Wood Buffalo Blog

Wednesday, May 21, 2014 - 07:59

Guest Blog by Brandi Gartner, Oil Sands Community Alliance, Fort McMurray

Self-reflection - In some cases, this is a simple concept and is a personal experience.  I have learned that incorporating self-reflection into my own experiences, both professionally and personally, allows me to get a sense of what is happening around me.  It is a safe process for me, because it allows me to be honest and genuine with myself without fear of any unforeseen external responses.  It helps me to feel confident in taking the next steps that may include asking others for their feedback and, more often than not, asking for help when I realize that I am stuck spinning my tires on an issue or challenge.  It is a process that I can work through personally at my own pace by exploring my own observations.  As I get older, and hopefully wiser, I also realize that it is one of the most important processes allowing me to move forward and grow as an individual.  Why? Self-reflection is the only way that I can “check in” to my personal goals and recognize whether I am happily on track or struggling in left field.


So, what happens if we take this process to the community level? The expansion of self-reflection into a communal process brings in a higher level of complexity.  It may become less safe because it opens the process to many individuals who have varied experiences.  It becomes a communal experience of courage that as it requires honest reflection on how we feel we are doing as a community. There is always the potential that it will draw attention to some areas where we may not be excelling, and that is scary concept.  At the same time, it allows us to get a sense of our community strengths and gives us direction on where we can make great improvements.  The process is different when we move from individual self-reflection to a community level, but I think that the benefits are just as beneficial … perhaps more because the results impact hundreds of families and organizations. If a community is strong enough to be self-reflective, it becomes more effective in identifying common goals and unifying their energy in moving towards those goals.


Our community has decided that it is strong enough to be self-reflective.  We are working together to complete a Community Well-Being Survey this spring, which allows us to take a collective moment to reflect on how well we are in Wood Buffalo. The information that we gain from this process gives us the opportunity to “check in” as a larger community and recognize how we can continue to build ourselves as a resilient region. One of my most important values is being part of a strong community. By participating in the Community Well-Being Survey, my community is showing its commitment as a resilient and self-reflective region that cares about our future.


Brandi Gartner

Oil Sands Community Alliance

Oil Sands Community Alliance logo


To learn more about the survey, visit: http://socialprosperity.ca/look-wood-buffalo-community-wellbeing-survey

Friday, May 2, 2014 - 12:57

By Nancy Mattes, Director, Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo

A group of community leaders are working with the Canadian Index of Wellbeing to conduct a communty wellbeing survey which starts on May 3rd and runs through to June 20th.  The purpose of this survey is to gather information on community wellbeing to help decision-makers better understand needs and issues related to quality of life.  Where are people struggling?  What's contributing to wellbeing?  The survey is like a community check-in, giving residents an opportunity to comment on their life in Wood Buffalo.  The results will help community leaders change the conversation from focusing on sickness to focusing on wellbeing.  They will also enable community leaders to work together towards improving quality of life outcomes for all.

Earlier this week, I was asked to fill out the "Look into Wood Buffalo" Community Wellbeing Survey to help test the process before going live.  I was eager to take part, wondering what the online survey would look like and how I would feel about the process.  Before I started, I poured myself a nice cup of coffee, did a few stretches and settled down to my computer.  When I typed in the website address and entered the code, it was thrilling to see all the partner logos at the top of the screen. Yes, I was at the right place and here were the survey questions!

Although I wasn't expecting it, the survey provided a nice opportunity for me to reflect on my life  -  to think about how I'm spending my time and whether I need to focus more on the things that are really important to me.  It helped reinforce my belief that this community is a great place to live and there are lots of opportunities available to me should I decide to become more engaged.  

The survey is long.  It took me about thirty minutes to finish it, but I took a break and came back to it a few times.  I feel like I need to tell people to keep going!  Don't give up because of the length of the survey! When you finish the survey, you will be given a code that you can use to enter the draw for some awesome prizes!  Everyone who enters the draw will be eligible for the Staycation grand prize which was generously donated by the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.  And don't worry!  Your responses are completely anonymous!

Thanks in advance to everyone who participates in this survey.  I hope you enjoy the opportunity for personal reflection as much as I did.

Here is the run-down on the prizes depending on where you live:


  • 1 year family membership to the Anzac Recreation Centre
  • $50 gift certificate to the Anzac Grocery Store


  • $50 Petro Canada gift certificate
  • $50 Canadian Tire gift certificate

Draper, Janvier and Gregoire Lake Estates:

  • $50 Walmart gift certificate
  • $50 Superstore gift certificate

Fort Chipewyan:

  • $50 Northern Store gift certificate
  • $50 Fort McMurray aviation gift certificate

Fort MacKay:

  • $50 Walmart gift certificate
  • $50 Superstore gift certificate

Fort McMurray:

  • 1 year family membership to MacDonald Island Park (generously donated by ONE Regional Recreation Association of Wood Buffalo)
  • Gift basket including a voucher for a pair of season tickets for Keyano Theatre Company’s TELUS 4-Play Drama Series including, “On A First Name Basis”, “A Christmas Carol”, “Cabaret”, and “Goodnight Ladies” (generously donated by The Arts Council Wood Buffalo and the Keyano Theatre & Arts Centre)

Saprae Creek:

  • $50 Canadian Tire gift certificate
  • $50 Walmart gift certificate

Staycation Grand Prize for two (generously donated by the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and available to everyone who participates in the draw):


  • 4:00 - Check into luxurious Honeymoon suite at Chez Dube
  • Dinner - The Keg
  • 8:00pm - Couples in-room Massage at Chez Dube


  • Complimentary breakfast at Chez Dube
  • 11:30am - 1:00pm Couples IONIC RELEASE detoxification and massage
  • Afternoon stroll by the river at Mac Island and then check out the shops at Peter Pond Mall - $200 gift card
  • Dinner at LIVE restaurant


  • Complimentary breakfast at Chez Dube
  • Checkout at 11am


Staycation Grand Prize Package Valued at $1,600












Saturday, April 26, 2014 - 10:26

By Russell Thomas, Executive Director (Interim), Arts Council Wood Buffalo

A former boss of mine, back in my radio broadcasting days, often repeated the admonition, "What gets measured gets done."  Arriving here in 1996, I was surprised to discover a level of professionalism and diligence that, at first, seemed over the top, but eventually began to make complete sense.  As an example, when young announcers (even the more seasoned ones) went to do an on-location broadcast - whether it was at a business or at a community event - it was expected that they would be visited by the account executive, sales manager, program director, and general manager.  Knowing that the entire accountability structure was going to show up - often unannounced and at unexpected times - you did your utmost to be excellent.  Because they were getting measured, they got it done.

With those whispers of memory from a former life in mind, I am super excited about the upcoming Community Wellbeing Survey and the impact it will have on how we moved forward in strengthening our quality of life initiatives.

How often do you attend an arts event?

Do you volunteer?  If so, how much?  Has your volunteerism gone up, stayed the same, or gone down in the last year?

How often do you participate in cultural activities?

I'm completely making those questions up, but you get the point.  The questions that will be asked of 7,000 randomly selected households throughout the broad expanse of the municipality will be qualitative in nature and begin to map the health of our community.  It is so important that we get a good sample for the survey to be a reasonable measure of the state of our Wood Buffalo world.

We all get inundated by incoming junk mail.  The volume, even in this digital age, is staggering.  We have a box in the study that fills up every two weeks with many pieces that go directly from the mailbox to the recycling without a second glance.  So, the more awareness we can bring to the Community Wellbeing Survey, the higher the likelihood that it might get seen, read, and responded to. Recipients will be directed to a simple and anonymous online survey to answer questions about your quality of life.  Should you be one of the lucky recipients of the invitation to participate, you'll also have a chance to enter a draw for some pretty awesome prizes.

Surveys (in my mind) are useless unless there is a valid use for what's being measured when all the data comes in.  The information contained in the "Look into Wood Buffalo Community Wellbeing Survey" will help all sectors in making decisions that are rooted in truth.  My hope would be that this "truth" seeking mechanism is undertaken on an annual or biennial basis, so that we can look back at the established baseline and see how we're doing.

Another smart boss of mine liked to say "You don't know what you don't know".  The Community Wellbeing Survey will help supplant conjecture with statistically significant data. We are awash in conjecture, on multiple fronts and on multiple community issues.  The results of this initial survey should help to generate clarity about life in Wood Buffalo today, so that we can improve life in Wood Buffalo for tomorrow.

So watch your mailbox, give a heads up to your neighbors, and encourage your friends to invest 20 to 30 minutes of their time if they are fortunate enough to be selected.  The Community Wellbeing Survey is truly measuring what really matters.

Friday, April 25, 2014 - 11:09

By Nancy Mattes, Director, Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo

At the recent launch of Paul Born’s new book, “Deepening Community: Finding Joy Together in Chaotic Times,” long-standing regional chair Ken Seiling told the audience that one of the reasons Waterloo Region is known as a great place for people to live, work and raise a family is because people in this community genuinely care about each other. 

That fundamental driver of community is also at the heart of an initiative that is taking place in Wood Buffalo, Alberta.  A group of local leaders from very different fields are working with the Canadian Index of Wellbeing to conduct a Community Wellbeing Survey.  The survey will gather important information about how residents are doing in terms of their quality of life.  Are they happy, healthy and able to reach their full potential?  What’s getting in the way and how can we work together to improve the quality of life for all? 

While some residents feel like they are being asked to do too many surveys, everyone who receives the “Look into Wood Buffalo” Community Wellbeing Survey should take the time to fill it out.  This survey will generate baseline data on wellbeing that will make it a lot easier for decision-makers to address the complex social problems that are affecting the quality of life for residents.

The survey is also the start of a broader strategy to develop a shared measurement system in Wood Buffalo.  When everyone (government, industry, and social benefit organizations) collaborates towards a common agenda and shared vision for change, they can achieve greater collective impact. They will be able to move the needle on persistent social issues like homelessness, family violence and poverty. 

So if your household receives an invitation in the mail, please fill it out.  Show that you care about your community, your neighbours and your family.  Together, we can build a vibrant community where everyone thrives and succeeds in life.

Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo
thanks the Suncor Energy
Foundation for its generous support.
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