City of Powell River announced that it has contracted community developer Christien Kaaij to help the region’s three local governments take the next steps with social planning.
The city announced Friday, May 5, that it had awarded Kaaij with a six-month contract after putting the contract out for competitive bidding in March.
In January, Vancouver Coastal Health provided the city with a $20,000 grant to advance regional social planning.
Powell River Regional District, Tla’amin Nation and the city have all agreed to look at establishing a regional social action and development committee to work on recommendations of the Community Social Plan, which came out of an April 2015 Tapping the Groundswell conference and report.
In the next six months, Kaaij will be responsible for writing a terms of reference for the regional social action committee and developing and planning objectives for the committee and its subcommittee, a regional housing working group.
City councillor Maggie Hathaway has been leading the city’s housing working group since the fall and said she is heartened to see local governments addressing the topic of social planning.
“It’s something I don’t think the city has ever had,” said Hathaway. “Social planning is becoming more and more important.”
After Kaaij’s contract is complete, local governments will be looking at contributing to hiring a permanent social planner.
Last fall, Powell River Employment Program Society released its Community Social Plan with more than 100 recommendations in 10 areas. Its primary recommendation was the three local governments in the region work together and form a social action committee tasked with working on issues such as affordable housing and food security.
With the report coming out, local social planning initiatives will become all the more important, said Kaaij.
“The city has been working toward something like this for many years,” she said. “It’s the right time to do something.”
Kaaij is president and chief executive officer of Powell River-based Alofii Consultancy and has more than two decades of experience working in Canada and her native Holland on social issues such as homelessness, food security, seniors housing, community inclusion, early childhood education and community health issues.
She recently completed her masters degree in community development looking at seniors issues in Powell River.
Kaaij said the shift toward a local approach to working on social issues makes a lot of sense because the solutions that are put forward better reflect the community.
She said she would not speculate what the region’s top priority would be, but said whatever priorities come out they will have to be realistic with the size of the community.
“I must applaud council that they are moving forward,” she said. “Some people would say nothing goes fast enough, but I would say that this is actually a complete cultural shift.”