On Friday night, I ducked away early from a Christmas cocktail party, sucked my breath in at the cold, and hiked over to Muni Hall to present a seminar on media relations to the last ever class of interns to take LUNA’s remarkable Community Event Coordination training certificate program.
LUNA’s CEC certificate is a perfect case study in sustainable operations and innovative social programing. A $55,000 municipal budget line-item is stretched like a magic bean into incredible low-cost programming offered all year long to Whistler’s most under-served population, the seasonal young adult workers that staff the town’s engine-rooms. It works thanks to a core group of ‘interns’ who are accepted into the program each year to learn events management in the most hands-on way, graduating from the program only once they have produced their own event. Given the economic importance of events to Whistler, it’s an incredible in-community training program braintrusted and run by the quiet creative talent, Kiran Pal-Pross.
Over the 7 years the program has run, that annual investment has yielded 51 graduates, 6000 volunteer hours, and over 250 events (including the iconic LUNAFliks), attended by 15,000 young adults. According to LUNA’s website, the program has contributed to a 20% reduction in alcohol-related calls to the RCMP. That’s a pretty good ROI.
“We proudly advertise and promote LUNA as a best practice.”
Norm McPhail, Officer In Charge, Sea to Sky Regional Police Services for the RCMP
After attending my first LUNAflik this summer, and connecting with the smart dedicated women who are LUNA’s last ever interns, I have come to believe that LUNA’s Community Event Coordination program is one of the most remarkable innovations to have come out of Whistler in the last decade. It also offers a wealth of talent and creative thinking that Whistler’s tired [sic]-and-true events sector desperately needs a dose of.
Alas, bureacratic bean-counters don’t share my enthusiasm. They have identified LUNA (as well as the under-attended Youth Centre) as programs that are beyond the core services of a municipality. I’m guessing that the cost of hiring one single By-Law officer, should additional policing of the muni’s liquor laws be needed as this programming disappears, would be approximately $55,000, so the “savings” seems like dodgy math to me.
$127,500 will be saved in 2012 by reducing youth services from the youth centre and LUNA, according to the report.
That means 10% of the $1.2 million cuts recommended come from reducing services to the young (non-voting) residents of the community, the ones, let’s face it, least likely to call up their elected representatives and say, don’t take our programming away!
This year’s class of LUNA interns has shrunk down to just three keeners, hanging on despite the fact that municipal budget cuts will end the program prematurely, so that there’s no chance for them to graduate with the certificate.
They will rally for LUNA’s grand finale event, Hockey 101, on December 30. And then, an incredible social experiment will come to an end.