Measuring Progress, Strengthening Governance and Promoting Positive Change: Developing sustainability indicators with Winnipeg's urban First Nations community

By Christa Rust on February 4, 2009

Winnipeg's First Nations population is growing rapidly and faces a number of critical challenges. The dynamics of these challenges are poorly understood and, as a result, most policy responses are ineffective. Most scholars and policy specialists agree that the well-being of First Nations peoples will improve if they are empowered and given real opportunities to reclaim control over their lives and socio-cultural assets (Salée 2006). Real positive change is needed, and sustainability indicators are central to achieving positive change and improving the resiliency of the community. "Indicators are needed for sustainability because you cannot manage what you do not measure" (Hoerner 2008, 1).

Typically, indicators of sustainability integrate environmental, social and economic factors so that the complex cause-and-effect relationships among them can be more readily understood. In the context of this initiative and with consideration of cultural relevance, sustainability indicators are defined according to the four dimensions of well-being (social, environmental, economic and cultural) as described by the teachings of the Aboriginal Medicine Wheel. The Medicine Wheel is an unbroken circle that represents an integrated and holistic way of seeing, knowing and learning.

Since June 2007, the International Institute for Sustainable Development has been engaged in an initiative with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs to develop indicators of well-being with Winnipeg's First Nations community and chart a positive course for the future. Community-level measures have been sought to illuminate the current state of the urban community, what course it is on, and how far it is from a shared vision for the future. The development of sustainability indicators is seen as a critical piece of social infrastructure that will help Winnipeg's First Nations community enhance their overall well-being.

Report details

IISD, 2009