Community-led project delivery: moving forward together

By $name | March 13, 2023

Every community we serve contributes to our professional knowledge and cultural understanding. By listening to and understanding local knowledge, we become better project managers and designers; and by leading with our innovative community-led project delivery method, we can bring fresh insights and positive change to every engineering project.

After four years of building our practice, Hatch’s Community Engagement and Social Performance (CESP) team developed a unique project delivery process to better serve the development vision of Indigenous communities in Canada.

Community-led project delivery is a method of fully integrating community goals and objectives into the project life cycle by placing community input and knowledge at the forefront of the project delivery and design process. For this approach, Hatch has combined two distinct professional services—design and project delivery and community engagement—into a strategy that ensures community engagement is a focal point for the delivery process.

Bringing decades of experience working with Indigenous communities, CESP team members recognize that Indigenous communities hold a bounty of knowledge that they, as practitioners, are still learning. The team sees this as an opportunity rather than a limitation, envisioning a practice where the strengths of all parties can unite to create a new model for project delivery.

Knowledge held by community elders, leaders, and youth—coupled with each community’s deep and unique connection to its land—presents an opportunity to integrate this knowledge into projects in a way that truly serves the community. In other words, projects that are community-led by design don’t just “do the job”; they present a physical manifestation of the social fabric and history of the whole society.

Community-led project delivery moving forward together

One such project, the first community-led delivery undertaken by Hatch’s CESP team, sought to assist The Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation, near Sarnia, ON, in addressing a troubled legacy on its territory.

We were tasked with relocating 19 families who were living in unsafe, World War II-era army barracks as part of a long-running and tragic history of conflict with the Department of National Defense. The project required the immediate relocation of these families to new and livable homes, while respectfully addressing the emotional and physical needs of the Nation and their cultural values.

A key early factor in the success of the project was gaining the respect and trust of the community. With empathy at the core of the approach, our community engagement practitioners spent countless hours in-community speaking one-on-one with residents, issuing surveys, and hosting community meetings to deeply understand their history, wants, needs, and concerns. With a genuine and personal desire to help community members, and through deployment of engagement best practices, our team was able to garner the trust required to carefully navigate the highly sensitive subject of relocating residents into safe housing.

It was only through this community-led approach that the CESP team could truly understand the long-term goals, objectives, and concerns of the community and integrate those insights into design and project delivery. By taking guidance from residents at each step and milestone, we could ultimately relocate the families into safe housing.

Our CESP team at Hatch continues to work closely with the Stony Point First Nation on subsequent phases of the project, implementing a full community development program: a holistic approach to building a thriving, permanent community whose design is rooted in community vision and established with direct, meaningful input.

The primary components to the community development plan are a Comprehensive Community Plan (CCP) and an infrastructure feasibility study. Through comprehensive community planning, the vision and goals of the community are defined in the areas of:

  • Prosperity
  • Cultural and social values
  • Health and wellness
  • Governance
  • Emergency response
  • Land and environment
  • Infrastructure
  • Education and learning.

The long-term vision of the CCP is kept front and center in the design process and is incorporated into the earliest design activities of the project—namely, the infrastructure feasibility study.

In 2023, we will begin work in other parts of Canada with Lennox Island First Nation as they envision a unique renewable energy future, and Siksika First Nation as they continue to build in-community infrastructure.

Our team is passionate about creating and delivering inclusive projects and putting communities at the forefront of design and project delivery. Contact David Johnson P.Eng. to learn more about how we’re leading with community engagement to create lasting, positive change.