By Nathan McCorrister, 2nd year (part-time) MDP student
As I shared in my first blog for the MDP program, this past summer (2013) I had the privilege of undertaking my domestic field practicum at the University of Winnipeg Community Renewal Corporation (UWCRC). Prior to my field practicum with the UWCRC, my home community of Peguis First Nation entered into a unique partnership to develop a long term land purchase plan and strategy. It is through this partnership that we were able access the expertise needed to develop such a plan utilizing expertise from the Institute of Urban Studies and the UWCRC. It was through this planning that our community also needed to not only gain experience with this type of planning but also to identify and plan for the capacity development needs to implement the strategy.
As many Indigenous peoples and nations are marginalized because of colonization that resulted in loss of land, resources and culture, communities here in Canada continue to struggle with poverty and have scarce resources thus there human capacity is limited. As a result these communities often have a much lower standard, or baseline, to start from in terms improving governance, economic development, health programs and services, etc. Communities often have to use already scarce human resources to initiate new programs, improvements to governance and other aspects of community development. Often many leaders or staff of Indigenous communities may find themselves wearing different “hats” to assist in addressing the new initiatives or the extra work needed to accomplish improvements to the community.
As there is a need to access expertise and to build capacity within Indigenous communities, many communities here in Canada are turning to outside parties to access expertise and to build capacity. Consultants and other experts can be costly, as such, some communities are turning to other groups for partnerships, groups such as universities, colleges, non-profit organizations (e.g. environmental groups), cooperatives, various levels or government, etc. One such non-profit organization, the Canadian Executive Service Organization (CESO), is a group of mainly retired professionals who for the most part donate their time, or at a reduced fee depending on level of service, actively offer their services to Indigenous communities and other marginalized groups. They can offer services ranging anywhere from planning, engineering, communications, etc. CESO has been very active in Canada since 1969 and have worked on over 30,000 assignments across Canada (http://www.ceso-saco.com/Where-We-Work/Canada.aspx ).
Access to expertise and lack of capacity in Indigenous communities is a common problem but there is opportunities to begin to start a foundation upon which to build the required capacity. Along with capacity building, there are also many tools and options for training of Indigenous peoples, through various programming and hands on experience with partnerships. In the development field while working in Indigenous communities this should always be expected thus we as development practitioners should become knowledgeable about capacity building in terms of options to develop it and to be ready to experience it in the field.