Three Things We Learned From The Teeny Tiny Summit

The first-ever “Teeny Tiny Summit” was held on March 30, 2016 in Seeley’s Bay. The summit was dedicated to community economic development in Ontario’s smallest places and was coordinated by the Township of Leeds and 1000 Islands, and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

Teeny Tiny Places have the following characteristics:

  • Rural geography
  • Villages or hamlets with populations under 1000
  • No economic development staff
  • No strong drivers of economic growth
  • Stable or declining population

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Doug Griffiths, author of “13 Ways to Kill Your Community”.

“13 Ways to Kill Your Community,” author, Doug Griffiths, was the keynote speaker. With humour and insight, Mr. Griffiths outlined simple (but often overlooked) principles that can be applied anywhere to help build a vibrant place. His message, paraphrased, is that our community’s well-being is in our own hands.

The day included panel presentations and discussions on best practices for success in Teeny Tiny Places, and on designing highly functioning, collaborative, municipal-volunteer relationships. We also heard about Community Economic Development 101 principles that work in Ontario’s smallest places.

Here are some key take-aways:

1. Teeny Tiny Places are filled with skilled, visionary people who are committed to their communities.

Of course, we knew this already, but this day really reinforced the point! Over 135 people took the time to travel to Seeley’s Bay and spend the day learning about community revitalization for their tiny place. This demonstrates the level of dedication that exists in small places.

Those in attendance included municipal politicians, looking for the best options to strengthen their place. Some were staff, dedicating their professionalism and skill to bettering rural Ontario and many were volunteers, who contribute to local clubs like the Lions, Optimist, or Rotary. They sit on a community economic development committee, and they help run an annual festival.

Their activities are diverse, but what brought them together was a common goal: to enhance their communities and find ways to share their enthusiasm with others.

2. Rural Ontario is filled with beautiful, teeny tiny places to explore.

One person told me at lunchtime that perhaps one of the most useful things she was getting from the day was “…ideas for places to visit on family trips.” Exactly! We heard passionate individuals talk about what they love about their communities. It made us all want to explore these hidden teeny tiny gems a little more!

Speakers from Highlands East, Seeley’s Bay, Queensborough, Rideau Lakes, Kinmount, Batawa, Spencerville, and Madawaska Valley shared their stories. Here are just a few things they shared about their communities:

  • Irreplaceable heritage
  • Globally significant natural features
  • One-of-a-kind festivals
  • Eco-tourism opportunities
  • Multi-purpose community hubs

Let’s make a promise to visit each other more often!

3. Rural places are positioned to make life better for all Ontarians.

This day was not about what we do not have in small communities. It was about the unique opportunities that we do have. Rural communities offer safe, affordable places to grow up, raise families, retire, travel, and learn. By working together, and continuing to learn from one another’s successes, we can strengthen rural Ontario even more.

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