Program Manager Jessica Ferris shares her thoughts on ‘slowing down to listen and learn’ as MMDF’s ultra-productive team of just two staff moves into 2022 with a revamped website, online application tool, improved metrics collection process, and grant-writing support in place.

With 2022 well underway, the MMDF team reflected on our standout moments in 2021. Looking back on the experiences that stood out, we noticed a common theme – the most valuable experiences involved taking some extra time. This observation led to some important lessons for MMDF. And although these may seem like common sense, in the program management world (which is typically hyper-focused on activities, outputs and outcomes), these lessons deserve special attention.

Take time to visit, explore, and observe.

Hands down one of the most valuable experiences in 2021 was MMDF’s trip to Northern Manitoba. In late October 2021, the team hit the road and travelled to The Pas, OCN, Flin Flon, and Thompson. Having waited for a full year to meet many of our northern colleagues in person (due to the pandemic), the experience felt surreal.

There are more than 40 communities (towns, rural municipalities, reserves, and two cities) located north of the 53rd parallel in Manitoba, so our visit really only scratched the surface of experiencing northern Manitoba. Nonetheless, one of the most significant things we noticed was that each community was distinct with its own unique opportunities for economic development.

In The Pas, there was a friendliness that cannot be described in words. We talked with representatives from the Town office, toured UCN’s inviting campus, and learned about the many projects Paskwayak Business Development Corporation has on the go.

In Flin Flon, it was hard not to notice stunning topography characteristic of the Precambrian Shield. We toured the Northern Mining Academy, Hudbay Minerals, Community Futures Greenstone, and City Hall. Mining runs deep in Flin Flon’s history going back to when Hudbay was founded over 90 years ago. Evidence of that history characterizes this city, along with a creative and innovative spirit exhibited by places like the Uptown Emporium run by the Flin Flon Arts Council and The Hub located out of Community Futures Greenstone.

Last we visited Thompson, the hub of the North. Starting at City Hall we met with tirelessly dedicated community leaders who spearhead many of Thompson’s economic development projects such as the Winter Weather Testing Center for Excellence. We toured the city with Community Futures North Central Development and learned all about the city’s history with INCO, Vale, and surrounding communities.

We visited the stunning UCN campus and impressive Thompson Regional Community Center. In all the places we visited we saw evidence of the importance of the relationship between community and industry, and of the ongoing work that goes in to fostering relationships that create mutual benefits.

Take time to have conversations.

Some of our most valuable experiences in 2021 resulted from conversations with northern organizations and institutions. Through these conversations emerged exciting projects like a marketing project with business students from University College of the North (UCN). MMDF benefited from the work of a skilled group of Marketing Management students who designed a marketing strategy for our organization. Our discussions with the group were tremendously valuable, and MMDF will be implementing many of their strategic recommendations in 2022 as a result.

Take time to be curious.

When we look back, having curiosity and asking questions has added so much value to the MMDF team’s experience. There are a number of innovative projects happening in northern Manitoba, all of which are examples from which to learn. Projects like CEDF and BitSpace Development’s virtual mining training for youth, the Uptown Emporium, the Hub, and the Information Technology Readiness North (INTRN) program run out of UCN’s campus in The Pas are just a few examples.

Almost a month into 2022, MMDF’s team is already busy with application reviews, project meetings, drafting agreements, and report writing. Speaking in the words of time affluence hero, Idler author Tom Hodgkinson, “When people say, ‘I just don’t have enough time, they mean, I prioritized something else.’

In 2022, the MMDF team aims to prioritize the things we saw value in last year, to create more experiences that matter – and most importantly, to take the time to talk, explore, learn from our community, and celebrate successes.