Building better rural Alberta communities is the goal of an ongoing webinar and workshop series being offered by RhPAP.
The “Mobilizing the Village” webinar and workshop series for rural leaders is presently being offered to community leaders and volunteers across rural Alberta, in cooperation with the Campus for Communities of the Future.
Throughout May and June, registrants will take part in seven webinars on Monday mornings, covering topics ranging from “Introduction to Community Building” to “Essentials for Engaging and Empowering Citizens and Volunteers.” Registered participants could choose to complete a certification option that included testing on the material. In addition to the online sessions, registered participants had the choice of attending one of the “Mobilizing the Village” workshops in person in either Beaverlodge or Three Hills or doing the session via webinar.
‘Sharpening the axe’
According to course designer and principal collaborator, Brenda Herchmer, these webinars and workshops are about “sharpening the axe” for rural communities. The sessions provide emerging and seasoned leaders with resources and tools to apply in their own organizations and communities in order to better mobilize and leverage their communities’ existing assets. Ultimately, Herchmer says the sessions are about building the capacity of local leaders who are working to attract and retain health professionals.
“I think it’s the ‘how-to’ of engaging citizens more than anything, and understanding that it not only takes a village, it’s about mobilizing the village,” Herchmer explains.
A ‘hands-on approach’ in Beaverlodge
The first of two workshops was held in the town of Beaverlodge on May 7, and was attended by 30 people representing 11 communities and 5 organizations from northern Alberta.
According to RhPAP Consultant, and workshop organizer, Holly Handfield, the entire day in Beaverlodge was filled with lots of laughter, good-natured ribbing between communities, and the energy in the room was fantastic.
“A number of the participants who have been taking part in the webinars appreciated the hands-on and interactive learning of the day and were pleased that the training was held close to home,” she explained.
I see what I’m learning in this rural community builders workshop having far reaching impact. I can see tentacles winding their way through the municipality, both on a governance level, and with our volunteers, and the community.
— Janet Jabush, Mayor of Mayerthorpe
Handfield heard many comments from those who travelled to Beaverlodge throughout the day, with the consensus being that more people should take the Mobilizing the Village training, as there is a lot of really good information being shared in the sessions.
“One [Chief Administrative Officer] who attended was pleased that she could have some of her staff and town councilors attend the training,” added Handfield. “She has been working with outcome-focused evaluation for a while and appreciated the local opportunity to share more about it with her staff and councilors.”
‘Elevating the dialogue’ in Three Hills
Two days later, a second workshop took place in Three Hills, 132 km northeast of Calgary, which was attended by another 25 leaders, representing 12 communities and one organization.
Three Hills town councillor, Al Campbell, jumped at the opportunity to be part of an RhPAP workshop in his home community. The chair of the Kneehill Attraction and Retention committee enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about what other Alberta communities are doing and how they measure success when it comes to the attraction and retention of rural health-care professionals.
Campbell encouraged other communities to get in touch with RhPAP if they’re looking for help in their own back yard.
“RhPAP has been a good leader for the town of Three Hills and the doctor recruitment committee… [T]heir seminars and workshops and conferences have been really good, and you get to meet people and see how things are going,” Campbell added.
Passionate and engaged community leaders
Janet Jabush journeyed the farthest to be part of the May 9 workshop, travelling over three hours south from Mayerthorpe, 130 km northwest of Edmonton.
As the Mayor of Mayerthorpe, she is excited about what she’s learning, both in-person and through the webinar series, and looks forward to elevating the dialogue within her own community.
“I see what I’m learning in this rural community builders workshop having far reaching impact,” said Jabush. “I can see tentacles winding their way through the municipality, both on a governance level, and with our volunteers, and the community.”
Sometimes you need a kick start to start thinking differently
— Leah Nelson, Deputy Mayor of Three Hills
Jabush is impressed with the passionate and engaged community leaders she has encountered both online and at the workshop and has been inspired by the dialogue within the sessions.
“Someone says something, and you go ‘yeah, now, I get why that will work, now, I see a different way to do that in my community.’ Those moments are irreplaceable,” Jabush added. “You wouldn’t get that if you didn’t have the opportunity to engage in-person with these people.”
‘Makes you think differently’
Leah Nelson is from the village of Elnora, 20 minutes north of Three Hills, where she serves as deputy mayor. Nelson works closely with seniors there and in neighbouring Trochu, and is interested to learn what Elnora can do to have services close by so seniors can age in their community.
Nelson attended the session along with colleagues from Elnora and says the benefit of sending a group of leaders from your community is that if you do have that “a-ha moment,” you can take the learning home, facilitate it, and make it a conversation that can be shared.
“Every one of these things makes you think differently, and sometimes you need a kick start to start thinking differently,” Nelson added.
RhPAP’s Director of Rural Community Development and Engagement, Rebekah Seidel, says the response to the courses has exceeded all expectations.
“We have been amazed at how popular this learning series has been and the interest from other rural Alberta community members at the face-to-face workshops to register for future opportunities,” said Seidel. “Several participants have said ‘rural community building is what it is all about!’”