Community Centre Meeting – May 25, 2019

On May 25, 2019, the first meeting of this latest push to build a physical community resource centre in Victoria happened. The call to attend this meeting was posted one week prior to the meeting date and the meeting was held at the downtown, Central Greater Victoria Public Library location.

In advance of the meeting, during the meeting, and afterwards, several issues were raised regarding invitations, accessibility, and inclusion. First, I will summarize the meeting and what was decided, then I will address the issues and the next steps that were decided on. Meeting minutes were taken digitally and shared between those who were in attendance. This summary reaches the main body of ideas generated and discussed through the meeting.

There were nine different community members who attended the meeting. Each brought with them a variety of experience in the queer and trans community, in the Victoria community, in community building, and with community connections. Our interests and affiliations ranged from preschool and school age children all the way to seniors, from small grassroots groups up to well established and decades old organizations, and from small local community groups to national and international groups.

The meeting opened with a territory acknowledgement and recognizing that we met on the lands of Lekwungen-speaking peoples, now called the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations, and the W̱SÁNEĆ peoples. We followed this with a round of introductions and then creating a group safe space agreement to ensure that everyone had their voices heard, felt safe, and were able to be recognized for their own experiences, however different they might be.

The meeting was facilitated by Nathan Veenhof, myself. During introductions, I made it clear that while I chose to make the event post and restart this conversation, and while I had hopes that we could make use of a grant-writing project in one of my classes to help us get funding, I am fully prepared to step back and follow someone else’s lead in this project if that is what the community would like. While I maintain this statement, and will listen to a majority voice, not a single voice, the consensus at the meeting was that I maintain my work. I also recognized that my position as someone who is reasonably young, white, cis-passing, and (often) able-passing puts me in a place of privilege with respect to access to information and resources. It is not my place to keep that from others, but instead to break those barriers and share that access as widely as I can and is safe to do.

After an introduction of this website as something I created to meet a community need, and recognizing that this website only works as long as community members continue to contribute to it, I provided an overview of the grant funding opportunity that is currently on my table.

The Systems Change Grant

The Vancouver Foundation provides grants to projects engaging in Community Based Research and projects that are working to affect systems change. The Systems Change grants are intended for projects that “tackle the root causes of an issue by disrupting the ways that systems work.” There are three tiers of grants for projects at varying stages, from Develop grants for projects just starting out to Test grants to test the project’s influence and Scale grants to increase the scale of a project’s influence.

For one of my classes at the University of Victoria, ANTH 395 Community Based Research: Methods and Theories, one of the required outcomes is a fundable grant proposal written by a group of two or more students for a community partner. The initial project assignment was to create a proposal for one of the Research grants with a community partner that had already been picked, however we were also allowed to pick our own community partner. Knowing that this community/resource centre project was in the works, I asked if I could work with this group to write the grant proposal. I received approval and guidance that the Develop grant would be the most appropriate. I will be writing this grant proposal with one classmate who will also attend meetings with me during the month of May and June. It would ultimately be up to the community whether or not the grant proposal actually got submitted.

Develop Grant
The Develop grant is a grant for up to $20,000 over 1 year “to help teams generate ideas and a project plan for systems change that can be submitted to funders.” The development of a physical community/resource space fits in this mandate. One of the key things that this grant would provide for this project, and is within the mandate of the Vancouver Foundation, is a living-wage salary for the working members of the team. This would mean that people who are struggling to make ends meet, doing this off the side of their desk because of lack of pay, or are stretched to their limit on work required to live, but would rather be putting a focus on this project, would be able to participate, maintain involvement, and sustain a living while they’re at it. These are key issues for any project in the queer and trans community, so accessing funding to pay project members would go a long way to building capacity and the potential for sustainability in our community.

The Community Resource Centre

To prompt conversation and to help keep the meeting on track, I facilitated with the help of a power point conversation. After the brief introduction above, we spent the bulk of our time discussing our needs, desires, experience, and concerns around the development of a resource centre in Victoria. To help this discussion, I created a list of questions that I thought would be useful. While we didn’t follow them in our conversation, they were all addressed to some extent.

  • What are your needs?
  • What barriers do you face?
  • What should the space do?
  • What makes a space feel safe?
  • What role do you want to have?
  • Who do you know that should be involved and wasn’t here?

As a group, we created a list of needs and wants for a space. This was added to and modified throughout our conversation. We recognized in the meeting that this was not an exhaustive list, and that this list is likely to change over time.

Highlighted needs: – physical space – community info hub – workshop space – office space – co-operative – programming – formal/informal spaces – good coffee – skills development – volunteer opportunities – accessibility – INCLUSIVITY – location! – housing lists – computer access – sustainability – find our way out of and through trauma together – comfortable shoes off cathartic movement spaces – artistic creative collaboration – sense of belonging – mental health support –

Concerns About the Project
During the meeting, a lot of concerns were raised about the project and what will be needed, how it will be sustained, and how it will get off the ground. I have gone through the minutes and pulled the key points from these parts of the conversation.

How big a space do we need?
With a big space, we could have counselling and offices, meeting rooms, board rooms (that could be used for support groups), a creative space for dance, music, and art, childcare, and a common area for socializing. It could be used for bigger events that our community struggles to find space for. We could rent it out on a sliding scale which would generate a source of income. We could copy other community centres and have a coffee shop attached that would generate opportunities for career training and employment as well as generating an income for the centre.
This raised more questions that were not answered:
– How big is too big?
– What is sustainable for our community?
– Is a small space better?
– What other income possibilities might there be?
– Should we create a new space or adapt and take over an existing space? (Specifically mentioned were United Way, CUPE, and talking to the Municipal Government.)

How do we deal with the divided nature of our community?
The local LGBTQ2SI+ community is not so much one community as many. It is divided with a massive amount of politics and emotion as divides every community. We recognized the need to work together in order for something like this to succeed, that all voices need to be heard, that sharing funding and resources is the best way to make something for our community to be as successful and accessible as possible. We talked about how initiatives in the past have been within this isolated groups, that it was a “yay us” experience until the initiative fizzled out. We talked about the importance of leaving politics at the door.
One big question came from this part of the conversation:
– How do we build trust?
Potential answers to this question included:
– partnership agreements
– collaboration
– round table conversations (not everyone will be able to attend every meeting, it’s an ongoing conversation)
– invite specific community groups to the meetings
– invite community groups to present on their position and projects
– be transparent
– follow up with community and do as we said we would

Where would a community centre be?
The question of location is tied in with the question of accessibility and size. The key point that was made in this part of the conversation was easy access to bus routes. The fewer buses that are needed, and the shorter the bus ride is, the more likely more people will be able to access the community centre. To that end, the main suggestions of location ended up being in downtown or the north end of downtown.
Key questions raised and not answered were:
– Where is our community located? Where will they be coming from?
– What does accessibility mean?

Sustainability
We kept circling around this point without ever addressing it head on. It feels as though we are not at a point of addressing this point yet. We discussed the fact that clearly outlining a structure to the organization and giving roles to people too soon was something that led projects to failure in the past, and led to further community division. The key theme that came out of this topic was the importance of not biting off more than we can chew: only doing what we can actually achieve, only setting up what we can maintain.

Who was there
In the interest of privacy and safety, the names of people who attended will not be listed. However, it is important to recognize that every person comes with their own connections to community, organizations, and government, whether these are direction connections, partnerships, work or social connections, or historical relationships.. To facilitate that understanding, we created a list of our connections (which is likely incomplete!):
– BC Federation of Labour – DAC diversity advisory Committee – University of Victoria – Aids Vancouver Island (AVI) – Silver Threads Connection – Rainbow Advocacy Society – Gender Spectacular – VIQRC – O_CHI – Victoria Native Friendship Centre – Rainbow Health Co-operative – PEERS – Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence – Rainbow Camus – EGAL – National Seniors Society – CUPE Pink Triangle – Hospital Employees Union Pink Triangle – Island Health – Simon Fraser University – United Way – LGBTQ Advisory Committee to Victoria Police – City Council – Provincial Government – TransCare BC – Ambit Gender Diversity Consulting – After School programs – Rainbow Club –

Who was missing
We noted that we lacked representation from the 2-Spirit community, the Immigrant community, the People of Colour communities, and representation from the rest of the Island and the local islands. We hope that people from these communities will be able to attend future meetings as their voices are just as important and valid in this conversation as any others.

Concerns Raised by Those not in Attendance
Prior to the meeting, questions were raised around accessibility, who was involved, who was leading the project, funding, and ensuring that all voices would be heard.

To address physical accessibility needs, a location was chosen that is close to multiple bus routes, relatively well known and easy to find, and is wheelchair-accessible with a gender neutral washroom. The conversation was also invited to continue online both on the Facebook event and via email through this website. This will be the case going forward as well as civil conversation on these blog posts. If someone would like to attend meetings that cannot physically attend them, we can make arrangements for visual conferencing so they can be present.

The question of who is involved has been fairly well addressed above. This is an ongoing project that needs the involvement of the whole community in order to be successful. Each meeting will continue to be an open call to all community members to attend.

As it currently stands, I (Nathan Veenhof) am leading this project, however the word “lead” is used very loosely. I see my role as facilitating the meetings to ensure we have a safe, accessible space to meet in, that all voices get heard, and that this project continues to move forward in a positive and sustainable way. At meetings, I see myself as an equal member and contributor to the conversation while doing my best to ensure our meetings stay on time and on topic and that all the voices are heard.I am also leading the writing of the grant proposal for the Systems Change Develop grant knowing that this grant may or may not be actually submitted after it is written. I am perfectly willing and happy to step back and let other people take on the roles of facilitation and arranging space, if that is what the community desires and knowing that we all have our strengths and weaknesses.

With regards to the questions about funding, where it’s coming from, what it’s for and how it would shape the project, all of these are addressed above and were discussed extensively at the meeting. The initial grant application is to the Vancouver Foundation for a grant intended to help change systems at their root, as a project like a community centre aims to do. This particular grant is to get the project started, including initial engagement, capacity building, and ensuring that the organization is set up to apply for further funding and grants.

To ensure that all voices are heard, each meeting will continue to be open to all members of the LGBTQ2SI+ communities, no matter who they are. The Facebook event posts will continue to be public (with guest list hidden for privacy and safety concerns) and people will continue to be able to invite whoever they feel should be involved to the event. Next meeting information will be posted in blogs on this website either at the end of a meeting summary or in a separate post. Meetings will continue to be held at locations that are physically accessible and have shown that they support queer initiatives. For those who cannot attend physical meetings, the conversation continues online both on the blog posts and on the Facebook events, as well as by email through this website. If someone would like to attend a meeting but is unable to, arrangements for video conferencing will be made.

Hearing concerns like this is absolutely important. It is essential that these things be addressed from the start, as soon as they’re apparent. Leaving these issues behind, ignoring them, putting them off, or addressing them without proper conversation means that the community will continue to be divided and not all voices are being heard. Please continue to raise your concerns! We want to address them as fully and appropriately as possible.

Next Steps

Primary focus: Revising the Vancouver Foundation Systems Change Develop Grant
Saturday, June 15, 2019 at Downtown Greater Victoria Public Library
Facebook Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/847029065677186/
We will be meeting in Study Room #3 (Go through the children’s section on the main floor and follow the “Community Event” signs to the study rooms by the back doors.
Accessibility: The room is on the main floor of the library with ramps up to and down from the children’s section. There is an accessible, gender neutral washroom in the children’s section.
The Downtown Library is located between Broughton and Courtenay Streets with a parking garage underneath that is first hour free parking.
This event will take place on the un-ceded traditional territories of the Lekwungen-speaking peoples, now called the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations.
This event is publicly listed, but the guests list is private for the safety of community members.

For this meeting only: participants will be asked to sign a consent form. This is for University of Victoria course requirements associated with the grant application assignment and because we will be audio recording the meeting. The recording will be kept until the end of the month and then deleted.

At our last meeting, we covered a lot of issues and ideas and discussed our first steps. For more information on this project and the last meeting, more information is here:
https://viqueercollective.com/community-resource-centre/

This meeting will be focused on the Vancouver Foundation grant that we are writing to hopefully be able to access funding to get us going. Myself (Nathan) and a classmate will have a draft version of the answers to the grant application questions based on the conversations in the last meeting. We’ll guide the conversation around ensuring that the answers are as correct and accurate as possible. Key questions that need to be answered for the grant application include:
– What is the pressing issue you’re trying to address? What systemic behaviours, attitudes, resource flows, and/or policies have you identified that are holding the issue in place?
– Why will developing a plan to address this issue be meaningful? How do you foresee the community being able to influence or change the systemic behaviours behind the issue?
– Where are you currently in the design and development process? What have you done to move your ideas forward, and what activities do you still need to do?
– Who are you currently partnering with? Who else do you intend to include in the development process? How are people affected by the issue involved?
– What is the pressing issue that your project is trying to address? Why is addressing this meaningful? How will your Develop process lead to a fully formed and viable project plan?

If we have enough time, we will begin conversation around vision and mission.

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