I) LETTER OF INVITATION to the Network for Creative Change List Serve
II) BEGINNING THE DIALOGUE - an Introduction to the Network for Creative Change [NCC] List Serve By Janet Eaton & Marion Pape, founding members of NCC  
III) THAT CERTAIN POINT: Beyond the Limits of Community Economic Development By Silver Donald Cameron


Many of you receiving this invitation asked us to keep you posted about developments within the Network for Creative Change. We are now ready to launch our new website and list serve.

We encourage you to join the listserv and become part of an important new dialogue about how systemic change can enhance our lives, communities, workplaces and the future in general. Please invite other Nova Scotians, who might share this perspective on the need for creative systemic change, to become part of this dialogue too.

To subscribe to the Network for Creative Change List Serve Send an e-mail message to

Leaving the subject line blank type the following in the message space Subscribe netcc and your emailaddress e.g. subscribe netcc

The new website where you will gain further insights and understanding about systemic thinking, systemic perspectives, and systemic change can be found at:

All the best, From the Planning Group of the Network for Creative Change, Janet Eaton, Ariel Harper, Peter Morgan, Marion Pape, Len Poetschke, Juan Tellez, & Joan Waldron,

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By: Janet Eaton and Marion Pape, Founding Members of the NCC 

Welcome to the Listserv for the Network for Creative Change!

We invite you to join the dialogue as it unfolds. Please read on to the end and send us your insights on any of the questions posed!

The speed and scope of societal, economic and biospheric change is unprecedented in human history. Nova Scotians, like other Canadians and people all over the world, have felt the impact of these dramatic global changes that are transforming the world as we once knew it. The restructuring of our public systems - health, education, and social services; the shift from national to a global economy with its many impacts; income disparities resulting in large concentrations of wealth in a few hands are some of the many visible signs. Others include the emergence of new value systems or reversion to old ones; political change; and new forms of cultural expression.

Individuals, communities, governments, institutions, businesses - all have been forced to try to comprehend, adjust to and take part in the changes and many are trying to envision and create possible new futures. The Internet is an important tool which allows people to understand and engage in change in new "creative " ways.

The Network for Creative Change:

The Network for Creative Change is an electronic Network made up of individuals and groups with a common interest in "systemic change". By "systemic change" we mean change that is based on a systemic perspective that views the world as interconnected parts of a greater whole. Knowledge is interrelated; intuition is as important as reason; and everything is seen in relationship rather than in isolation. Certain general principles of systems are common to all disciplines and spheres of human activity.

This view stands in sharp contrast to the older, mechanistic and reductionist way of thinking which focus upon rational "quick fix" solutions from single disciplines or perspectives. This older perspective has led to social and economic breakdown and environmental degradation -- in short, an unsustainable way of life on this planet.

Through this Network we intend to reach out to citizens and communities across Nova Scotia and beyond, in order to gain a greater understanding of "systemic change" and to help us make needed changes in our own lives, communities and workplaces.

The Listserv:

The Listserv will allow Nova Scotians in both rural and urban communities to exchange ideas about issues - technological, economic, political, social, cultural, educational, and environmental- vital to understanding the systemic shifts occurring in today's world. The Listserv can also be used to make announcements and to offer resources and references related to systemic change.

This Listserv is unique in its application of systemic principles and thinking, as well as in offering the related references and resources found on the accompanying website. [ See end of this Introduction for website address ]

By participating in the dialogue we will all have an opportunity to learn more about how "systemic change" relates to what we know, what we've experienced, and how we do things. We hope that everyone involved will share their knowledge and experience with others as we relate the concept of systemic change to applied ecology; participatory democracy; citizenship; organizational change; community development; emerging trends in health care; globalization; Y2K etc.

This listserv will also be a forum for dialogue on governance and citizenship in the global era. Do we need new forms of global and local citizenship with new kinds of responsibilities to balance the disturbing trends which place economic and corporate interests above the public good? Issues like the Multilateral Agreement on Investment [MAI], global economic disorder and the Y2K bug are already catalyzing dialogue in these arenas.

The Listserv is meant to be self-organizing. We hope that it will evolve and grow from the ideas and interests of participants. To begin that process, we have asked several Nova Scotians to provide short background papers on a number of relevant topics: Silver Donald Cameron will introduce the subject of community economic development; while Peter Morgan, Len Poetschke, Brenda Montgomery and Gordon Michael respectively will provide insights on the information highway, new forms of governance, community health and community education. Topics will change every three or four weeks depending on levels of interest. Each guest author will be on-line along with founding members of the network to respond to comments and questions and to facilitate dialogue


To begin we suggest that people introduce themselves informally, explaining what they do and why they are interested in creative systemic change. We've offered some questions to start the dialogue, but please jump in with your own questions and insights.

* To what extent are we already involved in systemic change - in our own lives, communities, workplaces and globally? Can you offer some examples?
* How does creativity relate to a systemic perspective?
* What do we mean by systemic principles and systemic thinking?
* From monoculture to organic farming - is this what we mean by a systemic shift? What are some other examples?
* From GDP [Gross Domestic Product] to GPI [Genuine Progress Index ] - is this a tool for systemic change?
* Is Nova Scotia poised to become a leader in systemic change for the 21st century? How?

Before you begin your first postings we recommend that you visit the NCC Website to read through the Welcome message as well as the section on "What is Systemic Change?" Our NCC website has been developed as a premier resource for learning more about systemic change.
The address for the website and the list serve address for posting messages are found immediately below.

Network for Creative Change
      List Serve:
"Do not wait for leaders, do it alone, person to person."
          -- Mother Teresa


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THAT CERTAIN POINT: Beyond the Limits of Community Economic Development by Silver Donald Cameron

"If the village can do all that for itself, where does that leave us?"

The speaker was Chief Secretary of a state in India, but the question exposes the worst fears of the governing class in every setting. Suppose the student, the child, the citizen or the village really did become fully competent and self-sufficient. Why would they then need the teacher, the parent, the government? As one of the most effective workers in Development Isle Madame remarked, "the government doesn't want us to succeed beyond a certain point. If we do, they won't be able to control us any more."

That "certain point" defines the present boundary of the possible in terms of community economic development (CED). If CED means anything, it means that communities develop themselves, setting their own goals, developing their own strategies, building their own understanding, expending their own sweat and money and reaping the rewards or suffering the consequences accordingly. The more they succeed, the more self-confident and independent they will be - and the less inclined to take direction from anyone else, including government.

But government cannot ignore CED. Global capitalism is concentrating power and wealth in fewer and fewer locations, and small communities are being sucked dry in the process. CED is the governmental flavour of the moment for showing concern about their plight. Yet serious CED means taking power and money away from government and giving it to communities, with very little central control over how they use it. If the communities fail, the government takes the heat; if they succeed, the communities take the credit. Scary stuff.

In short, CED is a highly desirable thing until it happens.

The simplest way to ensure that CED will appear to be happening, while ensuring that it can't, is for the government to define loosely-delimited phantom communities, like "the Strait of Canso," and then underfund government-created organizations to serve these baggy ghosts. Meanwhile, of course, the genuine communities inside the phantom's boundaries can't be supported -- because they're already "covered".

I'm being deliberately provocative, and will continue in that vein - but really, how else can one explain the struggles of Development Isle Madame Association? Here is a little organization - three or four young, energetic workers and a volunteer Board - serving a tightly defined community. (Islands are always tightly defined communities. Every island is "The Island" to the people who live on it.) DIMA grew out of Isle Madame's alarm at the probable impact of the fisheries collapse - the loss of 500 jobs in a workforce of 1500, with consequent social breakdown and out-migration. The organization has created a couple of dozen jobs itself, and has been instrumental in the creation of more than 100 more. And good jobs, too, which meet DIMA's criterion of "decently-paid full-time permanent employment comparable to the fishing-industry jobs which have been lost." Real jobs, not statistical extrapolations, PR inventions or pointless make-work projects. You can go to the fish farms, the TV studio and the call centre and talk to the people who hold them.

This is a far better job-creation record than any but a few of the carpet-bagging companies which have been lured to Nova Scotia by multi-million-dollar grants. Without DIMA, many of the island's employees and micro-entrepreneurs might well have been on social assistance, which means that DIMA's work saves the senior governments several hundred thousand dollars annually. The whole enterprise runs on about $60,000 a year -- less than the salary of a single bureaucrat. And yet DIMA constantly struggles to stay alive, leaping from one patchwork grant to another, like a child jumping the ice floes in a harbour. Without the passion of its young workers, it would long since have died.

Meanwhile, in nearby Port Hawkesbury, the Strait-Highlands Regional Development Agency has six employees, but it faces an utterly hopeless task: that of job-creation in a three-county area covering 7600 square kilometers, where the people speak three different languages and have no sense of themselves as a coherent community. It has been through three mandate changes since its creation. Its staff members may have to drive an hour and a half simply to attend a meeting. The RDA can be supportive and helpful, and it has some excellent people. But its structure means it can never be effective in direct job-creation. Yet it is solidly supported by government, and has about six times the budget of DIMA.

Port Hawkesbury is also home to the Strait East Nova Community Enterprise Network (SENCEN), a partnership between three Strait-area RDA's and the Strait Regional School Board. Since it operates at an even higher level of abstraction and covers an even more unwieldy area than the RDA, it receives - through project funding as well as core funding - even more money. Depending on how much project funding is included, SENCEN has a budget between half a million and a million dollars. But can such a sprawling, clumsy mechanism ever generate even a single job?

Interestingly, SENCEN shows signs of becoming an attractively subversive organization. Its mandate includes the introduction of information technology (IT) into the everyday lives of the people in five counties, and it is largely responsible for the fact that the Strait area has more Community Access Projects (CAP sites) than the entire province of Saskatchewan. As a result, people living in such hamlets as Pleasant Bay, Upper Big Tracadie and New Harbour have cheap, convenient access to the Internet. It becomes possible for Pleasant Bay and New Harbour, which are at least half a day's drive apart, to exchange ideas and experience, to learn from one another, to lobby jointly for necessary change, and to do business anywhere in the world. Indeed, the French community of St. Joseph du Moine and the Scottish community of Johnstown are already using their CAP sites to swap ideas on the development and marketing of cultural products - masks in Ste. Joseph du Moine, Highland milling frolics in Johnstown.

The result of this electronic web may prove to be a new form of community - a electronically- facilitated "virtual" community made up of existing physical communities. And SENCEN would then be a key part of the infrastructure for a new economy.

"My hope is that the CAP sites will become places of work," says SENCEN project director John Ouellette. He foresees SENCEN itself being absorbed back into the school board, while its development work gets spun off as a profit-seeking company, Spinnaker Solutions. Spinnaker, in turn, would bid for IT contracts, and sub-contract the work to self-employed people in its network. Some may work from home, but others will use CAP sites. In addition, the CAP sites will reduce capital costs for self-employed IT workers by making it possible to share services -- telephone answering and bookkeeping, for instance -- as well as such expensive, rarely-used equipment as scanners, colour laser printers and professional-quality digital cameras. SENCEN will provide also technical support to both CAP sites and home workers, which it is already doing for the school board, and increasingly for other organizations.

This is an appealing model of rural development, preserving the present high quality of village life while enabling villagers to thrive in a sophisticated global context. That's not today, however; that's tomorrow. And that model itself relies on skilled, entrepreneurial people living in vibrant communities - the people who are growing under the shelter of the DIMAs of the province. All the things we might do to extend CED are worthless unless we have strong CED going on in the first place. If Johnstown and St Joseph du Moine had no projects or ideas, there would be no point in linking them.

Truly dynamic CED starts with a conversation among neighbours at a kitchen table, or at a Legion, or sitting around on a wharf. We got a problem, we gotta do something. Yeah. What could we do, who could help? That conversation germinates a seed, and perhaps generates a small green shoot. Often the shoot withers and dies. But sometimes it takes hold and grows into an ever-sturdier plant. The vital need at this moment is to fertilize and water such green and growing plants. At the moment we aren't doing it very well.

Reward success. Learn from failure. Isn't that the way we make things happen, in any walk of life?

Silver Donald Cameron
D'Escousse, NS
B0E 1K0
(902)226-3165    fax (902) 226-1904

Silver Donald Cameron is a well-known author, and writes columns for both the Halifax Sunday Herald and The Globe and Mail, often on social and political issues. He is deeply involved in community economic development on Isle Madame in Nova Scotia, and currently serves as chairman of Telile, the unique community television studio in Arichat, NS, and as a member of the Board of Development Isle Madame Association (DIMA). He was keynote speaker at the recent Community Economic Development Awards ceremonies, at which DIMA was a finalist in five of the six categories, and won the award for greatest contribution to economic growth.

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