This project created a “Report Card” that assesses the sustainability of the Clarenville-Bonavista Rural Secretariat region while engaging regional stakeholders in exploring future opportunities for regional development. As a partnership between researchers in the Environmental Policy Institute and the Regional Council of the Clarenville-Bonavista Rural Secretariat Region (which served from 2005-2016), this project distributed findings from previous research that used indicators to assess the region’s progress towards sustainability. Building on that research, this project made a brief public document, created collaboratively with Regional Council with the use of broader public input, and distributed it around the region. After the Report Card was created in April 2016, we focused on the Bonavista region, a sub-region of the former Rural Secretariat region, continuing discussions with key community leaders there about how future research and engagement could build on this project to support new forms of regional governance.
Many rural communities and regions in Newfoundland and Labrador are facing threats to their long-term sustainability. Challenges such as demographic decline, changing markets, the restructuring of rural institutions, and environmental changes pose serious threats to rural sustainability. One approach that many communities and regions have taken is the use of sustainability indicators to measure the current state of the community and track progress towards key sustainability goals. In rural communities and regions, which are all too often portrayed only by their challenges and deficiencies, these tools may be able to help stakeholders identify often overlooked strengths and assets, helping communities make the best use of local capacity. Local sustainability indicators also encourage a holistic view of community development that equally considers all different forms of community capital - such as natural, socio-cultural, and economic capital – to guide more balanced development.
With many of these goals in mind, the Regional Council worked with MUN researchers between 2013 and 2015 to develop a set of sustainability indicators for their region, considering both local aspirations and effective examples from indicator initiatives in other rural regions. This project, by condensing the findings of this research into a short Report Card pamphlet and making it available online, hopes to put those indicators in conversation with ongoing discussions in the region about how to organize a regional governance strategy that better reflects the unique character of the distinct sub-regions (Bonavista, Clarenville, and Isthmus) and encourages collaboration between different communities and sectors. The Report Card is available here and more information about the project is available on the project website.
This project was made possible with funding support from the Memorial University Office of Public Engagement Accelerator Fund with additional financial support from the provincial Office of Public Engagement, the Collaborative Applied Research in Economics research group, and the Scholarship in the Arts. We also wish to thank the members of the Regional Council, the Bonavista Area Chamber of Commerce, the Harris Centre, and Too Big To Ignore for additional support and guidance.