Cooperative and community-based economy research - "Wise Practices"

Cycle of Life by Richard Shorty
“Cycle of Life”, created by Aboriginal artist Richard Shorty, represents the interconnectedness of respect for the natural life-cycles of the environment with wise practices built on Indigenous knowledge of sustainability to ensure abundance for future generations.

The concept of “wise practices’ suggests that there is not one “best practice” that will be successful for every Indigenous Nation and their communities. Contemporary legal structures, management and business practices are important for Indigenous peoples, but they must be reconciled with and built upon traditional cultural values and ways of knowing and doing.

For Indigenous peoples, humans exist in a reciprocal relationship with the land, and the land itself has agency; that is, it is living. Indigenous legal principles cannot be separated from the lessons offered by the land and the people who have been taught the stories upon which Indigenous law is based. Connections with land and community provide identity and are fertile ground that nourish culture and seed the opportunities of economic development.

The inter-disciplinary CCBE research project is a partnership between the NCIED, the University of Victoria’s Faculty of Law and Peter B. Gustavson School of Business, the Banff Centre's Indigenous Leadership and Management program and Coast Opportunity Funds. The work is approached through the lens of “wise practices,” work pioneered by Brian Calliou, program director, Indigenous Leadership and Management, the Banff Centre.

The co-principals on the CCBE project, Drs. John Borrows and Brent Mainprize have extensive experience working with Aboriginal communities, especially in the areas of law, governance, leadership and economic development. The three researchers, Ryan Beaton, Joshua Nichols and Robert Hamilton, PhD students in law, have experience working with First Nations.

The CCBE research focuses on three fundamental aspects of Aboriginal community-based economic development: (1) governance, (2) legal structure, and (3) leadership. Compilation of “wise practices” relevant to economic advancement in Aboriginal communities suggests ways that legal frameworks, governance models and leadership can contribute to greater economic development.

The experiences of the Indigenous business and community leaders and members who were interviewed for the project provided insights into strategies employed on the ground; barriers to development and project funding; characteristics of success stories; and the details of the legal environment in which the communities operate and how that environment facilitates or hinders development. They also provided insights into leadership models and strategies and their relationship to the successes and failures of economic initiatives.

Performance and social impact indicators of success that adhere to cultural and environmental values while supporting the competitiveness of Indigenous community‑based economies were established. “Wise practices” suggest ways that governance models, legal frameworks and leadership can contribute to greater economic development for Aboriginal communities across Canada and beyond.

Historically, Indigenous community-specific data has not been shared with other communities or researchers so it has been difficult to establish models or steps for successful practical economic activities. The “wise practices” will be disseminated through academic publications and a book scheduled for publication in 2018 by a major university press.