MNAI projects will close gaps and make it easier to adopt natural asset management

MNAI is now much closer to launching two essential projects that will greatly help local governments adopt the practice of natural asset management, thanks to the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia’s $184,000 contribution and the Province of BC through the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing’s $10,000 contribution, but we still need your help with another $92,000 to make these projects a reality.

Overview of projects

The two projects address these two barriers/gaps:

  1. The lack of qualitative and quantitative data on municipal natural asset management to inform the decisions of local governments considering this approach, and
  2. The lack of norms in professional disciplines to enable natural asset management and the corresponding tendency to default to status quo options.
Natural assets management could soon be an integrated component of a new Engineering and Geoscientists BC Professional Practice Guideline on asset management…and well beyond

To address these barriers/gaps, the first project will collect and disseminate evidence through a rigorous, long-term monitoring framework. This will give local governments – including elected officials and staff – the data, lessons and business case they need to take meaningful action on natural asset management.

The second project will develop norms for professionals in disciplines critical to adopting municipal natural asset management. The project with start with norms for BC engineering professionals, then expand to other professional disciplines across Canada. This will give the professionals the guidance required for effective natural asset management and create a foundation for new professional development options.

Background

Currently, most local governments still conceptualize, value and manage natural, green assets as social or recreational amenities alone. But, in communities across Canada, infrastructure is aging, capital and operating costs are rising, municipal service delivery is strained, and many ecosystems are in declining health. Climate change, population growth and land intensification often exacerbate these challenges.

A small but growing number of leading Canadian communities are realizing that healthy and well-managed natural assets can be part of the solution: natural assets can provide core local government services – such as stormwater management – at lower capital and operating costs than engineered alternatives.  MNAI supports these communities in two ways:

  1. Through direct technical support to local governments using MNAI’s methodology and growing toolkit;
  2. Enabling work to address normative, data, training or other barriers to municipal action.

Additional project information

The first project will:

  1. Determine the impacts of MNAI projects by establishing rigorous and consistent monitoring methodology and data protocols to collect, manage, and store research data. This standardization will help compare results between projects and across time, and build a foundation for monitoring both current and future MNAI projects.
  2. Follow up with each of the approximately 20-22 MNAI projects for 2 years following completion to monitor how each local government implemented their asset management strategy or plans (e.g. financial, bylaw change), any changes in investment (e.g. land acquisition), operations or governance, and any ecosystem changes.
  • Produce case studies and lessons learned, and publicly communicate the findings.

The phases will be implemented in partnership with University of Waterloo’s School of Planning, which plans to engage students in collaboration with MNAI through Mitacs, a national not-for-profit established in 1999 as a Canadian Network of Centre of Excellence to support applied research and training.

The professional disciplines / engineering project will:

  1. Engage stakeholders through a project advisory committee of key professional and asset management organizations.
  2. Aim to develop Professional Practice Guidelines on asset management and natural asset management in collaboration with the Engineers and Geoscientists BC, Asset Management BC, and others, with the funding earmarked specifically for developing the natural asset management parts of the Guideline; and,
  • Develop a roadmap for how to extend the effort towards a Professional Practice Guideline to other provinces, and for how to extend the development of norms to other professional disciplines.

The phases will be implemented in partnership with the University of British Columbia, with whom MNAI has applied to engage interns through Mitacs.

Some of the foundational work has already started.  As part of their course entitled Environmental Stewardship and Urban Systems, four Masters of Engineering Leadership in Urban Systems students, each taking a break from their professional career to learn more about managing cities, are beginning work on a preliminary report aimed at helping the Mitacs interns when they start work, planned for January 2020.

How you can get involved:

There is still an opportunity to support this critical work! The contributions of the Real Estate Foundation of BC and the Province of BC through the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing comprise over 50% of project funding. MNAI, together with colleagues at the University of British Columbia and the University of Waterloo, have applied for additional funding through the Mitacs program, which still leaves a shortfall of about $96,000 over 4 years.

For more information or to become a donor, please contact Roy Brooke at [email protected].

As noted, funds raised by MNAI to date support the natural asset aspects of the proposed Professional Practice Guideline; Engineers and Geoscientists BC is leading separate fundraising efforts  for the development of the overarching Guideline.  For information on the latter, please contact Stuart Nash at [email protected]