Indigenous Practice in Alberta Growing
We were recognized with 2015 Aboriginal Relations Best Practice Award of Distinction
Our work with indigenous communities in Alberta has been steadily growing for many years and over the last five years in particular, haves seen significant growth.
Alberta is home to 45 First Nations and 8 Métis Settlements and we are proud to be working with many of these groups on a variety of projects, from helping develop infrastructure to community planning, engineering, land development and more.
The team was recently honoured with the 2015 Aboriginal Relations Best Practice Award of Distinction. This award from the Alberta Chambers of Commerce recognized Alberta businesses working with First Nations and other indigenous communities in the province. Judges said they appreciated the diversity of Urban’s practice and the impact it is delivering through services with these communities.
We chatted with team members Darryl Lagerquist, Chad Fletcher, Brian McCosh about what makes First Nations work so interesting and rewarding, and about why the relationship between Urban and indigenous communities is flourishing now more than ever.
Word of Mouth and A Holistic View
Today Urban is a natural choice for indigenous groups looking for expertise, but in the beginning things grew slowly and steadily and it was about building an Alberta practice. The company was intentional about not being afraid to take on small projects as a way to get connected with communities and build relationships and trust. As a result, much of the strong growth in this sector has been due to word of mouth referrals.
“It’s clear that word of mouth is very important in this market,” says Brian. “We would work with a community that might know or have a connection with another community, and eventually we’d be introduced to them.”
Another key element that has helped differentiate Urban has been a dedication to seeing the bigger picture and respecting each community’s own vision for their future.
“We are not coming in to try and implant a vision,” says Brian. “What we want to do is talk with communities and find out what their vision is and find ways to help them achieve that. We’re in it for the long haul with these communities and we truly want to help build their capacities so they can succeed.”
Chad is quick to point out that Urban works in teams that are fluid and based on bringing the best possible set of skills available to the table. Although he Darryl, and Brian have client focused roles, the majority of those in their office have the opportunity to work with these communities if they are interested—there are no siloed teams.
“We pull expertise from wherever it makes the most sense,” says Chad. “We partner with architects and other professional service types and we use all the expertise in our own office. It’s about what the client needs and about being nimble.”
When asked what the unique aspects of working with indigenous communities are, Darryl is quick to point out that every community is different, but that one quality they share is a sense of environmental stewardship.
“They are leaders in my opinion. They are stewards of environment and supportive of renewables.”
Looking to the Future
Darryl believes that in the next five to ten years First Nations will be working hard to create alternative revenue sources in order to be self sustainable. “There is only so much money in the Federal pot that gets transferred down, and we’re seeing a lot of interest in capacity building and improving communities. Projects around renewable energy also are ramping up as a way to build capacity and manage high costs of bringing energy into remote areas.
In it Together
Darryl says he also notices that the community at large is also becoming more and more interested and aware of First Nations communities and how they fit into the fabric of Canada.
“I encourage people to continue to be curious and aware. There’s a high probability that there is a nation not far from your home, ask yourself, what do you know about it? Are you living in treatied lands? Do you understand your role as a Canadian as it pertains to treaties? This is a fascinating area and there’s so much to learn. As awareness continues to grow and develop, more and more good things are happening.”
Are you curious to learn more about our Indigenous Communities project work? There is a lot going on! Visit our Projects page here, urbanblair.wpengine.com/projects/ and select the “Indigenous Communities” heading