I've recently returned from facilitating community conversation events in Fruitvale, Grand Forks and Cranbrook, on a contract with the Association of Kootenay and Boundary Local Governments. 

This has been a challenging project, as I was involved in the organization and promotion of the events as well as in the presentation.  Fortunately, I asked as part of my contract to be connected with a Local Expert in each community -- someone who could answer my questions about the community, handle local logistics, be there on the night, and generally be my point person.  These three wonderful women were enthusiastic and effective, and the project would not be possible without them.

When you haven't been there for a while, you forget how stunningly beautiful this part of B.C. is.  And, of course, they were already showing signs of spring, which were sadly lacking in Banff in early March.  The only thing better than the spring weather was the enthusiastic and collaborative participation of the people who came out for the evenings.  I don't often get the comment "the meeting should have been longer" on evaluation forms, but I did in these three communities!

The questions they were working on revolved around the interests of their communities in this, a municipal election year.  So we explored what the "hot topic" issues are in each community, what facts one would need to know to have an informed discussion about those issues, and what we can do to encourage people to engage in the election, as candidates, as informed members of the public, and as voters.  I'm just working on the written report now, but the councillors in attendance were already talking about how they could implement some of the great ideas they heard around citizen engagement.

I'm looking forward to presenting the final report from this project at the AKBLG annual general meeting in Creston in early April.  We'll be talking about the answers that came from participants, and also about the organization, promotion and session design and what tweaks should be made if this is to be extended to other communities in the region.