Thursday, October 24, 2019

External Review of SSCAS by FBC Supplemental

Air Quality Needs Assessment & Gap Analysis in the Sea to Sky Airshed

Supplemental Report

October 16, 2019

Table of Contents

Context 3
March 10th Report – Summary of Project Scope and Key Recommendation 3
3. SSCAS: Defining Root Causes of its Current Challenges 4
4. Future Directions: Key Considerations 5
5. Non-Profit Organizational Models 6
6. Recommended Next Steps 7 Context

The Fraser Basin Council (FBC) was commissioned by the Sea to Sky Clean Air Society (SSCAS) to better understand the needs and priorities of local and regional governments in the Sea-to-Sky Airshed in order for SSCAS to better align its strategic direction and activities. To assist SSCAS in this regard, the FBC undertook a series of interviews with representatives of local and regional governments in the Airshed. These interviews captured and documented perspectives with respect to:

Their air quality related priorities and needs; and
The past work, current context and potential future potential and role(s) of the Sea-to-Sky Clean Air Society (SSCAS) to address these priorities and needs.

This March 10, 2019 report from this work presented the results of the interviews, set out potential future options for SSCAS and recommended next steps that emerged from this initial work, with the underlying assumption that SSCAS would continue to exist but possibly in a renewed form.

Subsequent to the submission of the March 10th report, the FBC prepared this supplemental report at the request of SSCAS, to consider future SSCAS directions, from transformation to dissolution.
March 10th Report – Summary of Project Scope and Key Recommendation

The March 10th report captured and summarized perspectives of a historical funding partner of SSCAS and recommended steps to strengthen working and funding relationships with this specific audience, namely, local and regional governments in the Sea-to-Sky Airshed.

As conveyed in the March 10th report, interviews with local and regional governments yielded the following overarching observations:
Awareness of SSCAS and its past work was mixed, at least partly due to staff changes;
Air quality was generally not considered to be the highest priority for action or
was viewed to be the responsibility of other jurisdictions;
Climate change mitigation (greenhouse gas emissions reductions) was a
high priority among many interviewed; and
While there were differences among the perspectives of those interviewed
regarding air quality issues and awareness of air quality initiatives, common
themes did emerge in terms of potential future roles of SSCAS (summarized
below) that potentially could be financially supported by local/regional governments and/or others.

As a key overarching recommendation, the March 10th report emphasized that SSCAS, if it continued to exist, would need to articulate and disseminate a renewed ‘value proposition’ in order to attract financial support and related commitments in carrying out SSCAS objectives. Accordingly it was recommended that a compelling Case for Support and Proposed Scope and Budget be developed that would serve as a means to seek input from and confirm the support of local/regional governments and other potential funders.

It was also recommended that, in concert with a governance review, the Case for Support be used to attract new Board members to SSCAS, including those with the ability to engage potential funders.

It was further recommended that an appropriately framed Case for Support had the potential to attract support from local/regional governments and potentially others for the following SSCAS roles:

With the support of the provincial government, a provider of information products about air quality data and trends in the Sea to Sky airshed;
A third party facilitator of collaboration among multiple jurisdictions and interests on air quality issues and opportunities; and
An enabler of air quality improvements by linking existing and future GHG emission reduction initiatives.

Subsequent to the completion of the March 10th report, SSCAS requested that FBC provide additional impartial recommendations on whether and how it should proceed, conveying that the following options were under consideration at that time by the SSCAS Board:

Local/regional governments ’take back’ Air Quality Management activities,
SSCAS dissolves with no entity assuming its previous and current roles
An existing or new independent non-profit organization assume SSCAS roles
The sections below provide FBC’s impartial insights and recommendations with respect to these alternatives.
3. SSCAS: Defining Root Causes of its Current Challenges

In the past, SSCAS had the passion and resources to undertake a significant body of work. Today, dissolution is a real possibility due primarily to funding challenges.

SSCAS is not alone – many not-for-profit organizations dissolve as a result of one or more root causes, for example:

Lack of a shared vision and clear mission
Case for support not resonating with key funders
Volunteer burn-out – too few doing too much
Insufficient strategic planning and plan execution
Insufficient governance policies and practices
Staff turnover
Misaligned board composition
Insufficient board commitment
Duplication with others’ work
Insufficient board and/or staff skills, commitment, connections and relationships for fundraising and partnership development
Lack of succession planning
Lack of new ideas, i.e., doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result

It is the FBC’s assessment that many, if not all, of the above factors apply to SSCAS.
4. Future Directions: Key Considerations

As a slight variation of what the SSCAS Board is currently contemplating, FBC believes the SSCAS Board has three options to consider:

Dissolve with no delegation of roles; or
Seek another organization to assume its roles and then dissolve; or
Continue to exist but undertake a process of transformational renewal – simply because ‘status quo’ is no longer working.

To provide direction to the SSCAS Board on what option to focus on, it is important to consider what has led to a highly successfully private-public-civil society initiative in another airshed. The Prince George Air Improvement Roundtable (see, was created because significant human health concerns, associated public outrage and regulator attention were resulting from poor and declining air quality.

In the Sea to Sky Region, absent such a pressing challenge, the success of a transformed SSCAS or that of another organization assuming the SSCAS mantle, will depend at least in part on i) air quality trends actually headed in the wrong direction; and ii) the decline in air quality – or at a minimum, early indications of its potential to decline – presenting a sufficient and compelling case for a non-profit society (or other entity with an appropriate regional scope) to take proactive action to prevent air quality from further deteriorating.

Alternatively, the SSCAS Board has expressed interest in exploring possible roles for the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD), for example, assuming administration of the Wood Stove Exchange Program and/or supporting the Air Quality Management Plan Implementation Framework. The SLRD has not yet been formally approached in this regard by SSCAS.

If air quality is not an emerging concern, then dissolution of SSCAS may be the sensible option. Alternatively, SSCAS may wish to shift its attention to other issues, for example, climate change adaptation and mitigation in the Sea to Sky region, assuming this niche is not currently filled by any other organization.
5. Non-Profit Organizational Models

Assuming declining air quality in the Sea to Sky Airshed is a matter of shared concern, there are two types of non-profit models that could be pursued to address this concern:

Quasi-Autonomous Non-Government Organization (QuANGO).

Shrinking government budgets and mandates have supported the creation of many of these kinds of organization. Typically these organizations are created when there is a need that no one government agency, private sector entity or civil society institution can serve.

The FBC is an example of a QuANGO, a non-profit organization type that typically comes to the fore because complex sustainability challenges that transcend jurisdictional boundaries require ‘unlikely coalitions’ that are created through an impartially facilitated approach. All of the parties can play governance and funding roles but recognize that the independence of the QuANGO is its greatest asset. Furthermore, this model is ideal for the efficient deployment of government programs.

QuANGOs require, and are typically eligible to apply for and receive, multiple forms of funding and can be very efficient in using these funds to achieve great results. The FBC’s role in supporting the Plug-In BC electric vehicle incentive programs is a good example of this. The hallmark of such organizations is that they are inherently collaborative and are careful not to take advocacy positions on any issue. In fact, the taking of positions could comprise such organizations’ ability to secure and maintain charitable tax status, which is a key designation for attracting funding.

In the Sea-to-Sky Airshed, Air Quality Management Plan implementation support would be a natural focus for a QuANGO model. However, initial indications suggest that the provincial government is not in a position to support this role and local/regional governments require further convincing.

Advocacy NGO

This not-for-profit organizational model is typically the case for many Environment Non-Government Organizations or ENGOs (e.g., Greenpeace) that take advocacy positions on issues and, therefore, are not typically eligible for charitable tax status. While collaborative work is not out of the question for such organizations, inherently, it is difficult for collaboration to occur with those who are being lobbied against at the same time.

An Advocacy NGO is typically funded by its members who identify with and support the organizations advocacy role and associated skills/connections as a means to effect meaningful change. It is also important to note that some Advocacy NGOs work on an entirely voluntary basis, although less effectively than would be the case if some form of predictable funding is in place by way of members fees and other sources of funding that does not require charitable tax status to apply for.

Which of these models are appropriate in SSCAS’ case will depend on several factors.

Put simply, if there is a compelling Case for Support for governments and potentially others to fund an outboard regional body to advance air quality enhancement through informed trans-jurisdictional collaboration, then a QuANGO model may be viable.

If such a Case for Support is non-existent or insufficient, but there is significant concern on the part of citizens about declining air quality, then an Advocacy NGO model may be appropriate.

6. Recommended Next Steps

The FBC believes that the fall 2019 Howe Sound Community Forum provides an opportunity for FBC to provide a brief presentation on its findings and recommendations with respect to SSCAS. In particular, the presentation could include a question to the participants as to whether they see the need for proactive air quality protection and/or enhancement, whether or not there are clear indications that air quality is under threat.

At the conclusion of this presentation, the FBC would ‘test’ participants interest in further participating in a future meeting to explore whether there is adequate support for a QuANGO – modelled organization, whether it be via a transformed SSCAS, via creation of a new non-profit organization, or via an existing body such as the Forum itself. Alternatively, FBC could also gauge whether there is interest in participating in the formation of an Advocacy NGO to ensure that air quality in the Sea to Sky airshed be protected for current and future generations.

The outcomes of this brief discussion, combined with informal networking at the Forum, will further inform the SSCAS Board on its next steps.

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