Introducing the Fraser Fort George Outreach Program for local businesses

Posted on September 11, 2020

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Posted By Krystin Dubuc
Conducting an interview via videoconference.

Krystin Dubuc // Community Futures Fraser Fort George (with contributions from Amelia Merrick)

The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to place pressure on our local businesses and organizations, which will have longstanding consequences that are just starting to emerge now. To help understand these consequences, Community Futures Fraser Fort George (CF) has launched a new program designed to provide business support during the pandemic. 

The Fraser Fort George Outreach Program, with funding from the Northern Development Initiative Trust Regional Business Liaison program and Western Economic Diversification COVID-19 contribution, was launched on September 1, 2020.

This 12 month program will reach out to businesses and non-profit organizations in Prince George to uncover COVID-19 impacts on our small business landscapes. To build resiliency into operations and plans, the program will provide supports to reinforce economic sustainability and help them flourish. To complete this work, three Regional Business Liaisons will be working across the region. They will be connecting with businesses and organizations and collect key insights by asking four broad questions:

  • How did COVID-19 change your CONTEXT?
  • How did you RESPOND?
  • What SUPPORTS AND RESOURCES do you value? Which ones are less useful?
  • What MORE can be done so that businesses, non-profits, and communities can flourish and evolve?

Information and insights will help inform CF and other community partners as they plan future programming and supports for small businesses during and after the pandemic. To strengthen collaboration and capacity as CF continues to move into different phases of the pandemic, these findings will be shared with community partners throughout the process, and showcased at a Winter 2021 open forum. 

Amelia Merrick, the Regional Business Liaison for Prince George, will begin conducting interviews in September and continue throughout the year. If you would like to share your story with her, visit our website at www.cfdc.bc.ca or call the office at 250-562-9622 to schedule an interview.

Amelia Merrick headshot

A Q&A with Amelia Merrick, Regional Business Liaison for Prince George

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a picnicker!  I love to be outdoors, I love eating and I love to walk, which means Prince George is a great place to live.  Last year I bought my first pair of cross-country skis and though I had a few tumbles in the snow, I discovered my new happy place: sitting on the verandah at Otway during sunset, eating Homesteader’s sausages and drinking a Sugarbowl Pale Ale from Trench Brewery.  Now that’s a picnic!

More about me:  I am a BC girl, born in Rutland but I’ve lived around the world – from a small island in the Banda Sea, to the big city of Toronto and now I call Prince George home.

What kind of roles have you had, that have led you to the project?

I ask a lot of questions!  When I’m not working on this project I am conducting interviews for my PhD.  I am researching the school to work transition and hope to learn how we can better integrate young people into the labour market, in support of flourishing communities.

I’ve held a lot of different jobs all around the world.  I was the National Director for World Vision in Laos; together with 400 staff I worked towards child well-being – things like improving education, maternal health and clean water.   I was also the Operations Director in Indonesia, which meant I was among the first people on the scene of major disasters – like the 2004 tsunami and the Padang earthquake.   Before I got to Prince George I was the Director of Career and Experiential Learning at the University of Toronto.  We supported students as they asked big life questions like: What can I do with my degree? How do I get a job? How can I be of service to my community? Should I do more school?

What drew you to this project?

I believe we all thrive when our communities flourish.  I love that this project is using the real stories of our community members to figure out how we can make Prince George a better place to work, live and play. I recently moved to PG from Toronto and I know that it is sometimes hard to hear the voice of Northern communities amongst all the clamour of powerful businesses on Bay Street.  I am excited to work on this project because I am hopeful that with more data and stories, we can influence key stakeholders to consider the experiences of our Northern communities when they make decisions.

What can businesses expect during an interview?

It will be fun and useful!  We are talking about a tough topic – how COVID-19 has impacted us – but just because it’s a complex topic doesn’t mean we can’t have a good time. We have four main questions:  How did COVID-19 change your CONTEXT? How did you RESPOND? What SUPPORTS AND RESOURCES do you value? Which ones are less useful? What MORE can be done so that businesses, non-profits, and communities can flourish and evolve?  This is your chance to tell me your opinions… what you really think!    And because it is confidential you can say all the stuff you might not feel comfortable saying at a dinner party.

What will be done with the findings?

A couple of different things will happen.  First, we will provide you with a few resources or referrals that are targeted to your business or organization.  Right now we have a list of 117 different resources… and hopefully one of them will be useful to you!  Second, we will analyze your interview along with the other 159 to identify major themes.   All interviews will be confidential and businesses will be anonymized.  Each month we will share the major themes with key decision-makers and influencers in our region – like Shirley Bond and on https://cfdc.bc.ca/regional_outreach_program/. Third, we are going to host an Open Forum in January where we will share the findings with all participants and together we will prioritize steps forward.  Ultimately we hope that our findings will enable organizations like Community Futures, Tourism Prince George, and other organizations who support small businesses and non-profits, to respond to the real ideas, hopes and dreams of small businesses and non-profit organizations in Prince George.

About the author: Krystin Dubuc is the Projects Coordinator for Community Futures Fraser Fort George, which is an organization dedicated to supporting small business at every stage in the Fraser Fort George region with training, tools, and financing. Krystin supports businesses through special initiatives and community based projects at CF FFG. Krystin graduated from UNBC in Prince George and has a passion for community economic development. She enjoys exploring the region with her family and seeking out the perfect glazed donut.

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