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

As we follow the Spark project objectives, the Tobermory Spark Groups have transitioned 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 and entrepreneurs who are residents of Northern Bruce.

Three groups worked with a process that included Empathy and Need Finding and Idea Generation and Prototyping.  The COVID-19 crisis slowed the work but groups ended up with a good number of ideas ready for further development.

Here are some of the emerging ideas focused on seasonal workers who live here.

  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 began the strategy/testing stage during the ‘lock down’ so will need to be reassessed for future application.
  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. Huge!

With our new project facilitator, Rachel McLay working 2 days a week, the next phase will be to finish the prototyping and move into Strategy and Testing. Here the project takes the ideas and their prototypes and strategizes next steps with the help of community input. For this phase we hope to generate more community interest, research each of the ideas and pull together local people with passion and know how who can make things happen. Not easy during this pandemic recovery time.

Other activities may include talking with our original project supporters and consultants; doing some quick idea ‘pitches’ on-line for feedback and an on-line survey for others in the seasonal workforce; 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 in the recovery period 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; be “shovel ready”. We are counting on some of our community to feel resilient enough to get involved.

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 have also identified a number of emerging ideas and are working on at least one initiative, the e-Market, that is in the testing phase on-line and evaluating how things go.

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 received great support and practical ideas from the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force and Tamarack Learning Institute. 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. Thanks to everyone involved and to date we have had 23 people working on Spark.

Questions, comments or expressions of interest in joining the project can be directed to Rachel McLay at The Meeting Place Tobermory at 519-596-2313 or meetingplace@amtelecom.net

Noreen Steinacher MSW RSW
Spark project coordinator at The Meeting Place Tobermory

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