Assessing the Factors Impacting the Sustainability of the Clarenville-Bonavista Rural Secretariat Region

The primary mandate of the former Clarenville-Bonavista? Regional Council was to provide recommendations for public policy advice on critical social, economic, cultural and environmental issues that impact the sustainability of the Clarenville-Bonavista-Isthmus region. From 2013-2016 the Council partnered with researchers from Memorial University’s Environmental Policy Institute, led by Dr. Kelly Vodden, in community-based research to better understand the factors that contribute to sustainability in the region in order to promote and enhance those assets. To assist the Regional Council in its comprehension of the concept and the nature of its work, sustainability was defined as, “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” in accordance with the Brundtland definition of sustainable development. According to the 2005 World Summit on Social Development, sustainability depicts the concept as an illustration using three overlapping ellipses indicating that the three pillars (i.e., social, economic and environment) are not mutually exclusive and can be mutually reinforcing. Sustainability includes such concepts as: equitable; viable and bearable.

In 2005, the Regional Council developed a Vision 2020 document which illustrated a vision for the Clarenville-Bonavista Region as follows:

[The vision of the Clarenville-Bonavista region] is of a sustainable region with healthy, educated, prosperous people living in safe, inclusive communities.

Phase 1-2 Study

In 2013-2014, the Regional Council expressed that it was interested in understanding the important elements needed to sustain the region. The Regional Council was interested in defining the barriers to regional sustainability. The Phase 1 Final Report documented a suggested list of key factors, measures, and indicators necessary to promote the sustainability of rural regions, with examples from other jurisdictions and consideration of sustainability priorities expressed by the Regional Council.

The Council was also interested in assessing how those elements were applicable to other areas and the province as a whole. Consequently, the Phase 1 Final Report provided the Council with a collection of resources (e.g. recommended websites, guides, case study examples) for potential stakeholders in and outside the Clarenville-Bonavista Region who might be interested in establishing similar projects elsewhere in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Through a facilitated discussion in Phase 1, the Regional Council identified the following key questions for consideration as part of the scope of this research project (including Phase 2).

  1. What is our definition of sustainability and what outcomes would tell us we are there (or moving in the right direction)?
  2. What are the key factors or characteristics necessary for sustainability in regions with similarities to the  Clarenville-Bonavista region? What barriers exist?
  3. How could the Regional Council best proceed with determining which of these core sustainability factors currently exist in the Clarenville-Bonavista Region and what are the gaps?
  4. Based on public input and research results, what priorities, strategies and/or policy support is necessary to assist in moving towards sustainability and sustainable assessment in the Clarenville-Bonavista Region?

In 2014, a literature review was completed which outlined different approaches to rural sustainability and identified a preliminary set of indicators that could be refined for measuring the region’s progress towards sustainability (Phase 1). The Phase 2 project was completed in 2015, which refined the set of sustainability indicators for the region and recommended that the results of this project be made available to community members in the region. The Phase 2 study was conducted using extensive public engagement methods, including workshops across the region and a public survey in which 299 residents from different communities participated, aimed at generating local data about the status of the region’s sustainability indicators. The main recommendations from this study were to communicate the results of this assessment to the public, as well as to revisit the sustainability indicators in the future and for stakeholders in the region to develop an action plan for sustainable regional development.

Phase 3: Regional Sustainability Report Card

In 2015-2016, Regional Council and Memorial University researchers created a “Report Card” to communicate the outcomes of the Phase 1-2 study to the public and key stakeholders in the region (Phase 3). After conducting a literature review of different sustainability reporting and monitoring approaches from around the world and other rural regions, the team chose to create a brief pamphlet to print and disseminate around the region. Public workshops were held around the region in order to ensure that the assessment of the region’s indicators took residents’ perspectives into account, and to understand the most accessible way to present the information in the Report Card. The Report Card can be downloaded in the Resources section below.

Ongoing Research

Stakeholders on the Bonavista Peninsula have expressed an interest to conduct community-based research to build on the Phase 1-3 work done through this project. Noting the potential for many regional sustainability issues to be better addressed at a more local scale, and the interest in creating a holistic sustainable development strategy for this region, community partners and Memorial researchers are currently exploring follow-up research opportunities. One significant development in the region, the dismantling of the Rural Secretariat and Regional Council in April 2016, creates the opportunity for stakeholders on the Bonavista Peninsula to explore other options for participatory regional governance. As this research partnership develops, the potential role of measuring and monitoring the sustainability of the Bonavista region through indicators, asset mapping approaches, or other means is being explored.

The research partnership developing in the Bonavista region is also part of a larger project on rural sustainability. This project, which focuses on the ability for rural communities and regions to harness local data in the creation of tools to support regional governance, hopes to expand with additional case studies across rural Newfoundland and Labrador. For more information on this project, check out the website at

Team Members

Principal Investigator: Kelly Vodden, Memorial University

Phase 1-2

Kyle White, Memorial University
Erika ParrillCH2M HILL
Steve Holisko, Memorial University
Colin Holloway, Regional Partnership Planner Clarenville-Bonavista, Office of Public Engagement

Phase 3

Joshua Barrett, Memorial University
Greg Dominaux, Regional Planner, Office of Public Engagement
Steve Holisko, Memorial University
Brennan Lowery, Memorial University
Regional Council, Clarenville-Bonavista Rural Secretariat Region

Project Partners and Funders

Newfoundland and Labrador Office of Public Engagement
Memorial University Office of Public Engagement
Collaborative Applied Research in Economics, Memorial University


Assessing the Factors Impacting the Sustainability of the Clarenville-Bonavista Rural Secretariat Region (2014). Holisko, Parrill, White, and Vodden.

Assessing the Factors Impacting the Sustainability of the Clarenville-Bonavista Rural Secretariat Region: Phase Two Final Report (2015). Holisko and Vodden.

MUN studying economic options for Clarenville-Bonavista Region (2016). CBC News.

Sustainability Report Card: Clarenville-Bonavista-Isthmus Region (2016). Lowery and Vodden.

Community Report: Regional Sustainability Report Card Project (2017). Lowery and Vodden.