Press release

Innovative community project marks IISD's 10th anniversary

June 18, 2000

Skownan First Nation and IISD present a community-directed project to create economic opportunities and preserve traditional livelihoods.

WINNIPEG — The International Institute for Sustainable Development celebrates its 10th anniversary this year with a special press event on the Skownan Community Values Project on Thursday, June 22 from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m., 7th floor, 161 Portage Avenue East.

IISD began the project by training six people from Skownan First Nation in an innovative approach to community empowerment. Called appreciative inquiry, this method generates knowledge by focusing on community strengths, expanding "the realm of the possible" and helping community members first visualize and then implement a collectively desired future.

"This project brings the community together," explains Nelson Catcheway, Skownan First Nation education and training coordinator. "People are telling stories of Skownan at its best and thinking about new ways in which traditional activities can support economic development while maintaining and respecting the land. Elders and youth are working together to forge a vision for Skownan's future that reinforces everything we value. It's an innovative approach we hope to share with other communities."

The Skownan First Nation team is developing a vision of their community by asking a cross-section of local people to tell stories of Skownan at its best—times when people felt most fulfilled and happy. These success stories are used to further understand the value of traditional livelihoods and the surrounding forest to create new opportunities for community economic development—opportunities that produce revenue from activities people enjoy. An Aboriginal film-maker is visiting the community three times to capture the community's vision on video.

"IISD believes that all communities experience remarkable achievements made possible by the strengths and vision of their members," says Graham Ashford, senior specialist in community development at IISD. "Appreciative inquiry is a process to identify these moments, understand the factors that led to them, and create ways of replicating and enhancing those conditions."

Since its incorporation in 1990, IISD has been on the forefront of communicating innovation and progress on sustainable development. It was one of the first organizations in the world to use the Internet as a research and advocacy tool. And this long-time Internet presence has helped establish IISD as the resource for sustainable development information. In 1999 alone, for example, content was downloaded from the Institute's Web sites more than 3 million times.

IISD also uses the Internet to create networks of knowledge on trade, climate change and sustainable development communications. These networks allow IISD to bring together organizations from all parts of the world to share knowledge, experiences and shape equitable policies on critical issues that affect people around the globe.

"Over the past decade, IISD has continuously and emphatically stated the case for sustainable development, both to Canadians and a broader international audience," says IISD President David Runnalls. "I am proud of the role we have had here and on the world stage, but I truly believe that now more than ever IISD is ideally positioned to assist government, business and civil society in overcoming the challenges found in creating a sustainable society."

IISD has a well-deserved international reputation for excellence in sustainable development research and advocacy. For example, as a Collaborating Centre with the United Nations Environment Programme, IISD took a lead role in developing a training program and manual to teach officials from developing countries how to conduct integrated environmental assessments. To date more than 150 senior officials have taken part in six regional training sessions worldwide.

Over the past three years, IISD has also sent some 90 Canadian youth to work in six-month international internships in over 20 countries, from Argentina to Zimbabwe. Called the Young Canadian Leaders for a Sustainable Future, this program provides international work experience for the next generation of Canadian leaders in the sustainable development community.

Locally, IISD works with the prairie agricultural community and regional scientists to promote adaptive strategies to cope with the challenges of climate change. Through a series of well-attended workshops, IISD helps provide practical measures for prairie farmers and businesses to cut emissions of greenhouse gases and to adapt to climate change.

IISD is also working in the Canadian Artic to help the Inuit of Banks Island explore the contribution that local observation and traditional knowledge can make to scientific research on climate change. An integral part of this project is a video that will demonstrate to decision-makers in Southern Canada how climate change is affecting the traditional livelihood of Inuit on Banks Island.

"IISD has the people, the tools, the expertise and the research capacity to develop the new insights needed in our world today," says Runnalls. "The right kinds of decisions need to be made by the agents of change—political leaders, business leaders, community leaders—because sustainable development is a crucial priority for today. IISD and its network of institutions from other countries are working to ensure the right decisions are being made."

About IISD

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is an award-winning independent think tank working to accelerate solutions for a stable climate, sustainable resource management, and fair economies. Our work inspires better decisions and sparks meaningful action to help people and the planet thrive. We shine a light on what can be achieved when governments, businesses, non-profits, and communities come together. IISD’s staff of more than 250 experts come from across the globe and from many disciplines. With offices in Winnipeg, Geneva, Ottawa, and Toronto, our work affects lives in nearly 100 countries.