CFOW gauges local 'Vital Signs' 

community conversations held in Whistler to gauge interest in national initiative

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS - Vital Conversations Participants gauge the issues most relevant to them at the first Vital Conversations session on Nov. 12.
  • Photo by braden dupuis
  • Vital Conversations Participants gauge the issues most relevant to them at the first Vital Conversations session on Nov. 12.

When Squamish's first Vital Signs report was released in the lead up to the 2011 municipal election, it provided a floor plan for discussion.

"You pretty much saw every municipal councillor or municipal councillor nominee walking around with one of these in their hands," recalled Ian Davis, then-president of the Squamish Community Foundation.

"It framed so much of the conversation in the election."

That's partly because the Vital Signs report — a national initiative that uses local knowledge and data to measure a community's vitality — comes in an easy-to-read, easy-to-reference package.

And soon, Vital Signs will be coming to Whistler.

"I think it's something that's really worthwhile doing," Davis told the crowd at the first of two "Vital Conversations" sessions hosted by the Community Foundation of Whistler (CFOW) to gauge interest in the project.

Though Whistler has its share of reports, "oftentimes those are controlled pieces that are put out by our local governments that will be flavoured or coloured by that," Davis said.

"With Vital Signs, one of the real things that struck home with us as we worked through the process and as we workshopped with our community is that it was absolutely data based as the starting point.

"This is hardcore data, and what we see is hardcore data can be used really to inform your decisions and to inform the stakeholder decisions."

The Whistler sessions, held at the Whistler Public Library on November 12, were meant to introduce Vital Signs to the community, as well as to get some feedback on future direction for the project, said CFOW executive director Carol Coffey.

"We're still working on summarizing everything, but we did really get a good sense of what peoples' concerns are, and we got some information to help us start developing indicators," Coffey said.

The conversations touched on some predictable issues — housing, transportation, the cost of childcare, access to mental health services — but there were some less-discussed topics on the table as well, Coffey said.

"Under the category of belonging, there was concern that maybe second-home owners don't feel engaged in the community, and how can we better engage that section of our population in what's going on in the community?" she said.

"Now we're just taking all of this information that we gathered and summarizing it, and we plan to send that out to those who participated so they can see the results of the sessions."

The next step for the project is to form an advisory committee — hopefully by January — with more community consultation to follow.

If all goes according to plan, Whistler could be releasing its own Vital Signs report by October 2016.

"The idea of the report is to generate conversation in the community," Coffey said.

"Once we've identified what some of the areas of concern are, then it's about bringing people together to talk about action and collaboration among different groups in the community to work towards solutions.

"So the report itself is really just the first step."

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