There is a fantastic online portal for CCPs here, though you must create a (free) profile to access them. Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (formerly known as Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, or INAC) has funded CCP projects for about ten years now, although of course communities can do CCPs without AANDC support.
AANDC also organizes an annual conference of CCPers from across the province, to network, share best practices and stories of community successes, and essentially help each other do the best community planning possible. I have been fortunate enough to help design and lead facilitation for these workshops since 2011. During the 2011 conference at En'owkin Centre, the idea came forward that a mentorship network could help communities who were just starting their CCPs, or struggling with their CCP process. By 2011 many communities had completed CCPs, including my own community, the Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nations, so there was a core group of CCP mentors with experiences and stories to share from doing our own CCPs in our own communities, and so the pilot CCP Mentorship program started in 2012.
The initial e-mails and phone calls help us to establish a relationship and talk about the community's needs, and the mentor's skills. A learning agreement is drafted by both parties, explaining the responsibilities of each person, and what tasks and goals will hopefully be completed as a result of the mentorship. After the learning agreement is in place, mentors travel to the mentee community, generally for a day or two, to offer direct support to the CCP team or coordinator in that community. Activities can include:
- A tour of the community, to help the mentor better understand the local context
- Informal conversation and story telling about the community, their CCP process, and the mentor's community and CCP experience
- Training in specific tasks, like proposal writing or facilitation
- Presentations to groups such as the CCP Advisory Committee, Chief & Council, community meetings, etc.
- Brainstorming and work planning for any phase of the CCP
- Offering a sympathetic ear to the CCP staff, since the mentors have "been there" through the tough parts of the CCP process, and survived!
- Even, in some cases, interviewing and helping to hire the CCP Coordinator and assistant, where none are in place already
The needs of each community are unique, as are the skills of the mentor. The beauty of a program like this is the flexibility and comprehensive nature of the mentorship. Of course, a lot of the support happens remotely as well. I am in touch with my mentees via phone, text messages, Facebook, and e-mail, sending them ideas for activities, reviewing drafts of CCPs or community questionnaires, helping with budgets and proposals, and so on. Just this morning I spent a few minutes on the phone with a mentee sharing a couple of ideas for activities to help a group of community members prioritize action items related to language revitalization, while also sending Facebook messages to another mentee to help them with a funding proposal.
My favourite thing about this whole program is that, as mentors, we build up the skills of community members, who then are able to use those new skills to help their own community. Even when their CCP is complete, that community member can then transfer those skills into other jobs - I have seen CCP coordinators go on to become elected leaders, planners in other areas like language revitalization, or in cases like mine, go on to start their own companies. So, we are strengthening First Nations and reducing their dependancy on external support. I love it when my help is no longer needed, or not needed as much, because the person I have mentored feels fully capable of moving forward with their work.
It is exciting to think about the potential for this model of training and support, the mentorship model, to spread to other areas. Experienced administrators mentoring other administrators? Housing coordinators sharing their stories and experiences with other housing coordinators? Who knows how far it could go, but I'm happy to be part of the great things that are happening right now!