A SPARK Project Story: From Home-grown Ideas to CD4SG 2020

Submitted by Rachel McLay

Around this time a year ago during the winter of 2019/2020, small groups of volunteer seasonal workers and community members from Tobermory, ON had begun to sit down to identify needs for the seasonal workforce. Later in the winter, a group of local entrepreneurs gathered in Lion’s Head to discuss what was needed to help entrepreneurs thrive, as well as creative ways to meet needs and grow ideas. Importantly, this process involved engaging in discussion amongst one another and with local businesses, services and local governments to integrate their grounded experience and expertise. 

After 4 months together, these working groups conceptualized 5 to 7 creative ideas that would address various social and economic needs of seasonal workers and local entrepreneurs. Despite the pandemic, the SPARK project team was able to put these ideas into prototypes and continue to refine the details through conversation with seasonal workers, community members, local businesses, entrepreneurs and community services. 

Two of the more developed prototypes were brought out to the community for feedback where both support and suggestions were kindly received. These included a proposal for E-bikes for affordable transportation, and a long-term rental accommodation inventory to contribute to reducing the housing shortage among residents looking for affordable housing. 

This process followed a Design-Thinking methodology (empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test). As it evolves, the SPARK project continues to apply this methodology to all of our creative ideas to use as a guide for understanding needs and for developing effective solutions. 

A collage of our creative team on the day of the CD4SG event during their ‘virtual’ creative process to design materials for the SPARK project.

Now, the SPARK project is wrapping up its second year and we are still going strong towards our goal of building resources and generating assets or social capital to improve the lives of seasonal workers, local entrepreneurs and their families. 

No doubt a contributor to this momentum was the opportunity for the SPARK project to participate in Creative Day for Social Good (CD4SG) this past November 2020. This unique opportunity for not-for-profit organizations to receive customized design resources is an annual event hosted by Capacity Canada. Leading up to this amazing event, our project representatives (Noreen Steinacher, Tanya Early and Rachel McLay) and the creative team, including Conestoga College students, met virtually and underwent great preparation. Our team enjoyed the interaction with so many students eager to learn about rural life and what our community ‘looked like’. The creative team did an exceptional job of communicating ‘at a distance’ and clarifying information to ensure they understood the SPARK project and shared our vision for engaging visuals. This was especially apparent when we received the final products from CD4SG full of creative talent, including the 5 posters for each of our main initiatives based on the Tamarack Institute’s ‘Plan on a Page’ design, a SPARK logo, a SPARK banner for digital and print use, and a webpage dedicated to the SPARK project for The Meeting Place website. 

The SPARK project team intends to use these graphic materials to inspire and encourage the community to get involved with the project and its initiatives in whatever capacity they can offer. You may have noticed the logo already in use with articles in the Press – now our SPARK project webpage has officially been launched on the TMP website. Be sure to keep an eye out for a future display of the initiative posters too. 

We celebrate this great milestone for the SPARK project and thank CD4SG and Capacity Canada for their wonderful contribution of creative work! We also thank our project funder, Bruce County Strategic Community Initiatives Fund. 

Visit tobermorymeetingplace.com to view the new SPARK project webpage and graphics.