The initial ‘prototype’ was a ‘Community Monitoring Advisory Committee’ to rebuild meaningful discussions in response to prolonged differences about the management of Metro Vancouver watersheds on the North Shore. Engaging representatives of local community associations set the foundation for a similar approach on a region wide scale.
In 2002, Canada, won the right to host the 2006 World Urban Forum (WUF). Metro Vancouver saw this as an opportunity to raise the profile of sustainability principles, adopted as its guiding philosophy in 2002 with the launching of its ‘Sustainable Region Initiative’. In 2003, in a discussion with Metro Vancouver Chief Administrative Officer and a BC Hydro Vice President, the International Centre for Sustainable Cities (ICSC, a local NGO co-founded/supported by Metro Vancouver) floated the idea of ‘sustainability community breakfasts’ as a precursor to WUF.
Metro Vancouver saw breakfasts as the opportunity to generate and sustain local interest in sustainability issues. The ICSC initially organized the events with funding from BC Hydro and content and support from Metro Vancouver.
Following WUF, Metro Vancouver – at the request of breakfast participants and in recognition of the value the Breakfasts brought to local sustainability discussions –assumed full responsibility for the breakfasts. Six years later, the Breakfasts, held monthly in downtown Vancouver, engage audiences across a wide spectrum of sustainability interests. While Metro Vancouver and VanCity (a local financial institution) are formal sponsors, the sessions are actively supported by NGOs, businesses and various public sector organizations.
In 2006, ‘The Future of the Region Sustainability Dialogues’ series was initiated by Metro Vancouver as a broader forum for discussion of issues related to the livability and sustainability of the region. More specifically, the Dialogues targeted engaging the business community, and for the past five years have been co-sponsored by the 11 Chambers of Commerce and Boards of Trade in the Metro Vancouver region.
As far back as 2002, the idea of a ‘community assembly’ had been discussed with the Metro Vancouver Board. The 2006 WUF and its attendant breakfasts and dialogue series provided the foundation and in 2008 Metro Vancouver hosted its inaugural Sustainability Summit/Sustainability Congress.
Building on community engagement in discussions about various facets of the future of the region, the Summit was a region-wide initiative that coalesced the various threads of discussion on regional sustainability into a focussed debate on next steps and a call to action. A tri-annual event, both the 2008 Sustainability Summit, where participants voted on how to measure success related to nine regional issues, and the 2011 Sustainability Congress, which asked participants to determine where local leadership on addressing five long-term challenges to regional sustainability should come from, were funded and managed by Metro Vancouver.
Some 500 people attended each of the two congresses, with strong representation from NGO/community, business, academia and government delegates.
In 2010, the audiences for the Dialogues as well as the Sustainability Congress were significantly expanded by having these events broadcast on Metro Vancouver’s proprietary television program, “The Sustainable Region”, via a local cable television channel.