International Cooperation in Small Cities: New Directions and Innovative Local Practices in British Columbia

In August 2016, BCCIC, in partnership with the University of Calgary and with funding from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), completed a research project exploring small cities' and rural communities’ approaches to international cooperation.

Over the course of the two-year project, we traveled to three communities in British Columbia – Nelson, Prince George and Comox – to hold one-on-one and group interviews and to hear about some of the the innovative and promising practices being used across the province.

You may view our findings below in our Research Briefs and Technical Report:


Project Update (March 2016)

BCCIC/University of Calgary Research Project Update Written by Laura Barluzzi, BCCIC IDRC Research Coordinator

Have you ever wondered if international cooperation work is done differently in small cities and towns in Canada? And do different environments affect people’s work and their understanding of cooperation? At a first glance, the answers to these questions may not appear unknown to us. However, academic research in the field of international cooperation has largely neglected smaller environments, giving much more attention to larger urban centres.

In an attempt to bridge this knowledge gap, the BC Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC) and the University of Calgary have co-partnered on a research project funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) that aims to highlight the significance of the international cooperation work being undertaken in small cities and towns within a uniquely Canadian context. The project began In September 2014 and is expected to reach completion in June 2016 with research having been conducted in the three following BC communities: Comox Valley, Nelson and Prince George. For the purposes of this project, small cities and towns are considered those with a population between 10,000 and 90,000.

The research project has been undertaken by applying community-based research methodology, which is a collaborative effort between academic researchers and non-academic community members which aims to generate positive social change through the use of multiple knowledge sources and research methods. This allows researchers to better assess participants’ knowledge and perspectives, which is crucial for the objective of this project. Data collection has been done by doing both primary qualitative research (e.g. individual interviews and focus groups) and literature reviews (e.g. peer-reviewed academic sources and grey literature). Applying the inductive reasoning of ‘grounded theory’, the interviews are in the process of being analyzed with the software Nvivo 10 for the eventual creation of conceptual categories.

But where are we now?

As of March 2016, all data collection is complete including at least 5 individual interviews as well as 1 focus group have been held and recorded in each of the three regions. An example of questions covered at these interviews are: “What does ‘international development and cooperation’ mean to you?“; “How would you describe your main activities? Which activities do you consider most important?”; “What is it like to be engaged in international development and cooperation work in a small city or rural community?”. An annotated biography of the academic literature has been produced, with a total of about 20 resources. Most of the recordings have also been transcripted by a research assistant at the University of Calgary. Furthermore, in order to continue with ongoing knowledge mobilization, the project’s research investigator presented an update on the project at the Canadian Association for the Study of International Development (CASID) conference held in October 2015.

Currently, the research team at the BCCIC is investigating how many small cities and towns exist in BC and how many international cooperation NGOs work in there. Moreover, the literature review is in the process of being integrated with some ‘grey literature’, that are resources produced by organizations, outside of the traditional peer-reviewed distribution channels. A final technical report is currently being drafted for the IDRC and a journal article is expected to be published in the Canadian Journal of Development Studies. Additionally, the research team at the University of Calgary is finishing the interview transcripts and have begun the Nvivo 10 analysis.

A report with the findings should be available by the beginning of May 2016. Approaching the end of this study, the BCCIC is in the process of organizing a steering committee meeting for discussing the results. The same findings of this project will be presented at the CASID conference taking place in June 2016 at the University of Calgary. This research will be also presented to the communities that kindly participated and offered their time.

Bridging the Gap

The research findings of this project are unprecedented and hugely relevant to within the new universal framework of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is our hope that moving forward, these findings can be used to inform future projects, research, policy, and ultimately, a greater understanding of how Canadians so diversely contribute to a collective global agenda.