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The Down East Spiral Network

Dedicated to Community Development


The Down East Spiral Network is the new name for the Community Development Networking Association (formerly the Certificate in Community Development Advisory and Networking Committee). This group is made up of the graduates and instructors of the Certificate in Community Development Course at Henson College funded by The Samuel & Saidye Bronfman Family Foundation and the J. W. McConnell Family Foundation. The Spiral Network continues to be funded by the Urban Issues Programme of the Bronfman Foundation.

Originally this group met once a month to share skills, information and to provide advice on the course. This network has now evolved into becoming an independent organization. We have defined the tasks that are necessary to run this network, divided them up among the members and formed an executive. We are now in the process of registering our name and as a non-profit society. We have developed a vision for the next ten years, a mission statement and have defined the tasks necessary to accomplishing our vision.

Other functions of this network including providing direct support for each other's projects through signing petitions, participating in demonstrations, talking part in fund-raising and special events, education and sharing of information, lobbying activities and brainstorming for solutions to problems.


The goal of the Down East Spiral Network is to promote personal, communal, and social transformation and freedom.

Our definition of freedom includes the individual's right and choice to determine who you are, and achieve your full potential, without judgment, ridicule, or violence; to speak your truth, as long as it dosen't harm others; and to live with positive justice and the abscence of oppression.

We will accomplish this goal through personal and community empowerment, creating ways for people to use their voice, and encourage them to do so; support; advocacy; understanding and teaching power relations; developing and teaching skills; education; and activism.

Our specific activities include forming a dynamic and evolving organization, workshops, courses, programs, activities, networking, becoming a resource and support for others, and creating a retreat centre.


Certificate in Community Development Program:

The Certificate in Community Development Program originated with the struggle of low-income and other marginalised groups to maintain the energy and hope needed to create social justice. In 1991 the Community Development and Outreach Unit of Henson College conducted a participatory review of low income and marginalized people's social justice groups in the Halifax/Dartmouth area.

One of the problems named during the review was labelled the "cyclical loss of leadership". This phrase has proved misleading: it suggests that groups go on while their leadership burns out, which is not the case. Rather, the groups go out of existence along with the loss of leadership. When this happens, even if the group has won some victories, there is often a legacy of bitterness. Groups die of exhaustion, they are torn apart by internal conflict or external pressure, including the media's "star" system, inappropriate involvement of allies, co-optation by politicians and other more visible and powerful leaders, inadequate planning for setbacks, successes, or the end of funding. Most groups don't know how to analyze their context and history together. Members are left feeling as though they failed; they often say they will never get involved again. They cannot use their experience to form new groups and move on to more sophisticated strategies for social change.

Objectives and Program Features

The examination of leadership burnout convinced us of community leaders' need to connect with others as they reflect on and learn from their experiences. This led to the idea of an educational program that would teach community development skills, grant a locally recognized credential, and provide a base for long-term support and networking for community leaders. The result is the Certificate in Community Development Course and its Advisory and Networking Committee.

The objectives of the course are to develop skilled, analytical, and knowledgeable community development workers; and to make better linkages among local grassroots organizations working on issues such as poverty, racism, violence, aboriginal rights, youth, disabilities and the environment. To meet these objectives, the following features have been built in to the program:

1. The majority of students selected are active in their communities and members of grassroots, voluntary groups. Up to six students are accepted, who are active in and sponsored by grassroots groups. Other students are accepted as independent activists - people who are or have been active in their communities but may not be currently affiliated with a group. The rest of the students include at least three staff from community-based agencies (non-government organizations) providing services and support to low-income people and other marginalized groups, and two academic students preparing for community development-related careers.

2. The students are required to form and take part in Community Action Teams. This strengthens the groups as well as the individuals who take part in the course, and gives all the students in the course a practical setting where they can develop their skills. All the groups and agencies in which the students are active as volunteers or staff are potential sites for Community Action Teams, depending on the goals of the students and the needs of the groups and agencies.

3. The class is designed to be as diverse as possible in age, class, race, sex, sexual orientation, religion and all other human rights categories. The first few sessions are designed to give the students the framework and language for dealing with this diversity. The methods we are developing for teaching the skills required for working in a diverse group are working very well, and the widely varying backgrounds of the students add an amazing richness to everyone's learning.

4. Students take part in peer evaluation sessions twice during the course, where they have an opportunity to identify and discuss their strengths and needs for improvement as community development workers with a team composed of at least one other student and one instructor. These sessions are rich with mutual learning and support.

5. All graduates become part of the Advisory and Networking Committee where they can continue to develop their skills and exchange support in their social justice work.

6. The teaching method is experiential and participatory, and the students gradually take over responsibility for the course as they go along.

7. Grants from foundations have made it possible to offer the course free of charge to low-income people and to provide support for childcare, learning materials, and transportation. Their participation would not have been possible without this support.

The course itself consists of five cycles, based on the spiral method of social analysis. This method is a process where participants (1) determine who they are in relation to an issue, (2) reflect on their experiences with the issue, (3) analyze the causes of the problem, (4) develop strategy and (5) take action to address the issue, and then begin the spiral again by reflecting on that experience.

First, the participants look at who they are in terms of learning styles, ideological lenses, and diversity (race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, etc.). Then, in the second cycle the participants learn to apply the spiral model and specific tools associated with it, such as community portraits. They also visit Bear River, a Mi'kmaq community. The third cycle consists of planning strategies in the community action teams and identifying skills they will need to carry out this work. The students take over leading the course in the fourth cycle-the action phase- as they prepare and deliver a series of workshops based on what they need to learn in order to carry out the community action strategies developed in the groups. Finally, the last part of the course is a reflection/evaluation cycle in which the students evaluate the course and reflect on what they learned.

This outline of the course content has been modified but not substantially changed over the three years it has been offered. The improvements suggested by the students and incorporated into the course have been earlier and more work in the community action teams with the groups, additional "basic skills" sessions, a smoother transition from instructor to student control, more time spent on dealing with diversity, and peer evaluation sessions built into the course, rather than in meetings outside of it.


The Students

49 students have graduated from the program with a Certificate in Community Development in the three years it has been offered.

Grassroots Organization Participants

1993-94: Joane Skinner and Suzanne Murray of People on Welfare for Equal Rights (POWER); Debbie Stephens from the Halifax-Dartmouth Anti-Poverty Network; Isabel Wareham and Cathy LeBlanc from the Greystone Drive Tenants Association.

1994-95: Valerie Carvery and Carol Gabriel of the Uniacke Square Tenants Association; June Weir and Debbie Neath of the Ad-hoc Coalition for Social Security Reform.

1995-96: Pam Brennan and Chuck Moore of the Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgendered Youth Group and Verna Bundy from Black Sisters United for Change

1996-97: Bill Jeffery of the First Nations Regional Education Committee, Maxine Knockwood and Teresa Jeffery of Msit Mi'kmaq.

Independent Community Activists

1993-94: Verna Thomas, of many organizations in East Preston, Halifax and Dartmouth; Rose Crawley, of North Preston; Donna Marshall, formerly of the Low-Income Network Committee (LINC); Brenda MacDonald, of People's Rights Organization United and Determined (PROUD)

1994-95: Denise Leppard, of Women Connecting Through Theatre; Wendy Mersey, of Survivors of Abusive Relationships (SOAR).

1995-96: Ian Tay Landry, Nova Scotia Hospital Community Participation Committee; Darlene MacLean, Bayers Westwood Community Kitchen; Virginia Mendl, Eastern Shore Community Centre Association; Penny West, Bayers Westwood Tenants' Association

1996-97: Richelle Everest, Dartmouth Parent Resource Centre; Cathy Irving, Deafness Advocacy Association of Nova Scotia; Amanda Thomas, Greystone Drive Tenants Association; Murleta Williams, North End, Reclaiming the Neighbourhood.

Agency Staff

1993-94: Craig Smith, Halifax City Regional Library, North Branch

1994-95: Aryon Elmers, of Long Term Services for Youth; Suzanne Taker, of Stepping Stone (street worker services for women and men working on the street)

1995-96: Shawna Hoyte, Community Legal Worker, Dalhousie Legal Aid Service; Tami Cushing, Second Story Women's Centre; Celia Miller, Digby Family Support Centre; Deena Noseworthy, Black Outreach Project, AIDS Nova Scotia; Sonny Pachai, Metro Food Bank; Deborah Tupper, Pictou County Women's Centre

1996-97: Christa Lewis, Digby County Family Resource Centre; James Shedden, AIDS Nova Scotia; Vivian Thomas, Cunard Centre; Ivan Wyse, New Glasgow Black Community Development Office.

Academic Students

1994-95: Joyce Robart and Philippa Pictou, both students in the Maritime School of Social Work's Community Stream Masters Program.

1995-96: Charlene Kennedy and Tanya Murray, public health nursing students.

1996-97: Karen Eaton and April Steele-MacDougall, public health nursing students.

Skill Development:

The skills sessions organized and facilitated by the students have included:

-conflict resolution
-co-operative leadership
-group facilitation
-dealing with the media
-life after the community development course
-self-care and assertiveness
-basic financial management for community groups
-confidence building
-creating effective ways for people to participate
-media literacy
-organizing good meetings
public speaking

-sessions on conflict resolution, fund raising and the media have been offered the most often.

Community Action:

Students have done the following work as part of their community action projects and teams:

-evaluating a Child Tax Credit lobbying action
-organizing a political participation workshop
-planning a fundraising strategy with a tenants association
-developing a community works project with a tenants association
-reflection and planning sessions for an anti-poverty group
-community portrait sessions for a support group of battered women, and a theatre group of women recovering from substance abuse
-organizing a workshop on health and community development for residents of public housing
-developing a safety protection plan with women in violent relationships
-creating a popular education package to counter poor-bashing
-organizing a fund raising event for a rural community centre
-evaluating support programs for gay and lesbian youth
-organizing a one-day community development conference for grassroots groups
-planning workshops for a support group for Black women
-planning and facilitating a visioning session for a women's centre board of directors
-lobbying and organizing against racism in schools
-planning and carrying out a community forum on use of alcohol in the gay male community
-developing contacts for HIV+ survival training in low income, youth, and rural communities
-organizing to save a heritage theatre and open it as a community arts centre

Advisory and Networking Committee:

The Advisory Committee was originally organized to advise the instructors as the program was being developed. The members of the original advisory committee were all accepted into the program in the first year. The committee was reconstituted at the end of the first year of the course in September, 1994 as the participants became members. "Networking" was added to the committee's name to reflect its double function. The committee provides the base for long-term support and networking among the activists who participate in the certificate program. The long-term goal is to make the committee a centre for information, analysis and co-ordinated action that will give the leaders of Halifax/Dartmouth's low-income community the means to communicate and respond, jointly and strategically, to the challenges that face them.

The Committee met monthly to share information, exchange support on the members' social action activities and advise on issues relating to the course. Since 1994, the committee has undertaken several activities including:

-attending a grant recipients' meeting in Sudbury in September, 1994
-planning and carrying out a grant recipients' meeting for the Urban Issues Program of the Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Family Foundation in June, 1995;
-assisting with the planning and carrying out of the Urban-Rural Missions Annual Meeting, October, 1995
-visiting the Better Beginnings Better Futures Program in Sudbury in November 1995
-meeting with the President of Dalhousie University in December 1995 regarding the relationship between the university and the low income, Black and Mi'kmaw communities in Halifax/Dartmouth
-supporting and strategizing with one of the members concerning race relations in a national low-income organization
-making a presentation at the Maritime School of Social Work on the "spiral" and how it helps Urban participants maintain the energy and hope to continue their struggles for social justice
-assisting with a "Spiral" Conference on Community Development in April, 1996
-attending a poor people's conference in May, 1996
-attendance at an Urban Issues Recipients' Meeting, Montreal, October, 1996
-hosting a video workshop in November, 1996
-obtaining its own funding, July, 1996
-developing its vision and plan for the next ten years, Spring, 1997


The core group consists of 15 regular members, plus 5 - 10 members who attend occasionally because of distance and other engagements. The minutes are distributed to all 49 graduates of the four years of the Community Development Course.


Meetings are held on the third Thursday of each month. They begn with a social supper and a 'Check-in' where each member freely discusses what is happening in their lives in a safe and secure environment.


The Network has formed three Committees: Fundraising, Space and Program. The task of the fundraising committee is to find ways to secure funding for the creation, continuation and expansions of programs, such as organizing a fundraising workshop with Kim Klein which will be open to all other organizations in the Halifax Regional Municipality, through identifying potential funding sources, and writing funding proposals. The Space Committee's task is to locate appropriate space for workshops and other events the Network is planning to implement including our long term goal of having our own facility. The Program Committee's goal is to develop and organize the programs the Network wishes to offer such as the summer retreat for fun and learning in the summer of 1998 where all graduates of the Community Development Course, and their families or guests, will be invited to come.


The Network has approved a missions statement and Memorandum of Association and has applied to the N.S. Registry of Joint Stocks for non-profit status. Although the members of the Network share responsibility for organizing and running the group for legal purposes we have created an executive. The current list of officers are: Rose Crawley, Chair; Santosh Pachai, Vice-Chair; June Weir, Secretary; Virginia Mendl, Assistant Secretary; Verna Thomas, Treasurer.


-In September 1997 to members of the Network attend the Urban Issues Conference in Vancouver.

-In March 1998, for members of the Network and another graduates attended the book launch for Racism Whose Problem by the Metro Coalition for a Non-Racist Society. Four of these five people are active members of the Coalition.

-In April 1998 one Network member participate in organizing the Eastern Shore District High School series of worships on the family.

-In April 1998 two Network members visited other sites doing similar work in Winnipeg.

-In Urban 1998 two Network member will travel to the Urban Issues conference in Winnipeg.

-One Network member was invited by another to demonstrate Mi'Kmaq chants and drumming at the Mi'Kmaq Children's School with great success.

Network members has also participate in organizing: -a forum on the Arts in schools -a launch of a report on the impact of funding cuts on social agencies. -collective kitchens -a meeting to put pressure on the Royal Bank of Canada to no withdraw teller services from the Mainland South area of Halifax -The Community Advocates Network, an organization of community groups and advocates trying to get the NS government to consult the public about its' welfare reforms -The Anti-Poverty Network, an organization of persons concerned with poverty issues -a campaign to change the way that NS Power treats people who are behind on their power bills -the Urban Aboriginal Culture Project

Community Development Links

The Social Movement & Reform Page
Urban Issues Programme
Environment Canada - Green Lane Home
Canadian Non-Profit Network
Environment Canada - Atlantic Region - Action 21 Home Page
Charity Village
Canadian Centre for Philanthropy


Ms. June Weir,
23 Aberdeen Court
Dartmouth, NS
B2X 1K4
phone: 902-434-4883

Ms. Anne Bishop
Henson College
6100 University Ave.
Halifax, NS
B3H 3J5
fax: 902-494-6875