This is a guest post from Pat Johnstone, President of the New Westminster Environmental Partners. NWEP is looking for new members, volunteers and community allies. In Pat’s words, here’s a summary about NWEP and what they do. If you’re interested in learning more, the next regular meeting of the New Westminster Environmental Partners will take place at New West Public Library at 7pm on Wednesday April 14th.
For anyone not in the loop already about the NWEP, I thought I would let people know who we are, so here goes the sales pitch from the President.
The New Westminster Environmental Partners comprise a diverse group of community members who work together towards environmental sustainability in New Westminster. We do this through advocacy of environmental causes, through lobbying to various levels of government, through outreach and collaboration with other organizations, and through direct action by members. Our members include environmental activists, environmental professionals, concerned citizens, local politicos, young and old, tall and short, loud and quiet … we have one of every type.
What we are NOT is a top-heavy organization. We have an executive, president, etc., as per the requirements of the Societies Act, but all of our initiatives are membership-driven. The executive only exists to facilitate the actions of our members, and to provide an umbrella of support for members. This is a direct result of our collaborative structure, described below.
Most of our initiatives arise out of discussions at our bimonthly “regular meetings”. Typically an issue of interest is raised at the meeting (say, community gardens, or the City’s garbage bin plans), and we quickly find if there is enough interest in the group to follow up on the initiative. Talk around any particular issue results in a lot of information sharing, and preliminary discussions of approaches to an issue. If a critical mass of interest is raised, a sub-group will start up and “run with it”. The executive is useful at this point to help with communications, planning, budgets, connections with outside groups, etc., but at no time does the executive take “control” of the initiative, it is up to the sub-group to follow up with their mission. This structure is atypical for people more familiar with top-heavy committees, but we find both liberating and effective.
The flexibility of this structure means that if you are really interested in (for example) transportation issues, but could care less about (for example) community gardens, you are likely to find a group of like-minded individuals to support your great idea about improving sustainability in New Westminster’s transportation infrastructure, while there is no pressure on you to take part in the community gardens. This also means you can concentrate your valuable volunteer time on issues that matter to you, and not get burned out fighting someone else’s battles.
Does it work? The NWEP in a few short years has fought successfully against the City about pedestrian access to the New West Skytrain Station, while effectively work WITH the City on the cosmetic pesticide and anti-idling bylaws. It has helped spawn a Community Gardens initiative that will see New Westminster’s first Community Garden installed this spring. It has lobbied successfully to make the City’s shift to automated trash collection more reflective of sustainability goals. We organized and sponsored (along with partners) the only all candidate’s meeting in New Westminster at a recent Provincial Election. We are currently helping with New Westminster’s first Neighbourhood Zero Waste Challenge initiative, and have taken active part in several other community events.
The NWEP have been around for a few years, but the NWEP Society has been an official “Society” under the Society Act of BC for about a year now. We took this step in order to increase our ability to apply for grants and improve our legitimacy while interacting with several levels of government. The down side of the societies Act is that we MUST charge for membership. Our membership fee is $5/year.
However, you do not have to be a member to come to one of our regular meetings and see what’s happening. Maybe you will find a group there who shares your interests (Worm Composting? Climate Change? Invasive plants? Recycling in an apartment building? Teaching Kids about the Environment?) Maybe you even have an idea for an initiative, but aren’t sure how to get started? Bring your ideas, bring your ears, and bring an open mind. And while you are at it, bring the rest of you as well.