SPARK – Seasonal Workers & Entrepreneurs Spark Ideas (for our Community)

As we follow the Spark project objectives, the Tobermory Spark Groups have started to transition to a next phase. From January to April, 2020, the intent of the small working groups made up of community volunteer participants, each with a facilitator, was to meet and focus on the first two steps in a design thinking process. The task was to identify creative ideas, small or more comprehensive, which might support seasonal workers and their families who are residents of Northern Bruce.

Both groups worked with a process that included Empathy and Need Finding and Idea Generation and Prototyping. There was lots of back and forth discussion and some ideas caught hold more than others, which is exactly what was expected.  And then there was COVID-19 to work through, but the groups adjusted for the most part. It was hard not to jump early to try to operationalize before getting buy-in or lining up resources, but the groups ended up with a good number of ideas ready for further development.

Here are some of the emerging ideas.

1) Affordable Long Term Rental (LTR) Accommodation Inventory Development and Promotion

2) Local Ride Share and App development

3) E-Bike Affordable Leasing for work and recreation, with a future Social Enterprise or business

4) Virtual Resource Exchange. This initiative is already in the strategy/testing stage so will need people to keep the momentum going.

5) Building a Local ‘People’ Resource Inventory – extension of a Community Asset Map

6) ‘Extending the Season’; an idea that keeps coming up! – Both an economic development approach and an earnings redistribution approach are of interest.

We are now in “the murky middle” in community development speak.

The next phase will be to finish the prototyping exercises and move into Strategy and Testing. Here the project takes the ideas and their prototypes and strategizes next steps. For this phase we hope to form research groups to work on each idea with each group needing local people with passion and pragmatists who can make things happen.

This phase may involve taking the ideas out into the community for discussion on the important question of how to get community ownership. Other activities may include talking with our original project supporters and consultants; doing some quick idea ‘pitches’ on-line for feedback from others in the seasonal workforce; bringing in new people; negotiating possible partnerships for some ideas; finding the support and resources for others. This is a strengthening phase where good ideas emerge into plans. We will try to evaluate what is more feasible to work on during the COVID-19 isolation and recovery periods and what might be left for a later time. We have until March 2021 to complete the funded part of the Spark project. Not all idea development needs to proceed at the same time or pace but it will be good to have prototypes and plans ready to go as opportunities arise; or “shovel ready”.

Did you know there is a Spark group working in Lion’s Head? The Spark Lion’s Head NpCoWork Group is addressing the question, “What’s Needed for Entrepreneurs to Thrive 12 months of the Year on NBP?” They will continue to meet as a group as they started later in February. However, they have also identified a number of emerging ideas and are working on at least one initiative, the e-Market, that is in the research/strategy/testing phase bringing in new people and moving the idea ahead.

There continues to be opportunity for collaboration between Tobermory and Lion’s Head project work but the emphasis going forward is on the development of each initiative through research, strategizing and testing, growing the number of participants affiliated with each initiative.

The Spark project has recently consulted with the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force and Tamarack Learning Institute receiving good contributing support. The Spark project has also adopted the use of an innovative on-line platform called ‘Slack’, which helps projects like Spark to communicate among members, share documents and research on each initiative and build expertise and learning. Using ‘Slack’ is also a work in progress, especially for volunteers.

Adjustments to this transition plan will be made as needed. Working in and through the COVID-19 time, we are learning the importance of ‘declaring our community essential’ and keeping it that way.

Thanks to everyone. To date we have had 23 people working on Spark.

Questions, comments or expressions of interest in joining the project can be directed to The Meeting Place Tobermory at 519-596-2313 or

or Noreen at 519-596-2003 or

Noreen Steinacher MSW RSW

Spark project coordinator at The Meeting Place Tobermory

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