UBC sociologist receives $1 million grant for long-term community development in six B.C. coastal centres

A team headed by UBC sociology professor Ralph Matthews will
partner with six B.C. coastal communities and the Coastal
Community Network of B.C. to help shape the social, environmental
and economic futures of these communities.

The Resilience and Local Capacity Development in B.C.’s
Coastal Communities project is funded by a $1 million grant
from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of
Canada (SSRHC) under its Community-University Research Alliances
(CURA) program.

“We want to bring UBC to these places and share expertise,”
says Matthews. “We don’t want to tell them what
they need. We want to give them a sense of what their alternatives
are and help them try to figure out how to develop within
the global world. It’s about generating knowledge.

“With this research, it’s not what we take away,”
says Matthews, “it’s to leave behind some capacity
and some ability for these communities to think about issues
of the environment, education, social and economic development
and about who they want to be 20 years from now.”

The multi-disciplinary team — which includes Bruce Milne,
the former Mayor of Sechelt and a representative of the Coastal
Community Network of B.C. — will spend five years working
with both the civic community and one or more neighbouring
First Nations bands in the communities of Sechelt, Port Alberni,
Port Hardy, Bella Coola, Prince Rupert and Massett. Research
themes include sustainability and environment, local governance
in a global world, local social and economic development,
and education, skills and knowledge.

The sociologist says community leaders have embraced the
project. In the initial research proposal, he quotes one municipal
councillor who said, “We’re on the operating table
— we need initiatives like this to work” and a First
Nations chief who commented, “What I’m hearing
[tells me] that you’ve come at the right time. My question
is — what took you so long?”

Building resilient communities involves addressing the twin
challenges of economy and governance in relation to community
values, needs, desires and resources. Matthews says a resilient
community is one that is able to direct its own resources
(human, material and social capital and natural resources)
to better the lives of residents and to act in the global

The project is one of six new community-based research projects
announced today by SSHRC. For more information, go to www.sshrc.ca.

Note to editors: SSHRC is an independent federal government
agency that funds university-based research and graduate training
through national peer-review competitions. SSHRC also partners
with public and private sector organizations to focus research
and aid the development of better policies and practices in
key areas of Canada’s social, cultural and economic