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Collaboration is the New Black

Posted March 10, 2019 by LSC

While not as trendy as the latest business buzzwords, collaboration, in its many forms, is the key to success for many non-profit organizations today. Learn how Land Stewardship Centre has taken collaboration to the next level, working closely with others to reduce overhead, leverage connections and increase impact.

New opportunity, new approach

For 23 years, Land Stewardship Centre (LSC) has embraced collaboration, recognizing it’s better to avoid duplicating efforts and, rather than reinvent the wheel, work closely with others to improve and roll the wheel farther along. For LSC, collaboration has traditionally consisted of sharing information and working with others on various projects and initiatives to achieve common goals. But in 2015, when fellow non-profit Nature Alberta was seeking a new Executive Director, an opportunity presented itself for the two organizations to work together in a unique and innovative way, and take collaboration to a new level.

A good fit

Recognizing a natural alignment between their respective visions and organizational mandates, LSC and Nature Alberta established a strategic partnership that enables more efficient and effective operations and management of both organizations through a shared-services model. Under this arrangement LSC provides staff, administrative, operational as well as strategic and program planning support to Nature Alberta. But both organizations remain independent entities.

“Nature Alberta had a need, and LSC had the resources,” explains Brian Ilnicki, LSC’s Executive Director. “Given the connections and networks we have in common, when the idea of sharing services was proposed, it made sense to both our boards to pursue the opportunity.”

No risk, no reward

Both organizations took a bit of a risk by trying something new to them. But, nearly four years later, it goes without saying this leap into the unknown has paid off for both LSC and Nature Alberta. With the ability to co-apply for grants, cross promote initiatives to elevate awareness, reduce operational and administrative costs, expand networks and more, the mutual benefits to each partner continue to accrue.

The success of this first shared-services partnership with Nature Alberta established a pattern that has sparked a flame. In 2017, a similar opportunity arose and LSC became the official secretariat of the Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity Network (ESBN), welcoming their current coordinator into the LSC family. Once again, LSC was able to offer seasoned management and operational support to help further the ESBN’s efforts to advance knowledge of ecosystem services and biodiversity, and the use of market-based approaches to enhance these services.

Most recently, in late 2018, LSC was engaged by the Beaver Hills Biosphere (one of only two UNESO biospheres in Alberta), to lend administrative, management and governance knowledge and experience to support, guide and elevate their efforts to advance projects and support partners’ efforts in the Biosphere.

Mutual respect, mutual success

It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention. Increasing competition for a shrinking pool of resources has non-profits thinking beyond traditional approaches and embracing inventive new ways to get things done. LSC has woven collaboration with like-minded organizations into the fabric of its daily operations and, together, all involved have become enhanced versions of themselves because of it.

LSC encourages others to look at collaboration with a unique and innovative lens as well. When there are limited resources available, it makes more sense to band together, because we truly go further – and accomplish more – along the way.

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” Helen Keller

Septic Sense: Keeping Up the Momentum

Posted January 15, 2019 by LSC

Septic systems may not be a great dinner party conversation, however, knowing how to manage and maintain your private sewage system is an important aspect of sustainable rural living. Educating yourself about how to properly care for your septic system preserves your property values and ultimately, ensures harmful substances don’t infiltrate Alberta’s groundwater or waterbodies.

A significant impact

The last Alberta census shows that rural residential landowners represent 14% of Alberta’s population, and many of those rural residents have private septic systems. According to Alberta Municipal Affairs, the average person puts 340 litres of sewage through a private sewage system (septic system) every day. For a family of four living in a two-bedroom house, that amounts to 1,360 litres per day and just under half a million litres per year!

Owners of private sewage systems are responsible for ensuring their systems operate properly and safely. The decisions of those property owners about how to manage and maintain their septic systems have the potential to have a significant cumulative effect on the Alberta landscape. Historically, there have been limited resources and support directed specifically to educating property owners on how to manage these important systems.

A successful start

In response to this need, since 2015, Land Stewardship Centre, in cooperation with the Alberta Onsite Wastewater Management Association, has been delivering the Septic Sense program. The Septic Sense workshop is a comprehensive information session, supported with take-home resources, that enhances local accountability for water resource management through education and engagement with landowners who have private wastewater systems on their property.

“Public education is an important component of a successful wastewater industry, and we are pleased to be a part of the process,” says Lesley Desjardins, Executive Director at AOWMA.

The highly successful workshop series has been offered in over 40 different municipalities across Alberta, reaching almost 2,000 people and has helped to raise awareness of responsible stewardship practices to realtors and landowners, alike.

Jeff Porter, Agricultural Fieldman with MD of Foothills has said there has been a lot of interest in the workshops from residents, because septic systems remain a mystery to many people who live on farms and acreages.

With funding and support from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, in 2018, LSC and AWOMA hosted 30 free workshops for landowners and Realtors in Alberta to better understand how to manage their rural property and mitigate negative impacts on the landscape from improperly managed septic systems. This support from AREF was crucial to delivering the workshops this year. LSC and AOWMA are very grateful to AREF for their support, and for seeing value in this educational initiative which has provided important information and resources to rural landowners, Realtors and municipalities across Alberta.

Looking forward

Now, with a couple of years of successful workshops complete, and a positive reputation in the community, Septic Sense has evolved and will now be offered on a cost-recovery (fee-for service) basis that will allow AOWMA to sustain the program in the future.

Going forward, AOWMA will continue raising awareness of best management practices to many more Realtors and Albertans, to create sustainable communities and foster a healthy environment. Please contact AOWMA directly if your organization or municipality is interested in hosting a Septic Sense workshop.

For more details about hosting and to schedule a workshop in your area please contact Sherri Hallett at the AWOMA office at or 780–489–7471.

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