheduled after our listening campaigns are complete. We want to tell her what we've we've been hearing and hear her reactions.
If you would like to be part of the group that goes to meet her, let us know.
COMMUNITY INNOVATORS, CHANGE MAKERS and CREATIVES
On July 16th 7- 9pm GVAT will be showcased as part of the "Community innovators, Changemakers and Creatives" live stream event hosted by Creatively United and Conversations for a One Planet Region. This uplifting event that will cover a wide range of topics from affordable housing, transportation and energy to food. For more info and to register click here
Mark your calendars! Our next ‘Building Power for the Common Good' workshop takes place the evening of Friday Sep 21st and all day Saturday Sep 22nd. Be sure to register your place if you want to attend.
"I sat in a room on a sunny spring Saturday with members and organizations from all walks of life. In many ways, we are so very different from each other and yet we discovered the ways in which we are united. We listened to each other respectfully and really connected in a deeply personal way. Tears and laughter abounded. Many of us spoke of our concern for future generations. I spoke of my desire for my nieces, nephews and young friends to feel heard and respected. When I think of the world they will grow up in, I feel fear and sadness. These tiny amazing people deserve a better world than this – I want to be part of creating that for them." (Courtney Baldwin)
Read a recent article that gives GVAT a big shout out (written by Trevor Hancock in the Times Colonist).
We are delighted that in the first 3 months of 2018 we had seven new organizations join GVAT! We now have 18 member organizations. Check out our homepage to see who they are!
As part of laying the groundwork for effective future action, GVAT hosted another "Building Power for the Common Good" workshop.
30 different people representing 20 different organizations came together to listen, learn, build relationships and practice some key organizing tools. Thanks again to Camosun College for hosting us. Our next one is April 6th. Sign up if you want to take part!
Responding to our organizations
We have been listening to our member groups and hearing that for many the opioid crisis is affecting them deeply and in different ways.
On Monday, March 12th more than 80 people gathered together to reflect and educate ourselves on some of the dimensions of the opioid crisis.
This event was a big milestone for GVAT – for the first time GVAT member organizations came together to act in public. We began the event with a roll call to get a feel for which organizations were represented and display our power. We listened to a series of testimonies and enjoyed some relationship building time together. Judy Darcy, Minister for Mental Health and Addictions, attended and pledged to work with GVAT in the near future as we move forward into action.
Stay tuned for more information about our June 5th celebration featuring the theme “Celebrating Our Power”. At this time a fantastic group of people, representing a diverse range of member organizations is coming together to help plan it.
We are pretty sure it's going to be the best show in town - if you want to help put this one of a kind event on, please reach out!
We are gearing up for an incredible year ahead. The momentum is building!
Firstly, we’d like to celebrate that we have 16 signed up, dues-paying, SPECTACULAR organizations!
- BC Government and Service Employees' Union
- St. John the Divine Anglican Church
- St Patrick’s Catholic Church
- Sierra Club BC
- BC Sustainable Energy Association
- Camosun College Students Society
- Indigenous Perspectives Society
- Our Place Society
- Congregation Emanu-El
- Shambhala Meditation Centre
- The Sisters of St. Ann
- Saint Vincent de Paul Society
- First Unitarian Church of Victoria!
- AIDS Vancouver Island
- Greater Victoria Teachers Association
- Holy Cross Catholic Church
First Unitarian's Rev. Melora Lyngood gave an inspiring talk on Sunday Jan. 14th about the Power of Coalition.
Here is an excerpt:
“It’s no longer the norm for generations of families to all live, play and work in the same neighborhoods; supporting one another through the institutions of civil society: schools, faith groups, community centres.
Many of us are transient folks, moving over our lifetime from place to place. Commuting to work in cars. Less connected with our neighbours than ever before. We may choose to stay in touch with a few select friends or relatives but there isn’t that sense of connection with those with whom we share our neighbourhoods, our cities, our world. And so, when things go wrong in our neighbourhoods, our cities, our world, some of us can feel helpless and disempowered. What’s it like for you? When you think of what’s happening to our planet? When you think what people are doing to each other through war, racism or xenophobia, harassment and abuse of all kinds, systems that keep people trapped in poverty and addiction, how do you feel?
When you think of the next generation, those delightful, complex little people…when you think of the world they will have to navigate. What do you feel? I feel fear and sadness.
These feelings often co-mingle with overwhelm and helpless. I don’t think I’m alone…"
...You're not alone, Rev. Melora!
You can download and listen to the whole thing here. It is well worth it, we promise!
Is your organization thinking seriously about membership? Please reach out!
Harrison Winter School
Greater Victoria Acting Together and Metro Vancouver Alliance traveled to Harrison Hot Springs to teach a session on relational organizing at the BC Government Employees Winter School.
We spent the morning teaching stewards some of the tools of relational organizing that can be used practically to increase solidarity and bargaining power and - of course, member engagement.
Community organizing for change workshop
This workshop will delve into exploring a tried and tested framework for bringing about transformative change.
Through exploring the traditions and values of our labour, faith, community, environmental and educational organizations, we'll learn how to create strong foundations to be able to hold government and corporate interests in Greater Victoria to account.
We'll learn about the need to build relationships with diverse organizations in order to have the power to win. You will have the chance to practice some of the fundamental tools of relational organizing.
We'll show you how these tools can help strengthen your organization and engage your members. We'll take you on the journey to understand how these tools will lead us to concrete, winnable action.
Saturday Feb 24th 9 – 5pm. Wilna Thomas Cultural Centre, Camosun College (Lansdowne Campus)
FREE for member organizations. $50 for non-member organizations (fee can be deducted from your dues when you join).
Childcare/ travel bursaries available.
Register your place: http://www.gvat.ca/building_power
A Community Response to the Opioid crisis.
We are hearing that many of GVAT’s member organizations are deeply concerned by the different ways they are experiencing the opioid crisis.
It's time to come together. To hear each other's stories of how this issue is affecting our members. To educate ourselves on its different dimensions. To build cross-sector relationships and to lay important groundwork for potential action in the future.
Join us for an evening of learning, discussion and reflection.
Monday, March 12th. 7pm - 8:30pm. Shambhala Meditation Centre, 1-2033 Belmont Ave, Victoria, BC V8R 3Z7
Let us know you're coming.Space is limited. Register at: http://www.gvat.ca/opioid_crisis
‘Building power for the Common Good’
A fantastic group of 20 different organizations - labour, community, faith, education and environmental gathered together for an intensive 10 hour training. Together we explored the values and traditions of our organizations, built cross sector relationships and practiced some of the fundamental skills for relational organizing.
A huge thanks to Camosun College for hosting us!
Organizations represented: Shambhala Centre, Indigenous Perspectives Society, St. John the Divine, Our Place Society, Cool Aid Society, Holy Cross Catholic Church, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Victoria and District Labour Council, Sierra Club BC, BC Sustainable Energy Association, First Unitarian, First Met United, Grace Lutheran Church, Fairfield United Church, St Peter and St. Paul, St. Philip’s Anglican Church, Camosun College Students Society, UVic Grad Students Society, B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union.
‘Learning the Indigenous history that we are rarely taught in school’
Over 85 people from labour, faith, education and community groups attended the Kairos Blanket Exercise co-hosted by GVAT, St John the Divine and Congregation Emanu-el. One of our member organizations, Indigenous Perspectives Society, offers further, tailored trainings for your organization if you want to learn more: http://ipsociety.ca
We are building momentum!
Is your organization involved?
As we work towards launching, we want to make sure that the issues and concerns of each member organization are fairly represented.
A listening campaign is a focused effort to:
Connect stories and build community
Identify concerns in a specific organization, neighborhood or workplace.
Spark the imagination of your members to to envision themselves having a voice in the public arena.
Shape your organization’s vision. Where are you now? Where do you want to go? How would the Victoria look different if the values of your organization were better expressed?
Please get in touch for help planning a listening campaign that suits your organization!
Celebrating People- Power and Progress!
In June, 30 organizations came together to celebrate our shared values. We heard testimonies from members of Sierra Club, North West Indigenous Council, Shambhala Centre, The Food Bank at St. John's, BC Sustainable Energy Association and The Sisters of St Ann.
Catholic Bishop, Gary Gordon and President of the BC Government Employees Union, Stephanie Smith gave reflections about what ‘solidarity’ means from their perspective.
We have begun a series of workshops with Young Parents Support Network helping to facilitate sessions on community mapping and the power of story telling.
Provincial Accountability Assembly
Representatives from GVAT's core committee attended Metro Vancouver Alliance's Provincial Election Assembly. Almost 1000 people from MVA member organizations turned out to witness their policies be delivered to John Horgan and Andrew Weaver.
Not just the 'usual suspects'.
GVAT has facilitated a new group, the Climate Issues Collaborative, to help people understand the ways in which our environment is connected to many of the problems we face in this city. The group managed to persuade Saanich Council to vote unanimously to support Saanich becoming a 100% Renewable Energy city by 2050. Council tasked its staff to develop a framework to pursue that vision.
An amazing victory!
Matt Hulse, a practicing environmental and Aboriginal lawyer and member of CIC explains why he got involved:
“When I got involved in CIC, BCSEA had conducted some excellent work on 100% Renewable Energy Cities. But we were still very much a one-dimensional movement, environmentalists - the usual suspects.
As we planned our presentation to the Saanich Council, GVAT pushed us to connect with groups we had not thought to connect with. We began inviting unions, local businesses, faith groups and high school students to stand with us before Council that night. And they came. And they gave testimonies in front of Council about why they too cared about a sustainable future. As the testimonies kept coming, I realized then that we had the Council members in the palms of our hands. For once, we were not just a typical climate group … we now represented the broader community. Council couldn’t ignore us.”
GVAT was delighted to send two delegates to IAF Regional training in Seattle in May. They enjoyed hearing from participants from all across the Pacific North West and learned some fundamental tools and techniques of broad-based community organizing.