- Gayle Baker
ASK Salt Spring: A Year in Retrospect
ASK Salt Spring
Neighbours Helping Neighbours Find Answers
A Year in Retrospect: October 4, 2021 - October 7, 2022
ASK Salt Spring, born with a big bang of a party on October 4, 2019, is now beginning its third year of weekly gatherings. Born from the clear frustrations experienced by too many when seeking answers to even simple questions, its mission is to give Islanders the opportunity to ask questions, listen to those of others, and engage in respectful conversations about the issues most important to them.
Our complex governance has resulted in confusion about who does what as well as too many areas of either gaps, overlap, or duplication. ASK Salt Spring is an attempt to bridge silos by providing a consistent place Islanders can come to get the answers they need.
While the heart of ASK Salt Spring is its weekly gatherings, the email option (email@example.com) is also heavily-used.
Reports of weekly gatherings are posted in the Salt Spring Exchange as well as on the Community Alliance website, (accessible through asksaltspring.com) and a growing mailing list. By this consistent flow of information, even those who have not participated in the conversations have the opportunity to gain information from them.
We were recently quite shocked to learn that over 1,000 read the ASK Salt Spring reports in the Exchange every week (!!!), a number likely increased as these weekly Local News articles are also included in the weekly Salt Spring Exchange Newsletter.
Regular special guests each week are:
- The first Friday of the month: MLA Adam Olsen
- Second: CRD’s Gary Holman
- Third: Islands Trustee Laura Patrick, and
- Fourth: Other special guests*
*This year these special guest have included RCMP Sargent Clive, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Area Manager, Owen: Emcon Roads Maintenance Manager, Andrew; our mental health professionals led by David; our Chamber’s Manager Alexander and President, Darryl; Workforce Housing Advocates Fernando and Tami, Candidates for Islands Trust and CRD, and the list goes on. . . .
COVID continued to present gathering challenges. When the October weather kicked us out of our beloved United Church Meadow, we moved briefly to the Library Program Room.
Alas, gathering restrictions tightened in November, forcing us to Zoom about until warm weather again allowed us to gather in the Meadow in June.
But. . . our reputation as the best traveling poker game in town, and the logistics making sure folks know where to find us each week may have finally ended: We have been able to negotiate the space in the Lobby of the Middle School during the cold months and the adjoining courtyard during warm weather. Wahoo!
We are thrilled and hopeful that
it can be our home for a very long time.
Despite the frustrations of continually seeking safe locations during our challenging times, ASK Salt Spring has offered 46 weekly gatherings this year, welcoming a total of 778 (duplicated) Salt Springers. (667 last year.)
So, What Happens Each Friday?:
Expected as a drop-in opportunity to get quick answers and leave, Fridays have evolved into a time for Islanders to gather, ask questions, listen to the questions of others, and participate in fascinating conversations. Surprisingly, many stay for the entire gathering - long after their question has been addressed - to listen and learn.
While it has become a running joke that most come only for the homemade chocolate cookies, respectful conversations seeking solutions have become the hallmark of each ASK Salt Spring gathering. Most prevalent topics have been concerns about roads, affordable housing, safety, health, and climate action.
Connections: One clear benefit of ASK Salt Spring is that islanders have the opportunity to meet regularly with their elected officials in a casual, conversational format. This interaction has clearly benefited our island both in giving us essential information but also getting our elected officials to listen to our concerns and advocate for those issues nearest to our hearts.
In addition to this clear benefit, a number of other strong connections - forged through face-to-face respectful conversations - have been established with groups as diverse as our Chamber of Commerce, Salt Spring Island Foundation, the BC Ferries Advisory Committee, Salt Spring Community Health Society, Salt Spring Health Advancement Network, Transition Salt Spring, our RCMP, BC Transit, and Emcon, our road maintenance contractor. . . to name just a few.
We are being franchised! Well, not really, but Adam has asked permission to use ASK. . . as he replicates our success in other communities throughout his riding.
We are also expanding through a partnership the the Chamber of Commerce and exploring evening, more casual mixers, and possibly even regional gatherings. Stay tuned. . . .
Our rental of the Lobby of the Middle School will result in some increased expenses, estimated to be $700 a year. While still a really great deal, fueled by volunteer enthusiasm, ASK Salt Spring has no regular income stream. Hopefully, that minimal income stream will soon be identified and can be part of our report next year :)
And, we have just begun!