Minga Momentum - Building more resilient, self-sufficient and sustainable communities across Ontario

In March, I had the great opportunity to go to the IMPACT! Sustainability Champion Training. I started the weekend without a concrete idea of an initiative to start, I had a couple of ideas, but nothing yet defined. The first day I floundered a bit, not knowing how to best utilize the information coming at me without a clear project in mind to direct it into.

Then after lunch the first day came my AHA! moment where everything suddenly nestled together and I knew what I was there for. I am launching a community space for sharing traditional skills, craft and knowledge with a focus on returning to Waska Pimatisiwaywin (Cree meaning “circle way of being”) and sustainability through hands-on multigenerational and multicultural skill sharing.

The weekend training was perfect for me, as it guided me through the initial stages of dreaming big, and forced me to start building a foundation to support this dream. The energy, collaboration and support available at the workshop, and continuing afterwards continues to fuel and inspire me.

While bouncing ideas off other IMPACT! participants and community leaders in Guelph, it came to my awareness that Minga Skill Building Hub is an existing organization in Guelph running hands-on homesteading workshops that increase community self-sufficiency and resilience. I quickly got connected with Ami Dehne, the founder of Minga and began to talk about future collaboration. Ami then became my official IMPACT! mentor, as well.

Over the spring, we had a couple skype chats and figured out that I would be back in Guelph for the summer to intern with Minga. We dealt with the disappointment of not procuring funding and worked our summer meetings into my stone masonry and Ami’s parenting schedules.

I had a coaching session with Jonathan Wade from Social Delta in May, provided through the IMPACT! program, which was super helpful for reigniting my fire, and for guiding my next steps. I wish to engage and help bring positive reconnections between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples, so one of my biggest challenges is that I do not come from an indigenous background and absolutely need those perspectives and relationships if I am to succeed.

Jonathan encouraged me to make contact with the Wabano Center for Aboriginal Health to look for collaboration opportunities there. So I did just that. I met with Melissa Hammell, Director of Development, had a tour and introduction to the amazing work they do, and became a volunteer. Since then I have been growing relationships with wonderful people from many backgrounds and help at events and Culture Nights every Monday.

This summer, I moved back to Guelph to be close to Ami and invest all the time I could into Minga. I have been learning through doing; everything that goes into running a business with social goals, developing workshops and finding instructors, plus actually running the workshops. Working with Ami has been a deeply enriching and supportive experience. I think we both are deeply grateful for the chance to collaborate and take inspiration from each other as we work towards a common goal of resilient communities through self-sufficiency skill building.

Working with Minga has been eye opening for me, it demands I learn the behind-the-scene parts to running a business, such as website design, branding, figuring out the role of money, budgeting and much more.

Being supported by both Ami and Jonathan through running a business is probably the number one thing I have taken from IMPACT! I am also learning by taking a workshop all the way from start to completion: from finding an instructor, working with them to plan the workshop, doing blog posts and website blurbs, getting a workshop space, using Eventbrite to collect participants’ payment and helping to run the actual workshop.

The most recent, very exciting development in my work with Minga is that I will be taking a branch of it to Ottawa as I go back for school! I will be partnered with Minga in Guelph with the goal of growing more self-sufficient, sustainable and resilient communities across Ontario. We will share the same guiding principles, but will operate quite freely with different target audiences. I am thrilled and grateful for this opportunity to work in partnership with Minga, because it provides me with support and a framework while still enabling complete flexibility to run things independently. The partnership is mutually beneficial for Ami and me, because it brings each of us more emotional and problem solving capacity through collaboration.

I had another fantastic business coaching session with Jonathan to talk about questions relating to partnership with Minga; I can’t imagine doing this without him.

I am so excited to see what the next few months and years hold as this work I am doing continues to unfold and include more communities across Ontario. This is part of my life work, it will cycle and change, and I know where I am headed.

So, when you find yourself wishing for more hands-on skills like canning, paddle making or urban animal raising look us up at www.mingaskillbuilding.ca. We can’t wait to welcome you to one of our workshops!

Written by Amber Dyck

To learn more about the IMPACT! Sustainability Champions Training and to apply for an upcoming session, please visit naturalstep.ca/impact. Apply today to take your sustainability journey to the next level!