Green infrastructure has been an Our Living Waters Network priority issue for the past several years. In response, the Our Living Waters 2030 Fund has provided ongoing funding to a team that works to advance local action on green infrastructure.Read more
We are so thrilled to share our 2020/21 Annual Report for the Our Living Waters Network!
Our report can be found here, and the introduction to the report from Andrew, the Director of OLW, can be seen both in the report itself and right below!
The Soul of a Network: Relationships
On March 16th, 2020 with the pandemic entering the ‘oh, this is for real’ phase, our collective nervous system was grappling with newly imposed lockdowns, the shock of global uncertainty, and the health implications for those we care for. At Our Living Waters, we had scheduled a collaborative meeting of 15 freshwater champions and were agonizing over whether to cancel given all of… that. Was this really important right now? Who would show up? We decided to continue, and to our pleasant surprise, almost everyone logged on to Zoom. We held space for a check in—the official agenda item was “Hellos (in a crazy world)”— and found that people were eager to talk. To connect. We heard worries about the economic impact on the nonprofit sector, reflections on how hard it was to stop checking the news, and honest admissions to feeling frazzled trying to balance work with parenting. We also heard how thankful this group was for each other. About how people were excited to collaborate and find the opportunity in the crisis, even if we weren’t quite sure what that looked like yet.
A good network is built on trust. Of course, our common goal is important, uniting us in service to the waters we love. But a crucial ingredient for our effectiveness emerges, like alchemy, through the magic of relationships—how we relate to each other and to the natural world. The collaborative ground that is the OLW Network won’t succeed without fostering an environment where at the beginning of a meeting, people are excited to really see each other, even if it is on Zoom. Yes, we’re taking collective action for our waters, but we're also building relationships, which is too often missing in the nonprofit world where unfortunately many groups are incentivized to compete with each other (e.g. for the same pots of money). As one OLW Network member recently wrote in an evaluation survey, “Working together as a team made change feel possible. I am so pleased to be part of a group that shows up because they care so deeply. It is nice to feel like we're all on the same team, rather than in competition! The sense of community has been remarkable.”
2020 has been a lot, it’s true. It happens to be the year my second daughter was born, so it’s hard for me to be too hard on 2020. It’s also a year that has highlighted how important our relationships are and how the soul of the OLW Network lies in the relationships we foster. I hope we capture some of that relationality in this annual report, and look forward to continuing this journey together into 2021 and beyond.
To all our members and to the entire freshwater community, thank you for all you do!
Director, Our Living Waters (he/him)
An open-source database now makes critical water data readily available for water stewardship groups and decision-makers in the Upper (Canadian side) Columbia Basin!Read more
Over 50 freshwater champions registered for our November 19, 2020 virtual gathering to discuss the topic of Funding Water Projects Across Canada. We had a great turnout!
We gathered to find the answer to a thought-provoking question: Is there a desire from the freshwater community to collectively call on the federal government to better fund water projects right across the country? We were asking this question because of the confluence of multiple factors:
- Organizations across the country have water-related projects ready to implement, but lack the resources to do so. As we summarized in a letter to the Prime Minister in May, the Our Living Waters Network compiled a list of over 300 such projects in only three weeks. Imagine the number of projects that exist but are not on the list? Imagine the positive impact on our waters if each of these projects were implemented!
- There is a gap in available federal funding programs that support community-level projects across the country to improve the health of our waters;
- The inclusion of a Canada Water Agency in the latest Speech from the Throne further indicates that the federal government is considering how to better support freshwater health;
- There are good regional examples of organizations asking governments (provincial and federal) for support that can be a source of inspiration for other regions.
We started the virtual gathering with three presentations:
- A case study on the success of the BC Watershed Security Coalition in advocating for an investment in watershed security as a part of BC’s economic recovery plan (slides here)
- The water management context in Quebec (no slides, please see recording)
- Results from research on existing water funding opportunities in Canada from the federal government (slides here).
The recording of the virtual gathering can be found here, but as technology goes... well sometimes it doesn’t go fully. To note, the last presentation was cut off for reasons we will blame on 2020 in general (that is to say, we don’t actually know why it was cut off).
After these informative presentations, we broke into five smaller groups to discuss two questions:
1) Considering the presentation and case studies we’ve seen, what opportunities exist for a coordinated federal ask?
2) Do you feel there is value in making a coordinated federal ask for funding of water projects right across the country?
As a teaser, we certainly heard a lot of support for collectively calling on the federal government to better fund water projects right across the country. Our next steps are to fully digest the detailed notes we took from those breakout dialogues and then to report back to the freshwater community on our next steps given what we heard.
A big thank you to everyone who supported the creation of our virtual gathering and to all of you: the incredible community of freshwater champions!
What does it take to trigger implementation of recommendations posed to the Federal government? For the past nine months the Federal Water Strategy Team has been meeting to explore exactly that. In late 2018, the National Roundtable on Community Based Water Monitoring released a collaborative report with detailed recommendations on how the federal government could advance community based water monitoring (CBWM) efforts across the country. But has there been any action on these recommendations? We all know how frequently collaborative recommendations are published without being translated into action.
Since January 2020, 10 water leaders (NGO’s, funders, tech, academic, watershed groups) from across the country have come together, motivated by their shared goal: to spur federal action on the 2018 CBWM recommendations. Their continued commitment and regional expertise combined with third-party coordination support from OLW has created a fertile container for collaboration.
The group began by prioritizing the roundtable’s 64 sub-recommendations landing on 4 as collective priorities across the country. These 4 priorities were framed in a letter to Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada Jonathan Wilkinson which put into context why these priorities are important in today's ever changing climate.
In follow up to this letter, the Strategy Team is leaning on their government relations skills and engaging government contacts and MPs to validate CBWM as a credible and invaluable source of badly needed water data. As our momentum grows, so does the size and coverage of our Strategy Team. The group of 10 has grown to 20 representing CBWM programs in 5 provinces and with 5 National groups.
Coordinating ‘strategy teams’ is a service OLW offers to Network members working collaboratively to turn the curve on any of our collective impact measures. We provide coordination, and in some cases funding, to help maintain momentum and overcome capacity restraints that usually arise when this type of collaborative work is performed “off the sides of leaders’ desks”.
Collaboration is valuable work, we want to recognize that. And it leads to results!