So, today is my last day as organizer for this wonderful organization. It will be harder to leave you than I can possible say. Organizing for MVA has not just been my job, it has been my passion and my vocation.
Back in 2008 I was presenting at a forum on living wage, when I was approached by Fr. Clarence Li. He said, “A group of us are trying to start a broad-based community organization and we’re not getting very far. Do you think you could give us some advice?”
At the time I was Vice-Chair of the Board of London Citizens, a similar community organization in the UK. I had spent almost a decade as a leader in that vibrant organization, building new chapters and campaigning on low pay and the rights of refugees. I was happy to share my experience with Fr Li and his colleagues Sr. Elizabeth Kellaher, Fr. Ian Stewart and Robert Doll.
Over coffee they told me how helpless they felt about conditions in Vancouver – the lack of affordable housing, the rising level of poverty in a wealthy city.
I was impressed by their anger and their passion for change. They knew what they wanted to build but they needed help figuring out how to make it happen.
Building a broad-based community organization takes patience and slow, careful planning. It takes hundreds of conversations with people from across the community before you know who has the appetite to work together for the common good.
I had an opportunity to come back to Vancouver for three months later that year. During that time, I worked with Fr. Li and other leaders like Lane Walker, Margaret Marquardt, Barry Morris and Michael Markwick, to get the exciting process of building Metro Vancouver Alliance off the ground. Many wonderful people joined their efforts, helped by Joe Chrastil, Regional Organizer for IAF NW.
A few years later, when the group had raised the money to hire a full-time organizer, they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.
In June 2011 I walked into the Rectory at Sacred Heart Catholic Church on Campbell St. to meet with Fr. Ken Forester. Fr Ken took one look at me and said, “you look hungry”. He was right – I was a new organizer just off the plane, and I hadn’t even had time to shop for food. Fr Ken offered me a sandwich and we rolled up our sleeves.
The founders of MVA started by using the most important tool in broad-based organizing – one-to-one relational meetings. We met with leaders from unions and neighborhood houses, faith organizations and community groups, people active on campaigns and people just trying to hold their own organizations together. We listened to their ideas and their concerns, and then we challenged them to think about what they cared about deeply enough to act on, what they were prepared to do to make Vancouver a better place to live.
One of the biggest challenges we faced in those early days was the impatience of our potential members to start campaigning on the issues right away. With so many urgent problems to solve, it was hard to explain why we needed to take so much time building relationships and listening to one another. Why not just whip up a rally on the steps of the Art Gallery?
People who know me, have heard my thoughts on Art Gallery protests. I always ask “what did the curator of the Art Gallery ever do to us?”. The truth is, if you want change, you need power, and power comes from many, diverse people coming together to find common ground, even if they see the problem from different angles.
It means carefully planning a campaign aimed at the people with the with the authority to give you what you are after.
And finally, it means using your campaign to discover and train new leaders who will carry on the fight. The Iron Rule of community organizing is, never, EVER do for others what they can do for themselves.
Every one of you in this room has the capacity to take action to make this a better city. Some of you are well seasoned leaders, others are just testing your wings. But you are so fortunate to be part of this unique organization. MVA offers you training and support, but most important, MVA offers you a chance to get to know and collaborate with people you might never come across in any other setting.
Please take advantage of this opportunity. It will enrich your lives, it will offer you unexpected allies – and it will build your power.
Last April I watched proudly as a room packed with over 800 MVA delegates from our 57 member organizations won real commitments from Premier John Horgan and Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver. MVA’s ability to press candidates beyond the usual party policies reflects the power gathered in the room that night, and the growing influence of MVA generally. It is a power that derives from the relationships we have built and our very different way of doing politics.
It has been a rare privilege to be part of taking MVA from an idea in the heads of a few, dedicated people, to this diverse, powerful force for community change. Getting to know you and your institutions has been one of the great pleasures of my life.
Together we have built an alliance we can all be proud of. My greatest retirement present would be to see MVA thrive and grow. I know I leave you in good hands, with Tracey Maynard your new Lead Organizer.
But, wherever I am in the future, my heart will be with you!
Left to right: Deborah Littman Organizer MVA, Barbara Brown Christ Church Cathedral and behind her Brenda Beck, St. Laurence Anglican Church, The Hon. Shane Simpson Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, AJ Brown, Christ Church Cathedral, James Cavalluzzo, BC Government Employees Union, The Rev. Margaret Marquardt, Diocese of New Westminster Eco-Justice Unit and Tracey Maynard, Lead Organizer, MVA
Leaders from MVA (Metro Vancouver Alliance) member organizations met with Provincial Minister Simpson (January 23, 2018) to follow-up on the commitments made to MVA at the Provincial Election Accountability assembly regarding the clawback of CPP from those on disability.
On April 4, 2017, John Horgan and Andrew Weaver committed to ending the clawback for CPP benefits for those on disability in response to AJ Brown and Barbara Brown's testimonies on the impact of this clawback on families in our communities. They described the tough choices that have to be made when not being able to make ends meet, including facing depression and pain and not being able to afford appropriate treatment and have enough to pay rent.
The Rev. Margaret Marquardt, Chair, Diocesan Eco-Justice Unit and the Coordination committee of Metro Vancouver Alliance.
The Anglican Diocese of New Westminster is a Sponsoring Organization of MVA
Please email us at email@example.com to join the team working on the clawback of CPP benefits for those on disability pension in BC.
MVA Organizers Tracey Maynard and Deborah Littman and Greater Victoria Acting Together organizer Flossie Baker joined this inspiring group of BCGEU activists from across the province at the CLC Harrison Winter School.
We practiced methods for engaging members with listening and making use of existing member-to-member outreach programs to build deeper connections within the membership.
We discussed mapping community connections within the membership to identify activists who will make the union visible in the community on the issues that matter most.
MVA works with our members to have a community impact by developing leaders in civil society organizations.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how your organization can develop and train leaders to strengthen your union or organization and have a community impact.
MVA leaders from BCGEU, United Way and BCTF attended Minister Judy Darcy's session on Mental Health and Addictions at the CLC Harrison Winter School and were very pleased to hear community organizing recommended as the best approach to tackling the fentanyl crisis across the province. The Minister recommends civil society groups coming together - everybody needs to be at the table.
Minister Darcy will be attending our sister organization GVAT's forum on the fentanyl crisis in early March in Victoria.
MVA leaders attended the TransLink Board Meeting today on behalf of our members in support of improving HandyDART service, protecting HandyDART workers and increasing accountability and oversight over service delivery.
Our civil society organizations are greatly impacted by gaps and inconsistencies in HandyDART service and we will to continue to assist TransLink and the provincial government to address these urgent priorities.
MVA's South Vancouver Social Inclusion Team has been very active this fall working with the City of Vancouver to upgrade the sidewalks in our neighbourhood.
The South Vancouver cluster is made up of MVA member institutions in the neighbourhood - St. Thomas Anglican Church, South Vancouver Neighbourhood House, First Lutheran Church and St. Mary's Catholic Parish.
Each did a listening campaign and heard from their members that social isolation was a major pressure facing families in the neighbourhood. We heard that sidewalk disrepair was causing social isolation among seniors and those with mobility challenges, such as needing a flat surface to use their a walker or wheelchair.
"After determining sidewalk safety as the project to work on, we went out and mapped the locations in our neighbourhoods where the sidewalks were in disrepair. Many people affected by this issue are in their 80's, so using digital cameras or phones to make the report was challenging. We used the MVA network and partnered with the youth from South Van Neighbourhood house. We planned an intergenerational walk through the neighbourhood, partnered up, and our youth partners documented the sidewalks that needed upgrades on their ipads."
"We pooled the resources of 4 community organizations to get it done, and included as many people as we could from each organization to make it a true neighbourhood event and a learning experience for all. It definitely strengthened the relationships in our community and a sense of belonging and responsibility for our neighbourhood." Jayne Fenrich, co-chair of the Social Inclusion team who lead the project.
One of the youth said "After walking with the seniors I realized how hard it was to move a walker over a little crack I didn't think was a big deal. I see now that unsafe sidewalks can affect anyone, even me. If I were to to break my leg I would be in the same situation."
Once we completed our report, we contacted the city of Vancouver.
Eric Mital and Michael Irwin, Asset Managers met with us at South Van Neighbourhood House to review our report and explain how sidewalks were maintained.
Barbara Warner, Social Inclusion Team member explained the impact of unsafe sidewalks on seniors, and how a recent fall left her with a broken hip.
We asked lots of questions and found out that there are 2,000km of sidewalks in the City of Vancouver. Each year the sidewalk is audited at least once, and if it is in need of repair, it will be fixed within 7 days. We learned that sidewalks are fixed if the gap was more than 2.5 cm.
The city officials were impressed by our work and made a commitment to take our report and compare it with their own audit. We will be doing another intergenerational walk in the spring and Eric and Michael will join us to see our process and explain how sidewalks are maintained.
It was encouraging to have city officials so engaged with us and forthcoming with the information that allowed our team to contribute to the process. One of the youth remarked in our closing round, "Wow, I now know a lot about sidewalks!"
We are proud of our work, happy to get our sidewalks in better repair and glad to have formed new working relationships between MVA organizations in our neighbourhood and with the city of Vancouver.
Stay tuned for the next Social Inclusion Team sidewalk project and email email@example.com if you want to do one in your neighbourhood.
Metro Vancouver Alliance members will be joining in the Walk for Reconciliation in Vancouver on September 24. We are walking because we want to show our commitment to the reconciliation movement. Together we are creating a vibrant Canada where all peoples achieve their full potential and shared prosperity.
Reconciliation starts with you and reconciliation belongs to all of us. We hope you will join our team at the Walk for Reconciliation.
Join and support the spirit of ‘Namwayut - We are all one. Hope to see you there.
MVA congratulates BC NDP and BC Green Party leaders on historic accord, looks forward to working together on commitments made at the MVA Provincial Election Assembly.
On behalf of our 57 member organizations, representing over 700,000 people across British Columbia, Metro Vancouver Alliance congratulates John Horgan, Andrew Weaver, and the BC NDP and BC Green Party caucuses on the historic agreement they reached this week.
MVA also calls on Christy Clark to convene the Legislature without delay, so that all the parties can begin to work together for the betterment of the province. To that end, we will be asking Liberal Party representatives and MLAs to meet with us to discuss the proposals MVA brought forward at our Provincial Accountability Assembly in April and MVA Leaders will be meeting soon to discuss how to move forward with the commitments made by Mr. Horgan and Mr. Weaver.Read more