Reflecting is something that is central to our work in literacy and with the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy (CBAL). We reflect in our year-end reports and reviews and in our professional development. We then use those reflections to plan the year ahead.
This year CBAL’s community coordinators gathered in Castlegar for our annual fall staff meeting. We had just been through a strategic planning process and had re-focused on our core work. I asked everyone to focus our reflection and our discussion on the primary goals identified and on what we know works. I firmly believe that if we are clear about our intentions we will improve our outcomes.
We wish to honour our CBAL beginnings with a strong focus on family literacy – it’s still our best chance at improving literacy outcomes. In the 1980s and 1990s the provincial and federal literacy field’s emphasis was on adult literacy; in 2001, around the time we formed the Alliance of communities in the Basin and Boundary, the emphasis moved to family literacy. Since then we have expanded our work to include all forms of literacy for people of all ages. But as we reflect over the past 15 years, we have to ask where is our greatest impact?
Our work with adults who are recognizing their need for support in reading, writing, numeracy and digital and financial literacy is an important part of the work we do. But we remain convinced that our work with parents to establish early learning best practice enables parents to support their children in being ready for school, to support them in their school years and ensure better high school graduation rates, thus giving those students a better chance at gaining further education or employment.
There are huge societal resources spent on the K-12 system and the college and university systems, and yet there are many left behind. We intend to work with people of all ages in innovative ways to fill the literacy gaps. We have strong partnerships with schools and colleges and we intend to work on improving them. We intend to focus on programs that can make a difference to raise the literacy bar in our communities.
We reflected on our shared intentions when we partner with other community agencies and groups to provide programs. Over the past 15 years we have done some things because we have always done them or the community expects it of us. I challenged our staff to reflect on every program, event and fundraiser and look at it to see if it is the best use of our time, our resources and whether it meets our shared goals. Where do we have our greatest impact? Over half our annual budget is government funding – provincial and federal – which is taxpayers’ money. We are accountable. Funders have expectations, outcomes they are looking for, so we need to have good ways to evaluate our impact; we will continue to focus on outcomes. Having shared intentions will clarify them.
We are grateful to our Board of Directors and the part they play. We recruit them with a view to the sector they represent and to the expertise they bring. It is a very intentional process. They are a volunteer board who give a lot of time, energy and support to the literacy work that CBAL does. They help to keep us focused on our shared intentions.
Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy
CBAL staff enjoys working with people of all ages across the Columbia Basin and Boundary!