The Culture of Partnerships

One of the reasons St. Andrews, Antigonish County enjoys ongoing community growth is partnerships that have evolved over the years. The community has seen several resurgences in its history due in part to its proactive adjustment to change. In the last century there have been iterations of this philosophy that has spurred demographic, economic, and community organizational growth. It was through the St. Andrews Co-Operative Store in 1936 that Group Hospitalization was first started in Nova Scotia and it was this plan that provided the foundation for the setting up in 1943 of the Blue Cross Hospitalization plan for the Maritimes. The idea for the St. Andrews Hospitalization Plan began about 1931 with parish priest Fr. John R. MacDonald; the St. Andrews Co-op store manager, Angus H. MacPherson; Mother Ignatius (Mary Catherine Floyd formerly of Springfield) Superior of The Sisters of St. Martha; Angus Bernard MacDonald of Glassburn, assistant director of St. F. X. Extension Department; and R. J. MacSween Director of Co-Operatives for Nova Scotia.

The influx of immigrants in the 1950’s revitalized the declining farming and resource sector and commenced the expansion to a more urban setting and service based centre in the past 25 years. This positive attribute was evident to the Coady International Institute who brought their “Mobilizing Assets for Citizen-Driven Development” course participants to St. Andrews to show them real examples of how a community has driven its own development. An example was the Fire Department outreach with Ground Search & Rescue and the Emergency Measures Organization and in the early 1990s helping the St. Andrews Softball Assoc. to raise $20,000 to put lights on the ball field. Around the same time community volunteers stepped forth to plan and construct a distinct Community Centre incorporating facilities for the Oak & Owl senior’s club; and ten years later a local Seniors Housing project. The Highlander Curling Club was similarly conceived and volunteer constructed, but servicing the broader Antigonish county community. In the spirit of volunteerism the Highlander CC plans were freely provided as well as additional organization input for the community based curling clubs subsequently constructed in Baddeck and Pugwash.

These successes are built on a set of values that puts a premium on self-sufficiency, community spirit, and care for others. By pooling resources, ideas, and talents, the people of Saint Andrews have built tangible community services that are unusual for a community of its size (1,100). Success has not only motivated the residents to continue with new projects, but has inspired confidence in local partners and investors, both in government and in the private sector. In 2008, inspired by a documentary film about St. Andrews, community members gathered to discuss possible new initiatives and how best to move these ideas forward. St. Andrews community organizations agreed to become partners in a new formal organization under the Registry of Joint Stock Companies called the St. Andrews Community Partnership Association. The 2009 Lieutenant Governor’s Community Spirit Award has since augmented those beginnings with the motto “the spirit continues…”

The Community Partnership was a concerted effort to bring a number of community organizations under one umbrella organization, enabling more cooperation and improving long term planning to engage the entire community in finding solutions to future challenges. In the past the community had come together for planning exercises such as the municipal integrated community sustainability plan and a community planning exercise. The strategic plan was developed through community consultations facilitated through mail-out & web based survey, neighborhood kitchen meetings and public meetings. The partnership’s goal was to give every community member ample opportunity to be heard and have their ideas recorded throughout the process and presented in the strategic plan. As a result of the partnership initiative, a community based strategic plan was coordinated involving the Antigonish RDA, Municipal Planning, Regional School Board and many informal community groups, as well as the 14 formal community member organizations.

The organization has enabled better communication and increased cooperation and collaboration among member organizations. Collectively, they have hired two summer students to be shared among the organizations over the summer. Also, the Partnership has initiated a community website, which is proving to be an excellent communication and organizational tool. The most recent initiative has been a Welcome Basket delivered by two partnership members to new residents of the community.