Kristin Catherwood, Intangible Cultural Heritage Development Officer
What does living heritage have to do with economic development? Heritage Saskatchewan is partnering with the Saskatchewan Economic Development Alliance (SEDA) in an innovative new project to spur communities into growing resilient and sustainable development. ThriveSask, inspired in part by the interest generated by the Main Street Saskatchewan program, is an initiative developed by SEDA to support communities in their wholistic, economic development goals. From the ThriveSask webpage:
"We acknowledge that ‘living heritage’ informs and motivates human behavior. It is the foundation on which development in any form is based; economic, individual, collective. As such, heritage will continue to be a catalyst for community and economic development in participating ThriveSask communities.
The ThriveSask Program features a collaborative approach to community and economic development by aligning existing services and programs provided by the public and non-profit sectors. It is inclusive to all communities, recognizing the vision and future for each community will be unique.We will strive to secure financial support from the corporate and charitable sectors for new technical and capital grants."
Heritage Saskatchewan is a partner in the ThriveSask program, and our role is to introduce communities to the concepts of living heritage, intangible cultural heritage (ICH), and help communities identity their unique heritage resources. To date, we have had two community engagements - in Gull Lake on April 16th and in downtown Moose Jaw on April 23rd. Co-facilitated by Verona Thibault, CEO of SEDA and Cherylynn Walters of Marieval Enterprises, and supported by partners Tourism Saskatchewan, Ministory of Parks, Culture, and Sport, and the Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation Association, these engagements were pilots in that we weren't quite sure what to expect when we began. How would communities respond to an economic development approach grounded in living heritage?
Since living heritage is "the foundation on which development in any form is based," I started off the engagements bright and early in the morning. With storytelling, a group introduction activity, and some basic introduction to the concepts of living heritage and ICH, we primed the workshop participants to begin brainstorming examples of their community's own living heritage. Using the five domains of intangible cultural heritage (oral traditions, social customs, rituals and festive events, performing arts, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe, and knowledge and practices concerning the production of craft), the community delved into its heritage.
From there, Cherylynn led the group through Strategic Doing™, ensuring that by the end of the day, the community would have a clear series of tasks and deadlines to propel projects forward and start to accumulate small successes that could lead to large outcomes down the road. Near the end of the day, we pulled everything back together with living heritage, referring back to the wealth of information brainstormed earlier in the day. With a strong foundation of heritage and identity underneath them, equipped with the tools of Strategic Doing, we asked, "how can these examples of heritage be utilized to further your community's interests?" This is where we take the intangible cultural heritage and envision ways it can be translated into real world. In this, the community often discovers ways in which living heritage is already being used successfully in the community, economically or otherwise.
Those present at the community engagement sessions seemed to respond positively and enthusiastically to living heritage. In a word, working with these concepts at a local level is fun! When people are engaged early on in the day, grounded in their community's particular values and connected to each other through their common living heritage, it becomes easier and more enjoyable to work together and envision practical, doable actions. Starting from the same place means that a community can move forward with a more articulate vision. Though our first two communities, Gull Lake and Moose Jaw, have very different goals, needs and capacities, both were able to leverage their living heritage to create workable strategies to propel their goals forward. We now eagerly anticipate the results of this living heritage based strategic doing!