On December 1, Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) held a facilitated community engagement discussion and drop-in workshop at Rossland’s Miners’ Hall. CBT’s objective for the dialogue was to gather community input for setting the Trust’s priorities for delivering community programs now and into the future.
“We’re embarking on a basin wide public engagement process called Our Trust, Our Future. It’s a chance for us to connect with you, reflect on and celebrate our collective accomplishments and move forward on the input you may have already provided to us in the past,” read CBT’s marketing material for the evening.
CBT is approaching its twentieth year of operation. CBT was established in 1995 when the Columbia Basin Trust Act was signed. The Trust came about due to recognition of the negative impacts to the region from the Columbia River Treaty. Basin residents along with local elected officials and First Nations leaders approached the provincial government in order to get a share of the benefits created by the Treaty and to create a basin-based organization to manage the public funds. They were successful in their endeavours and it was agreed that the Trust would operate with a high degree of independence and autonomy.
The Trust’s initial investment program managed a $321 million endowment. They re-invested this money to generate a predictable, sustainable and appreciating income stream. The Trust spends the income earned from its investments to deliver benefits to basin communities.
Revenues have increased steadily over the initial years. In 1998/99, the Trust delivered $1.4 million in funding benefits to the region; this increased to $22 million in 2013/14. Within the next three to five years CBT is forecasting revenue to double from today’s figure of $27 million to reach $55 million. This increased revenue has prompted the Trust to put spending under the microscope and plan how to best support the communities within the basin into the future.
CBT’s assets, which generate the revenue for community initiatives, include power projects, market securities and private placements in investments such as commercial loans. CBT then assists the region through grants, partnerships and facilitated programs.
The Trust is responsive and liquid with how they assist communities to address needs. They place decision making in the hands of the basin residents. Hosting these 19 public engagement workshops throughout the basin is one way they are consulting with the community.
Heather Mitchell, Manager of Special Initiatives with CBT hosted the facilitated dinner conversation in Rossland. It was a chance for Rossland residents to have their voices heard and to contribute to the dialogue. The workshop was all about “envisioning how the organization can move forward together with the community,” said Ms. Mitchell.
A drop-in session kicked off the evening with Rosslander’s given the opportunity to have input through engaging, interactive activities where they were asked to contribute at various stations throughout the workshop. The event saw over 60 residents from a cross section of demographics attend.
Formal high speed connectivity, well maintained outdoor recreation opportunities, supporting entrepreneurs and skills training for volunteers within our communities were some of the themes highlighted throughout the evening’s discussion.
“One theme that resonated for me was providing volunteers with the expertise and time management skills to fulfill their volunteer roles. It was very insightful and caused CBT to reflect upon how we could build capacity within our communities volunteers,” said Johnny Strilaeff, CBT’s Vice President and Chief Operating Officer.
Each of the 19 community engagement workshops offered participants the chance to win a $1,000 donation to give to a not-for-profit organization. Lorrie Walmsley was drawn as the winner for the Rossland workshop and chose to donate the money to the Rossland Public Library.
For those community members who were unable to attend the workshop, there are still opportunities to provide input. Readers can request to host their own conversations with friends or family, or ask the Trust to meet with a local group or organization. To learn more about the Trust’s programs and initiatives, visit cbt.org or call 1-800-505-8998.