Annual Retreat Helps Chart Path Forward for Partnership

By Alana Peterson


One key element to a successful partnership is communication. In the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, our partner organizations model deliberate communication that results in action. We meet on a monthly basis through Google+ video hangouts where we share ideas and information to strengthen our collaborative efforts. We also participate in daily dialogue on our Google+ community page. Our blog posts, emails, phone calls, and community visits all contribute to a network of individuals and organizations that are highly collaborative, sharing resources, and learning from each other along the way. Finally, we commit to communicating through in-person visits as frequently as possible and commit to two full partnership meetings twice a year (once in fall and once in spring).

This year’s autumn retreat took place in Hoonah, Alaska from October 3-7th. We used this time to develop year-long work plans for our individual and collective projects, learn about projects in Hoonah, and strategize ways to grow and strengthen the partnership in 2017.


Our retreat included a site visit to the new deep water dock and Icy Strait Point, a cruise ship destination that includes adventure options, a zip line, restaurants, a museum and shops. The group was not only inspired by the expansive project that is unique to see in a small SE village, but was also excited to learn about how cultural values and the community have been a priority through the development and implementation of the tourism site. Our group was led by a local Huna Totem shareholder, Brittany who started working at ISP as a ticket taker, and has moved up in the ranks to now working administrative functions in the office. It was clear she has pride in her work, and impressed our entire group in her knowledge and ability to answer all of our questions. We learned that decisions at ISP are made based on a filter of authenticity. Icy Strait Point was built to be as true to the culture and community it represents as possible.


We also spent time learning about the Hoonah Native Forest Partnership, a powerful new model for land management in SE Alaska.

The retreat also included a day-long workshop for community engagement. The workshop, led by Element Agency, gave each partner new skills and tools to plan successful community events such as meetings, workshops, etc. We put the new tools to use by planning and facilitating a community meeting in Hoonah. The goal of the community meeting was to introduce our partnership and outline the current projects in Hoonah. We then opened up discussion to the participants to learn about priority projects that the community has identified, and support those efforts through the SSP network. The meeting concluded with a beautiful performance from the Mt. Fairweather dancers who also prepared a tasty dinner for the event.


Other outcomes of this years retreat included a review of 13 successes from last year’s projects. Between all SSP partners, over 50 projects are taking place in 2017. A full list of those projects can be viewed by clicking here. The partners also dedicated four hours to identifying four priority areas to strengthen the SSP in 2017, they include:

(1) Promote the SSP collective impact model and Triple Bottom Line approach to economic development in each of our communities through direct outreach.

(2) Catalysts & Partners will engage the community, new partners and new demographics to increase community ownership of the Sustainable Southeast Partnership.

(3)  All partners will work towards making SSP self-sustaining by improving and implementing our metrics to communicate success for potential funders and by building capacity to fundraise within partner organizations (this includes capacity building activities).

(4)  All partners will demonstrate success in projects this year through strategizing community outreach through each communications output and achieving one clear project success in each community this year.


For each of these four initiatives, each participant wrote down one or two actionable steps they will take as individuals this year to move the partnership forward on each initiative. Though tired and drained from a long week of collaborative work, each partner left Hoonah reinvigorated and excited about the year of work ahead.

Community Catalyst Report: Sitka

I am fresh off of our trip to Vancouver for the Community Development coursework and looking forward to our SSP retreat this week. Here is a brief summary of some of the work and progress in Sitka!

• It looks like a tiny house with the UAS course is not in the cards this semester/year. There are several road blocks and issues at this time.However, I am partnering with the class to construct a new Visitors Bureau kiosk. So far we are slated to provide a portion of the materials through our project fundingI am also working with Pat to source as much lumber as possible through local millers. My goal is that we can also have some sort of interpretive signage and brochures at the kiosk highlighting the local materials. The structure will be about the size of a tiny home, so it is a nice compromise for now. I am meeting with instructors at the High School this week to revisit potential project options there. I also attended a meeting yesterday at the city with several community members interested in microhomes and affordable housing projects. I am hoping for two things: first some major policy changes that will facilitate future microhome projects, and second, a potential partnership with some of the attendees, SCS and Sitka High.

• Renovations are on-going at Sitka Kitch and we hope to have them wrapped up in the next two weeks or so. We are going to cap the Applooza event with a workshop on apple trees led by Jud Kirkness and help prepare a bulk order of fruit trees for interested Sitkans. The Sitka Kitch canning classes were wildly popular but we thought that the extension agent would only be able to travel once per year to communities. I have since learned that she may have received new grant funding for more travel. So I am hoping this will allow us to organize another set of canning classes, including the soups and sauces class that many participants expressed interest in.

• Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group: We had a quick meeting last night. It was sparsely attended, but there was a lot of updated information from the FS about the Kruzof Island restoration projects. Andrew was also able to share info about the TAC and remind people that they can attend the TAC meeting in November (19-21st) here in Sitka.

• As I mentioned, Alana, Lia, Adam, Bob and myself ventured to Vancouver last week with other to begin our course work. It was really interesting and eye opening, I am very excited about the programming. It was also nice to have a chance to get to know  other SSP partners better as well as other people working on similar projects throughout Canada. Over the next several months we will be attending classes online and working towards a better understanding of Community Development and what that means for our communities.

• Wilderness Kiosk in Petersburg: SCS partnered with the Petersburg district so they could take advantage of the National Wilderness Association’s kiosk grant program. We are administering grant funds and helping them source all of the materials for building a kiosk. They have ordered everything through Gordon Chew in Tenakee and will have high school students building a kiosk entirely of locally sourced Tongass timber.

• This week I will be attending the SSP retreat along with the other SSP partners. I am really looking forward to all the new momentum and spending time connecting with everyone!


What does it mean to be a Catalyst?

Why do we use the term “catalyst” to describe the staff positions within the SSP? Because the task of becoming sustainable is one that must be accomplished by a People, not just a few people. The SSP staff (Regional and Community Catalysts) are just a few people who, even as a group, are most likely incapable of making much of a dent in the region’s sustainability. Although it is imperative that we make meaningful and measurable contributions to community sustainability through the work we do, our overarching goal is to catalyze broader engagement in this work, particularly at existing organizations and institutions. This is the essence of “catalytic leadership” and toward that end we are working with communities by partnering with tribal and city governments, village corporations, community-based conservation groups, small businesses, etc. We are also working with regional partners such as the USFS, SEALASKA/Haa Aani’, the Southeast Conference, the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition, and others.

It is easy to get absorbed in the details of achieving the material objectives of our projects: getting solar panels installed, restoring salmon streams, supporting triple bottom line business development, improving access to locally grown and healthy foods, etc. These are solid goals for “catalysts” because the material outcomes of our work will serve to grow the sustainability movement by demonstrating the mechanics of success. But let’s not forget to keep our eye on the equally, if not more important social goals of relationship building, growing trust, cultivating a sense of optimism and self-reliance, etc.

Sustainable community development may not be so much an engineering problem as it is a process of social transformation. Conscious and diligent work on community engagement should be a core part of almost all the projects we work on. We will know we have begun to make progress on this front when we see more cities, tribes, businesses, state and federal government groups, etc. practicing sustainability thinking – when we hear community self-reliance, prosperity and resilience being discussed in our offices, schools, coffee shops and grocery stores, .

If you are already seeing signs of a sustainable community development movement in Southeast, tell us about it by leaving a comment below.

Strategy Blurbs

Strategy Blurbs

Community Engagement and Empowerment Strategy –

Engage and empower communities to collaboratively plan natural resource management (NRM) to meet community needs over the long-term. Use specific projects to engage communities in NRM and/or engage community-based collaborative groups in holistic visioning and planning processes.

Tribal Collaboration Strategy –

Collaborate with tribes and native organizations on projects that engage native peoples in promoting the Tongass as a native place and integrate the restoration of traditional and cultural rights and activities in public land management.

Capacity Development Strategy –

Work on community, agency and NGO capacity development by providing access to various forms of capital in order to implement people and place projects, such as, connecting people to money, community organizing skills, job-training, communication skills, resource management knowledge, political power, etc.

Demonstrating the Transition Strategy –

Use demonstration projects to promote changes in agency budgets, policies and institutional norms that can enable communities to develop sustainable, prosperous and resilient ways of life in the Tongass National Forest.

Sustainable Material and Economic Systems Strategy –

Implement projects that include long-term, community-based planning for food, shelter, energy, transportation, trade, etc., integrate robust accounting methods (e.g. triple bottom line and life cycle accounting) and consider the potential impacts of large-scale issues such as economic globalization and climate change. Create projects and implement activities that foster sustainable business and market development.

Ecological Restoration Strategy –

Promote and participate in ecological restoration by providing funding or in-kind resources, engaging communities in identifying priorities and planning for outcomes, increasing local capacity for conducting restoration work, engaging volunteers and youth populations, etc. Design activities to serve as a useful rallying points for broad-based collaboration, provide useful information to adaptive management and recognize the importance of the non-material and “healing” elements of restoration work.

Conservation Science Strategy –

This strategy includes activities that provide research results and analytical tools that can fill critical information gaps and be integrated into social, economic and cultural development projects. The Audubon/TNC Ecoregional Assessment for Southeast Alaska is a key tool in this effort.

Conservation Policy Strategy – 

This strategy includes activities that promote policies and changes to institutional norms that can serve to create an enabling environment for sustainable community-based natural resource management.

Monitoring, Education and Adaptive Management –

Develop projects that promote methods of “learning by doing” (e.g. multi-party monitoring) and connect to the spheres of education, resource management and a broad range of socio-economic values. Adaptive management and education activities should increase the capacity of social, economic and environmental systems to adapt to change by institutionalizing a process of continued learning that is transparent, credible, communicable and relevant.

Storytelling and Media Strategy –

Develop activities that report on People and Place projects in such a way that cultural norms and identities are actively transformed to embrace the balance of social and ecological sustainability, prosperity and resilience. Showcase successes but do not shy from ongoing challenges. Attempt to contribute to a holistic narrative on demonstrating a transition to a sustainable and vital society.

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