Many organizations seek to build a culture of collaboration. In North Simcoe, five local Councils have teamed up to build a collaboration of culture. Two anglophone, two francophone and one First Nation community all working together to promote local culture.
This could only happen in a region that sees the value of working together and that embraces an attitude of collaboration over competition. In the past, North Simcoe created initiatives based on the Power of Four as they created their shared tourism and economic development organization. With the addition of Beausoleil First Nation, the Culture Alliance has created the Power of Five.
These communities recognized that culture in the area was not defined by municipal boundaries and elected to work together to celebrate, foster, promote and leverage resources within the Heart of Georgian Bay. Limited resources are a challenge that is typical of smaller communities and municipalities and collaboration can lead to creative solutions and also open doors to opportunities and grants not available to the individual entity.
This alliance ensures that all Municipalities and the First Nation have representation.
Councillor Cindy Hastings, from the Township of Tiny is Chair of the Culture Alliance.
“It is very exciting,” Hastings states. “Being together around the same table is building and deepening relationships. We are learning about each other’s cultures and gaining a deeper understanding of the history that our region is positioned in.”
While culture itself is a difficult subject to define, the Culture Alliance brings together individuals and organizations that collectively create a quality of life for the region: creatives such as musicians, dance and artisan yes, but also history, language, stories, food, hobbies, sport, events and more.
Responding to the needs expressed by the communities, the Alliance has a big vision of weaving together the many traditions and heritage in order to create a place where all feel welcome, supported and can learn and share.
“This is very new and unprecedented,” said Karen Mealing, Cultural Development Coordinator for the Town of Midland. “Together we are building bridges, learning together as we explore new ways to collaborate and support each other.”
Initially a pilot project, the success of the Culture Alliance is already apparent and is paving the way to open communication, creative ideas, and future partnerships. This will be further enhanced and supported by two big projects currently in development: the Culture Asset Map and the shared online Calendar.
By its nature culture is often invisible to its residents. It is part of our day-to-day lives. These resources help make it visible – and searchable. You will be able to look at the map and the calendar and use that information to plan your weekend, or for timing of your own event as well as to find facilities, creatives and partners to reach out to. Many of those will be resources you have never heard of before.
The Culture Alliance doesn’t duplicate programming – it fills gaps.
This includes training on grant writing, cultural sensitivity, how to develop partnership, video for promotion of your work. They listen for what is missing and work to find or create the needed resource.
Cultural Connections is a biannual networking event that is creating opportunities to learn, network, and build relationships. Often artists work at home, alone, in studio. Cultural Connections provides opportunities for individual to gather make new connections, new friendships and find support. This event is run for venues and organizations as well. Already we are seeing previously siloed organizations able to achieve more by working together.
The efforts of the Alliance also bring our culture to the forefront through promotion of Culture Days and 30 Days of Culture.
In such a multi-cultural region we can also help with providing information so that you understand the etiquette, the meaning and can appreciate each other’s events and offerings. Many don’t yet realize that you don’t need to speak French to attend and enjoy Festival du Loup, that you don’t need to be a First Nations member to experience a Pow Wow. This is important to build a sense of shared culture and belonging – and at a practical level, to help build sustainable events and businesses.
The focus now and in the future is building awareness - of the Alliance as well as all of the hidden treasures in the region.
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Author - Cher Cunningham