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Community Planning

Introduction to the Plan

Cowessess has a distinct history, an extraordinary landscape, remarkable people and infinite possibilities.  Cowessess is both typical and unique, like other places but unlike any other community.  It faces significant challenges and fleeting opportunities.  Like many First Nation reserves, it is confronted with living conditions and realities that demand urgent attention and longterm thinking.  Limited resources need to be used carefully and strategically and local actions need to reinforce each other.  Cowessess sees the need for a Plan that captures local ideas and aspirations.

A plan is a tool.  It captures the spirit of a community and stirs the imagination of residents.  It documents the past, understands the moment and establishes a collective vision for the future and a shared sense of direction toward a common goal.  It directs immediate, local and ongoing action.

The community based process by which this Plan was developed followed the steps and approaches described in the First Nations Community Planning Model (2nd Edition, 2003, Cities & Environment Unit).  The Planning process consists of 7 stages:

Stage 1 - Gathering Background Information:  Collect basic facts and perceptions about the community so that aspects which stand out as high and low points can be identified.

Stage 2 - Identifiying Strenghths and Issues: Concentrates on recording and understanding problems that need to be dealt with and opportunities that can be built on.

Stage 3 - Researching Root Causes: Probes strengths and issues to reveal the root causes and consequences of taking action.

Stage 4 - Establishing a Community Vision:  Establishes a long term, ambitious and appropriate direction for the community.

Stage 5 - Building a Framework: Translates the Vision, issues and values into a blueprint for concerted action in terms of policies, administration, priority Action Areas and physical improvements.

Stage 6 - Developing an Implementation Strategy:  Establishes a management structure and a process  for identifying priorities, as well as a way to develop and fund projects which make a difference on the ground.

Step 7 - Monitoring the Plan and Projects: Evaluates the impact of projects individually and the effects of planning as a whole

The most fundamental characteristic of this process is that it is community-based.  Ideas contained in this plan have strength, power, and endurance because they come from people of Cowessess First Nation.  Over the past year a number of workshops which included community open houses, on and off-reserve meetings, sessions with school children and Elders provided venues for the community members to express themselves and share the thoughts they have about the future of their community.  The ideas and strategies described in this Community Plan are a direct response to the concerns, suggestions and feedback of community members, Band staff and Chief and Council.

It should also be noted that while this plan is intended to increase understanding to build capacity regarding planning at the community level, the success of this project also requires that Federal Government departments have an understanding of community-based planning and how they can work with Cowessess to help ensure the successful implementation of this plan.

Early in the Phase 2 planning process  training sessions were held to build this capacity and understanding for all groups involved.  These sessions have evolved in the First Nations Planning Network, which connects Band members from communities involved in comprehensive community based planning, as well as the affiliated Tribal Councils and Federal representatives to consider ways that, as a network, we can make more change together.

Making a difference on the ground will require a continued commitment to the Vision from the community.  It will also require passion, ingenuity and imagination so that community supports are put in place, Band members are inspired and the community is fueled by pride and hope.

The four main principles of Comprehensive Community-Based Planning are:
  • The Plan comes from the community.  The Vision, strategies, projects and initiatives are all based on the aspirations, values, resources, potential and spirit of community members.
  • The Plan is owned by the community.  The content of the Plan is widely understood, accepted and broadly defended by community members.  It belongs to many, many people.
  • The Plan inspires and motivates.  It us memorable and provocative.  It is inclusive and engaging.  Its Vision and Action Areas can endure through election cycles and be embraced by current and future Chiefs and Council members.
  • The Plan is holistic.  There are many planning activities in First Nation communities.  What is often missing is a connection between these initiatives.  Comprehensive planning considered and connects all aspects of the community.  In this sense planning is not just another project or program, it is the glue which holds everything together,  It is the shared direction which guides every project and informs every action.
Planning helps a community to know where they are and identify where they want to be.  Even more significant is its contribution in helping communities to understand how to get there.  It establishes a basis for responding to immediate pressures, for using limited resources more effectively and for identifying community needs.

During the preparation of the Plan, posters were created as each stage of the planning process was completed.  These posters were prominently displayed within the community.

While the Plan represents a tremendous investment of time and effort and a huge accomplishment for many people in the community, it is only the beginning.  The plans implementation  will require constant and diligent commitment.  The Plan's success can only be measured in terms of the difference that it makes and the degree to which it serves as an instrument to inspire new ideas.  This way of thinking and acting will place the future in the community's hands.  It should also be emphasized that planning is on-going.  It does not stop when the plan has been printed, nor can it be seen as a substitute for hard-work, vigilance, leadership and imagination, all of which are needed to make positive change a reality.

The future does not just happen to us.  We can have a hand in creating the future we want.  This Plan document establishes a future direction for Cowessess and describes how to get there.  It is in this light that Cowessess' Plan should be read, examined and used.