What is the Steps to Leadership Program?
Steps to Leadership is a three-stage package of leadership development programming that offers communities and organizations the opportunity to develop a new generation of leaders. The package has been developed by a provincial collaborative including the Rural Ontario Institute, 4H Ontario and the Foundation for Rural Living, and funding through the federal government.

What are the benefits to Muskoka?
Steps to Leadership provides the tools, knowledge and networks to build strong individual leaders ... who in turn build strong organizations, strong local economies and communities. Local, affordable and quality leadership training opportunities will enable leaders and emerging leaders in Muskoka to develop their potential and become instrumental in bringing positive, innovative change to our community.

How is the Program organized?
The Package includes three distinct programs:
• The Step Up to Leadership Workshop will inspire next generation leaders between the ages of 16 and 25 years to get involved in Muskoka. (Up to 25 participants)
• Leading Edge: First Steps is a skills-based training program that focuses on personal leadership development and organizational development. This program is for those already involved in the community as well as those who need to build confidence to get involved. 
(Up to 25 participants)
• Leading Edge: Next Steps has a community development focus and targets current leaders. Participants will enhance their ability to assess opportunities, and to better plan and develop a more economically sustainable community. (Up to 25 participants)

How can we bring this opportunity to Muskoka?
The Arts Council of Muskoka is prepared to act as lead partner organization and administrator for the Steps to Leadership Program. While the Rural Ontario Institute is subsidizing the program to ensure the opportunity reaches all of those communities interested in fostering local leadership, a community investment is required.
Total Program Cost $40,450
Community Investment $10,000
We are seeking assistance from community organizations, groups, businesses and individuals to help us bring this program to Muskoka through Program sponsorship.

Request for Sponsorship
The entire program package, including the three program components, project co-ordination & administration, marketing and outreach, is valued at over $40,450:
Cost Breakdown:
$23,450 (57.5%) from Steps to Leadership Program
$7,000 (17.5%) from participant registration fees*
$10,000 (25%) from the community investment
*There is an opportunity to receive a further program subsidy of up to 50% of registration fees

We are seeking assistance from community organizations, groups, businesses and individuals to help us bring this program to Muskoka. We strongly urge you to invest in the leaders of tomorrow through program sponsorship.

A Benefit of Sponsorship 
All sponsors will be invited to nominate a representative to sit on a Local Steering Committee. Through involvement on this Committee you will have the opportunity to shape the program and tailor it to the Muskoka situation. Committee members will play a role in:
- identifying potential program participants
- suggesting presenters to deliver the content of the programs
- marketing the programs to their networks and organizations contacts
- championing the programs
- recommending potential program venues

You will be joined on the Committee by key sector leaders representing the economic/business, agricultural, educational, tourism, environmental, political or youth sectors. 

For further information on Steps to Leadership Sponsorship contact:
Arts Council of Muskoka
Phone: 705-644-0531
In the January 26th edition of the Bracebridge Examiner municipal reform made the headlines. While the article indicates the topic was fully debated 11 years ago and set aside, it is still on the mind of those educated about the issue. While the article suggests there is little duplication between individual municipal responsibilities and the District, it does highlight duplication among municipalities. The point is, there is lost potential for Muskoka when our human and financial resources are divided by seven. Our municipalities relate in a courteous and respectful manner but because of our municipal structure, each have a mandated responsibility to focus their energies and ideas to promote their respective municipalities. The residents of Muskoka, on the other hand, easily move among our municipalities for employment, services, education, culture, and recreation.

What if the municipal boundaries were dropped and all energy focussed on quality of life and community, environmental health and economic development for Muskoka as a whole? What would be the advantage of pooling our strengths and resources? 

On the economic front, prosperity and innovation demand regional perspectives. Competition among municipalities is a trademark of rural Ontario. We often refer with fondness to traditional rivalries between sports teams, quality of local services and infrastructure. But in today’s global economy, it is imperative that we assume a vision that extends beyond our municipal boundary. What would result if we brought all of the municipal economic developers, information technology and mapping specialists together in one office? What a powerhouse! The generation of ideas and the ability to innovate and respond to opportunities would grow exponentially. Some ideas are larger than any one municipality can own or maximize. The notion of making Muskoka a centre of excellence in education, for example, is one that pops up consistently. But who has the authority and responsibility to explore the opportunities…. and build the linkages among the formal and non-formal educational organizations and institutions already in Muskoka? How too do we fill the spaces between the efforts of municipalities, community organizations, institutions, and business? Those within the community who have District-wide interests and seek to communicate with public sector leaders face the daunting task of addressing six municipal councils plus the District.

A strong, progressive and coordinated Muskoka is attractive to those considering the option of making this the home for their family or business. The creative economy attracts the ‘footloose’. These are the new economy workers who are attracted by quality of community, cultural vibrancy and an exceptional natural environment. We are blessed with all three. It is important now that we put the structures in place that enables this new economy to flourish.
Municipal signs are popping up across the District.  Coffee shop talk has begun and formal all-candidates meetings are just around the corner.  What a great opportunity this provides to bring forward the issues that are important to Creative Muskoka supporters, and challenge potential leaders to share their views.  With this in mind, the Executive team with the help of Creative Muskoka member Newman Wallis, has prepared a series of questions that highlight some areas of critical interest.  These questions relate to topics raised by Creative Muskoka participants at the recent visioning workshop hosted by the District of Muskoka.   
* District-wide collaboration: In what ways are you prepared to promote District-wide collaboration in order to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for Muskoka?

* Creative economy: What does the “creative economy” mean to you and in what ways will you support its development in Muskoka?

* Arts and culture as economic base: What role do you envision for arts and culture in Muskoka's economic future?

* Leadership in education: Do you share the dream of making Muskoka an educational leader with world class opportunities for formal and non-formal education?

* Opportunities for youth: While Muskoka's senior population continues to grow, the young and educated are looking beyond Muskoka for career opportunities.  What is your position on this situation?  

* High priorities: Help us understand the type of leader you will be by describing your two highest priorities for change in Muskoka?

* Innovative projects: "Blue sky" for a moment and share your thoughts on what innovative projects would enhance life in this area?

* Balancing environment and economy: Summarize your position on maintaining a balance between environmental sustainability and economic development.  How important is it -- and is a balance currently being maintained?

* Growth and development: To what extent do you feel that population growth and development is necessary for Muskoka?  In your opinion, what type of growth and development should be targeted?

* Industries: What are the industries that you can foresee as bringing prosperity to this region?

* Economic vision: What is your economic vision for Muskoka?

* What we do well: Identify three things that we do really well in Muskoka. How can we build on these to enhance local prosperity?

Feel free to forward these questions to your colleagues, board members, and any other associates you feel would benefit from them. It's time to get involved. Get out and ask some questions. Remember ... the next election isn't for another four years!
Muskoka is the place to be if you need a drink.  Our cute pubs, stylish ristorantes, and laid-back hangouts fulfill everyone’s wants and needs.  One thing I have found since returning home is that I spend much more time talking to my bartenders because we are all around the same age.  It is amazing what you can find out about someone over a casual drink.  

Did you know that you can make between $8,000 and $13,000 as a bartender or server during the summer in Muskoka? I talked to some friends who are working as servers and bartenders in variety of Muskoka establishments, and they all agreed that if you really commit yourself you will get a very high return. It is very difficult to find a job where you are making that much money, other than in construction. I was chatting with one of my favorite local bartenders and when the subject of school and travel came up it was so interesting to hear that she had done a double major, and had travelled all over Europe and South Asia during the past few years. When I asked her why she came back to Muskoka and what she was going to do next, she replied, “I’m not really sure. Right now I’m just making money to travel and pay off my student loan. I just love it here! The lifestyle is so different, I love the outdoors, and I really can’t see myself anywhere else.” This statement is very telling. 

Having grown up in Muskoka, I constantly run into people I went to school with and during the initial “How are you?” the subject of school almost always comes up. “I’m done, just back here to figure out what I want to do now”, “I think I might have to go back and do a college degree or something. There aren’t that many jobs up here in my field”, “I can’t find something I really want to do up here, so I’m serving. The money’s decent.” 

Don’t get me wrong, serving and bartending are completely acceptable careers, and absolutely vital in Muskoka. It is disappointing, though, if you go away to school, get your degree, come back because this is where you want to settle down and instead of being able to find a job in whatever you studied, you settle for a summer job that will make you money, not a full-time career. This is a problem. We go away to school so that we gain a better education, learn the tools we need in order to get a well-paying job, and to experience life away from home. When we come back to find that great job here, there isn’t one for us. You have raised us in this amazing haven, and regardless of how much we wanted out after high school, you still made us fall in love and we’re back. What are we going to do now?

I was talking to a fellow intern the other day and he said, “Finding a nice girl in this town is hard because they all leave after high school. The guys come back and work construction, but the girls move on and go to the city to find a career.” This may not seem like a big deal at the moment, but when the baby boomers are retired and it is up to us to keep Muskoka’s population sustained, how will that happen without young people attracted by well-paying jobs? 

This is where the creative economy comes in. Ask yourself – do the young people in your community represent wasted resources? Muskoka needs to start investing in new economy jobs that require next generation education, skills, and ideas – that is what we can offer. Now that’s sustainability!

Dana Clark
Richard Florida has developed a creative occupations classification and it's pretty broad. We've just gotten the breakdown for Muskoka. It seems that occupations can be a part of almost any field of work -- including but certainly not exclusive to the arts. It is the nature of the job that is the distinguishing factor. Those jobs that require workers to use their minds to create products, solutions, services, make decisions and guide or supervise others make their way into the creative category. The freedom to offer ideas that could lead to change and innovation is the other key difference. 

It strikes me that there is an important entrepreneurial aspect to all of this. If you work for a large establishment the rules are usually pretty clear in terms of what you can and can't do without the authorization of a superior. Work can be more routinized that way. If for instance you serve coffee at Tim Hortons, or greet shoppers for Walmart, you basically know the drill. There isn't a lot of room for creativity. But -- in smaller operations with less beureaucratic organization, there is more room for individuals to use their creativity to innovate in a way that will benefit the business or organization for whom they work. Muskoka, like most other rural areas, has an economy based in small and medium-sized enterprise. We thus have lots of opportunity to promote creativity in the workplace. Maybe we should all be like Google -- and mandate 20% of staff time for pure creativity -- exploring new ideas. 

Let's do what we can to turn Muskoka into the most creative community in Canada.

Mary Robertson Lacroix
I just participated in an interesting e-conference hosted by the Canadian Rural Development Network. The presenter was David McGranahan with the Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. His presentation was entitled, The Rural Growth Trifecta: Outdoor Amenities, Creative Class and the Entrepreneurial Context. He put in simple terms what we in Muskoka know, that is, the Creative Economy is largely an urban phenomenon EXCEPT for those rural areas offering exceptional outdoor amenities that attract footloose creative workers. Why else would so many interesting and accomplished people choose to cottage, live, work and retire in Muskoka. McGranahan makes an easy link to the two other factors that when combined lead to economic development. Attracting creative workers brings new ideas and talent to the area. And because of the value creative workers place on quality of the local environment, they generally favour 'green' development. Without new ideas we get more of the same. As this researcher says -- without the flow of new ideas we get more shoe stores and hair dressers. We need this flow of new ideas. The final crucial element is entrepreneurship. Bottom line is -- natural amenities attract creative workers. Creative workers provide new ideas, skills and energy. Entrepreneurs take new ideas and integrate them into the local economy. That is the trifecta ... interesting!

Mary Robertson Lacroix