Connecting and engaging today for better resilience tomorrow

I am fascinated by what alliances can be formed to benefit everyone and how to cultivate the conversations that engage in community economic development.” – Colin Funk, Board Director, Cortes Community Economic Development Association

The idea that improvisational theatre is a great training ground for working in community economic development may leave a few people scratching their heads. But as Colin Funk explains, the analogy makes sense.Colin Funk

“The need to be curious, creative, confident, and receptive to feedback are all paramount qualities – whether you’re starting up a new business or setting the stage for a healthy and dynamic local economy,” says Colin who learned this early on working as a child actor on Vancouver’s theatre and film sets.

Today these are the very qualities that he has put to use in his current role as President of the Cortes Community Economic Development Association (CCEDA).

Lifestyle change
In 2014, after more than 25 years working at the Banff Centre for Arts & Creativity in Alberta, Colin and his wife relocated to Cortes Island to work at Hollyhock. After years of tracking arts and culture institutions from across the country, he admits he was particularly impressed by Hollyhock’s focus on wellness, leadership, and community transformation. When the time came for retirement, not only was Cortes a great space for “this point in his life”, but it was also enticing as a purposeful and creative place to contribute to.

Today Colin is actively supporting many non-profits on Cortes, including serving on the board for the Cortes Community Economic Development Association (CCEDA) and helping to build, maintain and lead a momentum of community-focused projects across the Island.

Creative thinking and local stewardship
“I’m intrigued by how rural communities that don’t have traditional municipal governments organize themselves through non-profit structures,” he says. “Really, creative thinking often comes from serious limits.”

Making creative improvements, according to Colin, is something that comes organically from the constraints of living on an island – an environment with geographic barriers and restricted available resources.

While the Cortes’ setting may currently offer a “luxury of space”, Colin also points out the need for more discussions on land stewardship, support of green space, and new models for community economic development and engagement.

“CCEDA was very fortunate in 2018 to be in a position to steward a centrally located property in the Mansons Landing village. The development process initiated the importance of community engagement,” says Colin of the recent ICET – supported “Quick Start” project designed to assess and develop a strategy for use of 2.6 acres of land in Masons Landing.

The project, led by the CCEDA, comes as a result of another “big initiative” – the Local Economic Action Plan (the LEAP Report) – that outlines opportunities for the development of community-owned commercial space as a way to build a community of stable and supported local businesses.

Emphasizing community economic development
“It’s important for us, with CCEDA, to emphasize the importance of community economic development, rather than the common notion of economic development,” says Colin. “The ‘community’ part prioritizes the health and wellness of our community by acknowledging our social capital.”

Alongside routinely helping tap into the Island’s wealth of creative individuals and community organizations, Colin says he is most proud of helping to support the formation of the Cortes Island Community Foundation – a local charity that engages in big picture, pan-island thinking and prioritizes initiatives that fill the gaps municipal governments might normally occupy.

Benefits of grassroot ideas
“A unique aspect of working here is our connection to nature and how a grassroots idea can be quickly manifested without a lot of bureaucracy. The improvisational attitude on Cortes – where we all think of one another as collaborators and creatives prompts us to network in rather businesslike ways through the giving of our time, and in trading of goods or ideas.”

When asked to cite the projects Colin is most excited about today, he doesn’t hesitate. They include the Village Commons, a future gathering place in Masons Landing for the community to come together; the new Business Recovery staff position that helps businesses recover and strategize post-pandemic; and he and his partner’s two personal projects: their improvisational theatre group, The Laughing Mussels, and their bed and breakfast, Brilliant by the Bay.

It’s not hard to see the link between all these projects. The common thread uniting Colin’s work is driven by the need to foster community and connection. This is as true on stage, as it is off.


Colin is currently working on developing and supporting a youth drama program at the Cortes Island School.


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