The Year That Was: 2023

A look back at what we’ve done in 2023.

Our approach to our work has always been how we can make an impact in long-lasting and effective ways.  We hold ourselves to high standards — how can we create better rules, better systems and better communities? 

Internally, that means we reflect to ensure that we’re putting our values into practice. This year, we decided to adopt a different way to assess our impact. 

We can provide the “numbers”, but those traditional metrics don’t tell us anything about the health and longevity of our change making approach. 

A previous boss told me, “You measure what you care about.”  Hence, we chose categories that provide us opportunities to provide traditional metrics, but also, capture the things we care about that we believe are key to our long term success — our sustainability, our presence, our relationships, and our power.

We thank each of you for coming along this journey with us.  We look forward to the amazing things we can do together in 2024 and beyond.

Margaret.

Headshotmargaret

Our Impact Metrics

  • Sustainability
  • Presence
  • Relationships
  • Power

Sustainability

Our Sustainability metric looks at how well our organization supports ourselves financially, emotionally and energetically, so we can be active long term and avoid collapse and burn out. 

We have three sustainability subcategories: financial, energetic and emotional.

Financial

In 2023, to support SCGC Financial sustainability, we:

  • Held a big fundraiser with Small Change Fund, Keep the Greenbelt Promise, and Gather, on October 28. This event featured Margaret Atwood, Sarah Harmer and other special guests, and raised more than $20,000;
  • Set up new processes to help fundraise with local groups, enabling more coordination of donations and less competition;
  • Devoted time to generate new and stronger relationships with funders, which should bear fruit in 2024;
  • Continue to develop alternative and diverse ways to fundraise, including merchandise promoting SCGC and watershed maps.

Energetic

In 2023, to support SCGC Energetic sustainability, we:

  • Invited our past members to renew their commitment and asked new members to officially join, within the development of a new (and still emergent) members services support program;
  • Launched in late October a new pilot program to help our member groups get some of the support they need via our new Member Services Coordinator;
  • Hired two student interns to support expansion of organization work capacity over the summer.

Our end of summer video, with our two student interns, Jules and Shaanthi. (Ben is behind the camera!)

Emotional

In 2023, to support SCGC Emotional sustainability:

  • Our Substack pieces in The Whale continue to address and share the feelings of being in activism;
  • Our Gathering Event and other social gatherings nourished connections, brought enjoyment to the community as a way to sustain hope and prevent burn out.

Presence

Our Presence metric looks at how well our organization has a clearly defined presence, one that is strong and notable and evident to others in the region and beyond. We have two subcategories under presence: media and community.

Media

In 2023, to support SCGC Media Presence, we had:

  • Strong media presence in Simcoe alone, with over 60 media mentions;
  • Presence on provincial and national media stage as well (TVO The Agenda Interview, investigative reports with Toronto Star, The Pointer, Narwhal and CTV National news);
  • Several Podcast guest appearances (Ballot Vox -Greenbelt, Ballot Vox- Enviro Concerns, What’s the Point), and Our Tree Planters podcast continues to explore important issues;
  • Continue to have strong social media presence on Instagram, YouTube etc.
  • We researched and provided media with stories that speak to public health, transparency and environmental concerns such as:
    • Through the Freedom of Information Act, we requested unpublished provincial documents showing the Bradford Bypass would be 8 lanes, not 4, as previously claimed by the government. Documents further underlined the fact that the concerns about water quality, climate change impacts, and air quality are not being taken seriously;
    • Created mapping and researched articles to summarize key issues for media that hadn’t yet been covered, including MZOs, air quality impacts of the Bradford Bypass and climate policy.

Community

In 2023, to support Community Presence:

  • Over a dozen guest speaker and moderator requests both locally and provincially, including at local rallies, local community groups and with provincial organizations such as Environmental Defence and Alliance for a Liveable Ontario;
  • Broadened and deepened our membership with local groups across the region, from Wasaga Beach to Bradford to Orillia to Midland and more, developing a more defined regional presence in all parts of Simcoe;
  • Deputed to various council meetings and a provincial committee, as well as provided Simcoe-specific feedback on public provincial processes that impact our water, sustainability, endangered species and climate;
  • Forged new partnerships with businesses in the area during our Margaret Atwood event.
  • Hosted two community organizers events (Springwater Park and Midhurst Church) to allow for casual, face to face interconnection and information sharing;
  • We created mapping on the air quality concerns around the Bypass and contacted local residents and businesses, alerting them to the impending health threats they could be facing;
  • Regularly contacted local MPPs to discuss critical issues such as Simcoe’s water supply, growth management, wetland policies and the Greenbelt.

Relationships

Our Relationship metric addresses the quality of a wide array of relationships, including governmental reps at all levels, our co-activists, the people working in our organization, member groups and volunteers, businesses in the area, and our accessibility and outreach to other and diverse groups.

Co-Activists

In 2023, to support SCGC Co-Activist Relationships, we:

  • Hosted Changemakers picnics in Springwater Park for a wide array of regional activists to socialize and meet other advocates;
  • Developed ongoing provincial activism connections including with Lead now, Environmental Defence, Ontario Nature, Reform Gravel Mining Coalition, Ontario Headwaters Institute, National Farmers Union-Ontario chapter, Ontario farmland trust, Keep the Greenbelt Promise, Alliance for a Liveable Ontario, and the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment;
  • Provided support for co-activists across the region whether that be speaking at events, lending A/V equipment, connecting them with experts and/or resources or providing advice and support.

Volunteer & Work Relationships

To support SCGC Volunteer & Work Relationships, we:

  • Held weekly check ins with key volunteers and staff to support well-being and work flow;
  • Use Slack communication to ensure efficient communication with each other and keep track of projects;
  • Offered flexible, work from home schedules which allow staff and volunteers to flexibly address personal/work issues as they arise including work load, emotional overwhelm, the need to support family, provide self-care, activism exhaustion etc. (This means sometimes plans change, or stop. Expectations are discussed and modified. Accommodations are made.) As a Living Wage employer, we ensure all staff (including youth interns) are paid a living wage and above the living wage where possible;
  • Held regular board meetings and encouraged active board members to communicate with one another, with their local communities and engage in local issues;
  • Several volunteers supported our Margaret Atwood Gathering event, for which we provided very clear roles, support materials, opportunities to meet as a team, and clear communication channels so they felt supported in what they were doing (and they did a great job! THANK YOU);
  • Provided volunteers of the Gathering event an opportunity afterwards to reflect on the experience and provide feedback.

Members Relationships

To support SCGC Members Relationships, we:

  • Are creating member profile pages on our website to show the amazing work member groups do;
  • Support member group events with free use of SCGC A/V equipment and Zoom account;
  • Continue to hold regular member updates and meetings to ensure common understanding and share successes;
  • Starting to develop more member support services, more of which will emerge in 2024;
  • Hosted online, in-person and hybrid action meetings for member groups so attendees, from across the region, could share ideas and support one another’s actions and activities;
  • Providing an end of year survey to our members with opportunity to reflect and provide feedback;
  • Worked with local member groups to fight MZOs, protect the Oro Moraine and opaque decision-making;
  • Initiated letter writing campaigns with member groups to highlight key issues in local media.

Business, Local Leaders, Diverse Relationships

To support SCGC Businesses, Local Leaders & Diverse Relationships:

  • With the Gather event had the opportunity to meet and support a variety of local businesses, such as The Roost micro-winery, PIE Wood-fired Pizza Joint, Miski Brewing, Bacchus Wine Academy, KnightVision Creative Agency and Bass Lake Farms;
  • Indigenous leaders such as Heather McIntyre and Jeff Monague provided music and leadership to the Gather event;
  • Our 2 Youth Advocacy Interns built promotional materials and youth engagement strategies;
  • We co-hosted a webinar with CAPE on air quality concerns, what people can do and how they should advocate for clean air;
  • We improved accessibility to events by offering zoom or hybrid options;
  • Attended a regional Roundtable on Truth and Reconciliation gatherings led by local Indigenous Elders and Senator Gwen Boniface.

Government Relationships

To support Government Relationships, we:

  • Worked with federal staff and MPs to discuss housing, protection of endangered species and local water sources;
  • Met with councillors and staff from across Simcoe educating and encouraging action on affordable housing, stopping sprawl, protecting water sources and climate action;
  • Contacted and met with local MPPs and provincial staff to educate them on Greenbelt policies, weakening of endangered species protection, wetland importance, needed climate action and stopping sprawl;
  • Provided educational briefs, expert resources and educational webinars with subject-matter experts on housing, protecting water, preserving farmland, stopping sprawl and the dangers of MZOs.

Testimonial

My employers, Margaret and Adam, must be among the most genuine people I’ve met in my entire life. It is so evident that they are incredibly passionate about what they do, and through this internship, they truly want to spotlight youth. It was the first time I was treated as an equal in a professional position—that I was not just learning from them, but they were also willing to learn from me. They made it known that I had something unique to offer, and never was I met with such trust and honesty before then.

2023, Youth Intern, Julie Nguyen

Our Power

Our Power metric looks at how well we enacted the above metrics within our infrastructure, in a streamlined, efficient and strategic way, to enhance our overall vitality and impact.

Vitality and Impact

Our vitality & impact was demonstrated by:

  • Our coalition is the largest and most diverse it has ever been;
  • Played a central role in winning the Greenbelt reversals – all lands are being returned to the Greenbelt!
  • 10/18 local councils across Simcoe County have a majority of councillors who have signed our Sustainability pledge;
  • Our input is sought out by local media, local councillors, and grassroot organizations across the region;
  • We met our fundraising goals for 2023;
  • Active participant on committees for Keep the Greenbelt Promise, Alliance for a Liveable Ontario, Ontario Greenbelt Alliance, Yours to Protect, and Coalition of Ontario Watershed Guardians;
  • Board members and staff are actively engaged in a variety of issues across the region with local and provincial groups:
    • natural heritage protection;
    • aggregate reform;
    • sustainable development;
    • source water protection;
    • MZOs;
    • transparent governance;
    • Lake Simcoe;
    • municipal environmental committees;
    • climate mitigation and adaptation;
    • and, sustainable transportation.
Bb Lorax

Board member, Bob Bowles, attending a rally to protest land-takeouts from the Greenbelt.

  • Organizing and attending rallies across Simcoe County to fight against Greenbelt takeout (Simcoe County was one of the most active regions – AGAIN);
  • Distributing over 2000 leaflets, organizing phone zaps and holding a Greenbelt town hall aimed at putting pressure on local MPPs to reverse Greenbelt takeouts;
  • Working with City of Barrie councillors to restore affordable housing policies and environmental protections in their planning documents (Official Plan).

Strategic Infrastructure

We strengthened our strategic infrastructure by:

  • Regular communication between all facets of the organization via diverse modalities, supporting smooth flow of many different actions;
  • Enabling and leveraging the adaptability of key members to allow for versatility to address pressing issues and quickly pivot resources;
  • Enhancing access to diverse knowledge and skills internally to allow for a broad base of activities to occur;
  • Prioritizing our humanity and the quality of our relationships to each other across diverse sectors strengthens our regional bonds and empowers our communal actions;
  • Planning a variety of well paced, regularly scheduled events over the year supports the consistency of our sustainability;
  • Having board committees work on strategic initiatives to build network resilience, depth and knowledge;
  • Participate in regular strategy sessions with other provincial organizations to ensure there is cohesiveness between provincial campaigns and local efforts;
  • Foster rich connections to professional planners, lawyers, strategists and leaders to build a greater depth of understanding of pertinent issues and ensure that our work is rooted in effective strategy and knowledge;
  • Maintain strong connections with investigative media teams and editors with local and provincial news outlets, ensuring we can get key issues the attention they deserve.

In Conclusion

Overall we feel 2023 was our finest year yet, supporting our sustainability (financially, emotionally, energetically) during some drastic and dire times, while maintaining and expanding our presence across the region, and nourishing a wide array of relationships and old and new friendships.

These vital components, along with our well honed communication and adaptive leadership structure, our skilled Board and growing member and volunteer base, mean we stand strong at the close of 2023, and we enter 2024 ready to refine and elaborate on these metrics, to grow in our capacity, our power, our communal vitality, even more.

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