Building capacity
School aims at training community leaders

Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

FORT SMITH (Oct 25/99) - A new department of Municipal and Community Affairs initiative is helping community leaders learn the art of government.

It is called the school of community governance and it has been up and running for about three months, according to the school's executive director Dan Schofield.

"It's a framework for the training of community governments and community government staff people and organizations that support community governments," he said.

"It's capacity building in assisting communities where they want to go."

Schofield said the school supports evolving self-government because it promotes leadership skills that are applicable within different possible government structures.

School organizers are providing training in eight different areas: political development and governance, aboriginal leadership, community management, community administration, planning and lands administration, works and works management, public safety, volunteer and organizational effectiveness and youth leadership.

The school's senior researcher, Leonie Erasmus, delivered one of the school's programs in the area of aboriginal leadership and political development.

She worked with the Banff School of Management and delivered a workshop on negotiation skills in Fort Smith Sept. 27 through Oct. 1.

"We stressed an interest-based approach to negotiating instead of the positional approach," Erasmus said.

"A positional approach is when you go in saying, 'This is my approach and that's it.'"

She explained the interest-based approach with an example about a land-claim group claiming fishing rights in an area.

There would be different groups of people such as fishers, environmentalists, government and the aboriginal group, according to Erasmus.

"In this case study, the government is giving all these groups of people the option to come together on an agreement within, let's say, three days," she said.

"So everyone would have access to the fish and take into consideration the environment, the interest of the treaty rights of the first nations and the interest of the business people and so on."

At the Fort Smith workshop, the participants were joined by elder Margaret Kurszewski who similarly spoke about how to take people's interests into consideration instead of entrenching hard line positions.

The only critique of the workshop was that it was too short, according to West Point First Nation chief Karen Thomas.

"It should have been longer but it was worthwhile for a week," she said.