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

As we follow the Spark project objectives, all the Tobermory Spark initiatives have been developed to their Prototyping stage. Through the summer, project facilitator Rachel McLay has focused on 2 initiatives to advance the Strategy and Testing phase, which includes community outreach and resource development. Noreen Steinacher, Chair at TMP has taken a 3rd initiative down that same path. The work has been challenging but has deepened our knowledge about each of the Spark ideas and the reality of what it takes to develop sustainable community assets.
The COVID-19 crisis over the summer has slowed some of the work with respect to worker engagement as the tourist season in the Northern Bruce bounced back with many demands and different stresses on the workforce. As we move into the fall, more people are available to become involved again.
There is also some exciting news to share. In September, 2020 the Spark project was accepted to participate in Capacity Canada’s Creative Day for Social Good (CD4SG) program which gives projects within nfp organizations free graphic design and communications help to promote ‘ideas for social good’. The vision is that each of the Spark initiatives with be communicated through a creative design and script on a single page for promotion. A team from Conestoga College will be working with Spark. Any local volunteer involvement with this is welcomed.

Here are some of the Spark initiatives undergoing the Strategy and Testing phase right now. With project facilitator, Rachel McLay working 2 days a week, and others volunteering, here are some of the specifics.

  1. Affordable Long Term Rental (LTR) Accommodation Inventory and Supports Development. What Spark is doing!
    • Key informant interviews with local LTA landlords
    • Consultation with the Y in Owen Sound who has experience in developing and managing a housing inventory and is willing to share resources
    • Connecting with municipal and County affordable housing strategy plans
    • Applying for a grant from Community Foundation Grey Bruce for initiative specific resources
  2. E-Bike Social Enterprise focusing on affordable leasing of e-bikes for work and recreation. What Spark is doing!
    • Development and circulation of a feedback or ‘pitch’ video for wider community consultation & feedback
    • Consultation with E-Bike rental organizations and the industry
    • Preparation and completion of the federal Investment Readiness Program grant application for funding, with a focus on TMP moving into a social enterprise experience
  3. ‘Extending the Season’ for more employee security and economic development; a long-standing idea that keeps circling back to the community. What Spark is doing!
    • Securing current data and analysis of the labour force in the Northern Bruce to find out about income sources, equity and where change could happen.

This time period in the Spark project has been a strengthening phase where good ideas emerge into plans. We have evaluated what is more feasible to work on now and have succeeded in making some plans ready to go as opportunities arise; that is to be “shovel ready”. 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. We are counting on some of our community members to feel resilient enough to get re-involved this fall and winter. This will be part of a lesson in how rural community works ahead in a time of crisis.

The Spark Lion’s Head NpCoWork Group has been addressing the question, “What’s Needed for Entrepreneurs to Thrive 12 months of the Year on NBP?” Picking up on momentum there is a goal for the remaining project time frame.

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 use of the on-line ‘Slack’ platform will be re-instituted if it suits the work and the people involved.

The Spark project has received great support and practical ideas from the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force, Tamarack Learning Institute, the Municipality of Northern Bruce, Bruce County, Community Benchmarks Inc. and Capacity Canada. Thanks to everyone involved and to date we have added another 15 community people connecting with Spark for a total of 38 people involved with the project.

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

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