Aboriginal Social Enterprise

In our traditional model of trade and commerce our land and resources provided people with food, shelter, clothing, sustenance, and wealth.  In the Haisla method, under my tenure as the elected chief councillor, the concept of our lands and resources ownership and stewardship is grounded on our Wai wais and Bagweas.

The Wai wais and Bagweas is a stewardship area and each one is clearly delineated with female and male stewards named and titled appropriately.  Cultural resources, resources that are part of our daily lives and cultural identity, are site-specific.  Meaning that each Wai wais and Bagweas has general and specific cultural resources that they are known to possess. Our family units once managed the lands and resources to the benefit of families.

In Haisla Nuyem, sometimes referred to as Haisla law, the Wai wais and Bagweas are very well defined and the process for passing the names and titles from one generation to the next is also very well structured.  As part of the traditional practices the resources of the Wai wais and Bagweas are meant to be shared within the family, clan, community, neighboring villages, and visitors.  However, since the imposition of the Indian Act, residential schools, and the arrival of European culture there has been a great departure from what the true nature and value our resources.

In response to the need for a modern version of trade and commerce, the second generation of the Qooluun economic model was greatly defined through consultation and accommodation processes. That led to the Impact Benefit Agreement being the chosen legal instrument to capture interests.  In the previous model, the 10 elements were our equivalent to Maslow's hierarchy of needs with the intention that the modeling and opportunities would eventually lead to positive change.

The intent and vision was for the initial round of development to allow our membership to access employment and career development while introducing them to life-changing experiences.  The introduction of steady employment, in direct contrast to being on social assistance, was meant to enable people to remove their own barriers associated with chronic unemployment, lack of academic standing, and lack of experience.  It was my hope that many people would not want to return to a life on social assistance and we would use the construction phase to begin the process of introducing accredited career path development.

In addition, the intention was the separation of business and politics as a way to ensure that the right to employment and wealth creation was not associated within the exclusive domain of the elected chief and council.

In hindsight because our starting point was poverty, chronic unemployment, lack of academic standing, lack of skill transference, and addictions it became clear there was a great need for the basic premise of First Nation economic development to be changed.  We just did not have the capacity to completely separate business and politics.

In response to the realization about the lack of capacity to develop integrated approaches to meaningful capacity building, the third-generation of economic modeling began to take shape through my work with the Nuxalk, Corix Utilities, and Nexen.  The latest edition titled "Qooluun Aboriginal Social Innovation" came to light in relation to the direct experience in political, environmental, and management experience and it a hybrid that combines the corporate, social enterprise, and cultural values as the core business model.

Social Innovation has been around in some form or another for quite a while.  However, in respect to First Nations the practice is deep-rooted within our communal perspective of our lands and resources and is grounded on Haisla Nuyem.

In most circumstances First Nations, corporations, and the crown roll the dice on how to introduce programs that will lead to a drastic change To Our current status.  In most circumstances the result has been disastrous as evidenced by the academic failure, chronically high unemployment rates, poverty, addictions, housing crisis, water treatment crisis, waste-water treatment crisis, and over-representation in the criminal justice system.

Successful First Nation economic development requires recognition of the historical trends that have been major hurdles to success, exist and must be dealt with. Once that acknowledgment is present the next step is the development of corporate policy to deal with the substantial issues. From policy, the shift must turn to program development that is based on the honest look in the mirror. The next step and hardest to manage is implementation strategy.

You cannot leave change management as it relates to First Nations to chance or choice because it is too easy to avoid the difficult decisions and allow the status quo to remain.

Generally we know what we do not want but we cannot describe in great detail what it is we want.  So we start with the premise that we do not want what happened in the past.  That is the Qooluun starting point.

In the Qooluun Aboriginal Social Innovation model, the elements ladder off the modern version of trade and commerce and builds structure, policy, and programming to address the inherent gaps in the status quo. Instead of the rolling dice, the Qooluun approach is to recognize that every organization has limitations on its resources. Therefore strategic partnerships are essential to breaking away from the current status quo. Under the social envelope there are a lot of possibilities to use band council resources to make the employment and career path development integral to the business units and strategic partnerships in a very cost effective and efficient manner.

Change happens when an integrated approach to development is planned and organized.

Certainty can only begin to form when risk is managed. When risk is managed certainty can begin to be less fluid and more solid. In respect to reconciling Aboriginal Title and Rights to Crown and Corporate interests has a checkered history. There is a right way to develop a solid foundation for certainty, however, the future can only be built from a strong structural foundation.

At Qooluun we take our cue from past experience, we introduce Richard Rumelt's Proximate Objectives and community consultation to define the outcome desired.  We then craft structure, design policy, and develop programs that collectively become the strategic road-map to achieving the desired outcome through partnerships.

The Qooluun Aboriginal Social Innovation is the realization of a deep understanding of the common threads between First Nation individuals and their families, their communities, and their lands and resources; their relationship to the people and communities outside of the reservations.  The three envelopes allow structure, policy, and programming to take shape; allows the common thread to connect the opportunities; provides Qooluun with the ability to build on the Social Responsibility platform. Social Responsibility is another natural connection between First Nations, the crown, and corporate Canada.

At Qooluun we take our Social Responsibility lead from the late Peter Drucker: "...it is a management responsibility to deal with societal ailments because we operate in the community and we need to hire healthy productive human beings in order for our enterprise to succeed. Management has the best chance at successfully dealing societal ailments because it has the resources and can develop structure, and apply measurement on success. The optimum management solution is to make societal ailments into a business proposition..."