While Kate Sjoberg may have stepped down as executive director of the Spence Neighbourhood Association (SNA) this summer, her influence will still be felt throughout the community.
A former University of Winnipeg Students’ Association president, Sjoberg took on the role of SNA executive director in May 2007.
Responsible for everything from fundraising to communicating between the community, board, staff and volunteers, Sjoberg is glad that she had the opportunity to work with an organization that tackles poverty, justice and urban planning.
She’s also proud she was able to be a leader in a community that is working together to find solutions to these issues.
“The amount of engagement and how much people in the Spence neighbourhood are actively working on their living and public space is remarkable,” Sjoberg said.
The programs that are coming of age now, thanks in part to Sjoberg’s efforts, have been on-going for the past 10 years.
Within the organization, Sjoberg has helped to update the constitution and human resources manual and supported the creation of a sustainability committee to work on financial issues. Also, youth programming is now better supported through effective policies and staffing support.
The gardens and green spaces dotting the neighbourhood are just one example of the impact the SNA, and Sjoberg’s work, has had.
Vacant lots converted into gardens are social areas where community members can throw a birthday party, grow food, learn a new skill and, essentially, noted Sjoberg, develop networks, friendships and community.
Working in community economic development is not without its challenges, however. Sjoberg notes the value of patience with the rate of change when dealing with poverty, the impact of colonialism and generational issues.
“Some of us get into this work and get impatient with ourselves because we think we aren’t changing things,” she said. “Working on these things is a long haul.”
To help deal with these challenges, Sjoberg created an impromptu network of fellow directors across similar community organizations like the West Broadway Centre.
This allowed Sjoberg to not only understand the complexity and extent of the executive director role, but also helped her see that there are many other groups, people and organizations tackling the same issues across the city.
Erika Wiebe, a community development worker with Neighbourhoods Alive, sees that Sjoberg’s impact through the SNA has been great.
“Kate had no fear in her role,” Wiebe said. “She was not intimidated by powerful people and she was effective at getting the community’s message to them.”
Each executive director brings something in particular to the SNA, Wiebe noted, and Sjoberg was no exception.
Apurba Deb, the incoming executive director who took office Tuesday, Aug. 31, brings more than a decade of experience working in the rural areas of Bangladesh with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the UK Department for International Development, the Canadian International Development Agency, Danish International Development Assistance and non-government organizations.
His projects have ranged from community empowerment to livelihood improvement.
“I look forward to learning from the social memories of the organization and the communities,” Deb said. “Working together, we can make the SNA ready for addressing challenges that our neighbourhoods face on a day-to-day basis.”
Published in Volume 65, Number 3 of The Uniter (September 16, 2010)