How Rivers West District is Creating Connections and Bridging Gaps

By: Lauren Racette December, 2019

Thanks to a focus on grant writing and relationship building, the Rivers West District has been successful in supporting the efforts of various First Nations and Métis groups in accessing funds needed to engage their communities in cultural activities.

Bonnie Mills Midgley, community development coordinator, Rivers West District for Sport, Culture and Recreation (RWDSCR) believes that a mix of networking opportunities, communication linkages, and program support, is important to help groups prepare successful grants.

“Communities are always looking for funding for their various projects,” says Mills Midgely.  “We try to provide participants with knowledge and best practices for a successful funding application,” she says, adding that the District also provides a space to network, build relationships and create connections with various facilitators and participants.

Over the past few years, groups such as Poundmaker Cree Nation, Miyawata Cultural Association, Dog Patch Music Festival, Big Bear Cultural society, Chief Poundmaker Museum, are a few of the groups offering Indigenous programming in the District, supported through funding from SaskCulture’s Multicultural Initiatives Fund or the Aboriginal Arts and Cultural Leadership Grant.

Part of Mills Midgely’s work is focused on providing funding assistance to people in the area, which she accomplishes by organization grant writing workshops in communities throughout the District.  Mills Midgely believes that participants who are able to get first-hand information about the various funding opportunities available, such as presentations by funding agencies, are more likely to be successful.

Rivers West often partners with SaskCulture in the delivery of grant writing, or project development, workshops for this purpose. Dominga Robinson, outreach consultant, SaskCulture, often facilitates these types of workshops. She agrees that these are an important resource for helping residents build the skills they need to access funding opportunities.

“I believe that working with Rivers West has been a really positive experience for both them and us (SaskCulture) in terms of collaborating in community engagement. This is especially true with the First Nations and Métis communities being the main benefactor of that connection between us.”

Robinson goes on to say, “It takes time to develop these relationships. Trust is the key and by sharing information and spending time in the communities, we see that impact as well as a higher quality of applications.” She mentions that the discussion is no longer around the lack of clarity with the projects, but about how much of an impact it’s going to have in the community. This has always been part of her goals when facilitating these workshops.

“The network has grown because of the outreach and the connections made.  It is an opportunity to invite the community to be a part of our network and build capacity in regard to successfully applying for community based project funding.” 

Going forward, Mills Midgely hopes that an emphasis can be placed on successful grant applications that workshop participants complete, saying, “When a community can access outreach consultants who can show them these tips and tricks, the funding possibilities for their projects increase.”

The Rivers West District is one of the seven districts supported through the Saskatchewan Lotteries Trust Fund that help local groups and organizations ensure that culture, sport and recreation programming thrive in the province.