Blog Contributor: Lydia Collas
Each year, Master of Sustainability enrolled in the co-op stream undertake a projects course where they work as a team to provide a consultancy-type service to an external business or an area of the Canadian Government. This year, Ben House, Yuka Kataoka, Zach MacMillan, and Salima Medouar worked with the Town of Lincoln in association with the Brock-Lincoln Living Lab that was set up last year. I met up with Zach to find out more about what his team had got up to and what they’d learnt from the experience.
Photo: SSAS Student Presentations in SSAS 5P03 (from left to right) Salima Medouar, Leaya Amey, Zach MacMillan, Ben House, Yuka Kataoka, Quratulain Shahzad, and Sylvia Hussein
1. So working with the Town of Lincoln, what was the project you were tasked with?
Our team worked to create a sustainability needs assessment for the Town. This document will be used to highlight focus areas for the subsequent stages of the Brock-Lincoln Living Lab. As we began communicating with the project sponsor, it became apparent that there would be more value in creating a detailed inventory of the Town’s assets relating to sustainability. Such assets are anything that contributes to achieving the Town’s long-term sustainability goals and include local policies, physical structures, natural resources, social resources, and economic institutions.
2. How did you go about achieving that?
The first step in the project was to create a framework that we could use to organize our data. We used the Town of Lincoln’s sustainability initiative to highlight four key asset areas that influence sustainability: Natural, Social, Economic, and Built. Each member of the team was in charge of one of the areas based on their interests and experiences. I was both the lead on built assets as well as the project manager for the team.
Once we had an outlined framework and clear roles for the project we went to Town Hall to retrieve that data we needed. We were also fortunate enough to communicate with Town employees who had specific insights on the four asset areas, which helped us get multiple perspectives on the project. We then synthesized all the material and included it in a final report along with some recommendations for future work, which we presented to both members of Lincoln (including senior management) and the Brock University ESRC.
3. What did you learn about project management as a result?
This project demonstrated the importance of creating a detailed yet manageable timeline for projects, particularly when you’ve got multiple commitments to fulfil. I also learned the importance of forming a strong team and drawing on the strengths of each member. While I was the official project manager for the project we took a collaborative approach that allowed each of our skill sets to be utilized to the fullest – an approach I plan to use in future projects.
4. So how did it go – did you achieve what you set out to?
Yes, I believe we did achieve our project goals. By the end of the six weeks, we had created a 30-page document which outlined a wide variety of assets that are important to the Town’s sustainability goals. Combining all this information into one document will be very helpful for the next stage of the Brock-Lincoln Living lab.
5. What do you think the impact of your work will be?
In the municipal setting, sustainability is an important, though oft misunderstood, concept. This project will help to provide consensus on the topic. The integrated framework that we used will help the Town to move away from understanding sustainability in silos and move toward an integrated approach to sustainability planning. It also creates a strong foundation for future work on the Brock-Lincoln Living lab and the Town more generally. Mainly this project helps the Town to begin incorporating a new perspective on everyday tasks. It also demonstrated that sustainability in this context is more diverse than simply environmental planning.
6. This course is a bit different to the others that you take as part of the program, how do you feel it has complemented your other studies?
This course was a perfect complement to the program. Being given the opportunity to implement our knowledge of sustainability into a real organization as a core program requirement is invaluable. It helped me to learn and refine skills, such as project planning and communicating with community stakeholders, and provided an important network opportunity – all of which will help me to secure employment after completing my degree. I am particularly interested in municipal planning: my Major Research Paper will evaluate municipal planning documents and my future career goals lie in the planning profession, so I was very fortunate to work on this project.
Finally, I’d like to thank some people that we would have been lost without. Carrie Beatty from the Town of Lincoln gave her time and advice during each stage of the project and her genuine interest in incorporating sustainability in the municipal setting was truly valuable. I would also like to thank Dr. Bradley May for offering project management expertise to the team.
Congratulations to Zach, Yuka, Ben and Salima on completing an informative project that has paved the way for the future work undertaken as part of the Brock-Lincoln Living Lab. To find out more about the Living Lab, visit brocku.ca/esrc/brock-lincoln-living-lab/. For more information about the Master of Sustainability degree program, visit brocku.ca/ssas.