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Connect + Reflect + Act! at the Rural Islands Economic Partnership

The three-day event on Gabriola Island will seek creative ideas to boost opportunities on rural islands

What do you call a gathering of 100-plus passionate islanders from west coast BC communities? Organizers with the Rural Islands Economic Partnership (RIEP) refer to their April 25-27 Forum event on Gabriola Island, as an “unconference.”

While the three-day event will be filled with ‘the usual’ conference programming, such as keynote panels, showcases, and ‘action lab’ break-out groups, there will be opportunities for networking and recharging as well — during meals, after sessions, and in nature around Gabriola’s seaside retreat centre, The Haven.

“The Forum is about people with shared goals moving ideas to action. It is time to ‘Connect, Reflect, and Act!’ so we can develop solutions in real time,” says Vaune Kolber, Chair of the Community Economic Development Committee on Bowen Island, who will be travelling from Bowen to attend the 2023 Forum. 

As the title of the ‘Connect, Reflect, and Act!’ Forum suggests, RIEP staff and Board members are planning a participatory, outcome-oriented program that will showcase best practices and support actual problem-solving. Among the timely topics to be addressed are: The Economics of Climate Change; Regenerative Tourism – Ensuring Travel Is A Force For Good; Housing Lessons Learned – Policy Changes Now; Working with Indigenous Businesses Through The Lens of Reconciliation; and Food Hubs and Agri-Food Businesses.

Vancity has signed on as the Presenting Sponsor of April’s “unconference,” which builds upon RIEP’s virtual forum held in November 2022. At that event, RIEP adopted a four-point “Values Framework” focused on Creating Resilient Economies; Ensuring Basic Needs & Services; Fostering Connections to Build Community; and Taking Collaborative Action. 

The Forum program will include a deeper dive into ‘Doughnut Economics’ and how this globally-recognized conceptual tool can be used to support BC’s rural island communities.

“Merging our recently developed rural islands Values Framework with the perspective of Doughnut Economics opens all kinds of possibilities for planning,” says RIEP Board Chair Francine Carlin, adding that “the Framework offers a vision of a unified approach to achieving our goals, and the Doughnut provides the context and language of ecological and social justice, so it’s a very common-sense approach for us to take.” 

“Leave your car at home” is one of the key messages that event organizers are sharing with those who register. In the spirit of helping to reduce the event’s carbon footprint, Tour Salt Spring, a Forum sponsor, will provide participants with a Gabriola van shuttle service that runs on vegetable oil. 

RIEP is offering an ‘Early Bird’ discount for those who register before April 7. There are also a limited number of sponsorship opportunities.

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