Our Courses


2024 ACTivate Program

Building Strong and Resilient Communities

Background and the “Why”

After years of involvement and observation around community development initiatives we and many others continued to say the same thing: “there has to be a better way!”  Why was it such a struggle?  Why did we sometimes have 3 or 4 plans sitting on a shelf collecting dust?  So, several years ago, GMIST set off on an incredible journey of discovery around how to do community development differently.  We asked ourselves “What If.”  What if we stopped starting our conversations with needs and what is missing and instead started by talking about and understanding the abundance that exists in our communities?  Could we change the narrative?  Could we start to identify the invisible treasures and gifts in our communities and make them visible?  And if we were able to do that, would we open our eyes to new possibilities?  GMIST believes that the answers reside in the people within communities.  While we have no magic bullet that says do this to get what you always wanted, we do believe that using an asset-based approach will help communities discover an abundance they may not have realized existed.  And isn’t it better to start from a place of strength than one of weakness?

The Program

The ACTivate (Activating Community Tourism) program is an exciting collaboration between GMIST and the Coady Institute at St. Francis Xavier University that supports community change leaders who wish to learn how to apply a citizen-led approach to community development.  We believe that a “Great Place to Live is a Great Place to Visit,” so this program isn’t necessarily about following a templated or step-by-step approach to destination development, it is about thinking about your community holistically and understanding the need to put your community at the centre of the developmental process.   To that end, the idea is for participants and communities to follow their own path and decide what is best for them – that may manifest itself in a plan to improve communication between community organizations, to organize a community event, to pool resources to build a neighbourhood playground or to bring more awareness to the benefits of shopping locally – the possibilities are endless.  ACTivate is about tapping into your ability to dream and those dreams can be as big or as small as you want.  This program is aimed at proactive learners who wish to explore the strengths of their communities as opposed to focusing on the deficiencies.  And – most importantly – the program will introduce ways to activate those strengths to create strong and resilient communities.

In the ACTivate program, the “conventional approach” to community development will be challenged!  As community change agents, you will rethink how you engage your fellow citizens in community-based initiatives.  Upon completion of the program each participant will receive a certificate from St. Francis Xavier University in “ACTivate – Activating Community Tourism, An Asset-Based and Community-Led Development Approach (ABCD).”

The Learning Process

During the ACTivate Program participants will explore the core principles and practices of Asset Based Community-Led Development (ABCD) through a variety of immersive experiences and learning sessions.  ACTivate is very much an action-oriented hands-on learning program which has been developed to support a variety of learning styles.  Utilizing a blended learning approach, there will be both online and face-to-face learning opportunities spread out over a 4-month period starting in late September 2024 and concluding at the end of January 2025.  In addition to the learning components, the GMIST and Coady ACTivate team will provide guidance and support to participants throughout the course through virtual meet-up sessions and/or office hours.  All participants will also have access to a user-friendly online learning platform which will house resources, course materials, assignment information and will streamline communication and information sharing for the cohort.

ACTivate is not meant to overload or overwhelm participants.  You will need to work at the speed of trust in your communities.  Some things will move forward quickly, while others will take time.  Community development doesn’t start and end with a program, it is a daily lived experience and this program is about investing in you as citizens to be able to create a way of being in your communities.  While we have a developed program that we follow, it is not rigid.  That means we go were we need to go as a learning group.  In the first offering of this program that resulted in some very rich learning.  Parts of the cohort chose to pursue added learning opportunities around things like community mobilization and others chose to participate in a learning mission to Nebraska to see ABCD in action.   All we ask from all of you is to be curious and open to collaborating to get the most out of this process for each other!

Ideal Participants

This program is about activating your community/organization’s strengths, so we are looking for people who are collaborators, innovators and do-ers who are passionate about their communities and seeking a different approach to development or to deepen their community development toolbox.  Selected communities will be invited to have 3-5 community members join the cohort, forming a cluster group.  There is no prescribed criteria for participation and the make-up of each cluster will vary from community to community as chosen by themselves.  Examples of participants include, but are not limited to: community/club/recreation style associations, municipal representatives, government agencies, non-profit organizations, economic development agencies, social enterprises, entrepreneurs, youth, retirees and general community members.  During the program, the members of each community cluster will work closely together in applying ABCD tools and techniques.  And, over the four months, participants will have opportunities to enrich their learning through interaction with the other participating communities.


All participants are expected to be fully engaged in the program over the 4 months, including attending the online group learning sessions, submitting assignments and a 5 day in-person learning session held in Gros Morne, Newfoundland and Labrador.  Each community cluster will develop an action plan and lead a community-based tourism initiative as part of the program.  Participation in all aspects of the program is required to receive the certificate from Coady Institute.

Course Schedule (subject to change)

Timeframe Key Activities
October 2024 October 9: Onboarding session via Zoom including overview of program and participant/community introductions.

October 23:  Introduction to ABCD two hour online Zoom learning session.

November 2024 November 3-8: In-person learning in Gros Morne National Park.  By end of week, community clusters identify a potential tourism outcome and formulate an Action Plan.
November 2024 – January 2025 Working on implementation of Action Plan in community

Scheduled Zoom Touchpoint Sessions (1-2) to support the action plan implementation and enhance learning

January 2025 Completion of first stage of action plan/tourism outcome and submission of final reflection

Online Graduation Celebration!


All accepted participants into the ACTivate Program will be provided with a full scholarship to offset the costs of the training elements of the program.  GMIST will cover the costs for community participants for all onsite accommodations November 3 – 8 (5 nights) and group meals for the in-person session in Gros Morne (some exceptions apply).  In addition, GMIST will reimburse participants for travel expenses from home airport to Gros Morne, NL for the in-person sessions up to $1000 (some exceptions apply). Participants will be responsible for some minimal travel costs such as travel from home to closest airport, including mileage, parking and meals and any accommodations costs beyond the five nights noted above.

What are participants saying about ACTivate?

Here is some of what the Spring 2023 and Spring 2024 participants had to say about their ACTivate experience:

“Activate has reminded a group of us that there is power in community waiting to be unleashed that can solve our problems and build unity.”

“I feel completely more capable and confident with fresh new tools and knowledge to lean on and have already used the tools back here at home.”

“This was such a powerful program, so many new and powerful ways to look at forming connections that will change so much of how we grow and engage people within our community.”

“Overall, the collaborative learning experience and the cluster approach have equipped us with the tools and connections necessary to create meaningful and lasting change in our community.”

“I’m looking forward to maintaining the connections that were made with the other communities as you know they’re people who are focused on the same issues and passions as you and can provide best practices and shared resources as you navigate your planning process.”

Interested in learning more?

If you are interested in learning more about the ACTivate program, we will be hosting an Information Session on Tuesday, August 20 at 9:30 am EST / 10:30 am AST / 11:00 am NST.

You can register for the session by clicking here.


We are currently accepting applications for the 2024 Fall ACTivate program.  You can apply by following the link below and filling out the form.  Please note that we are seeking groups of 3-5 people from a community/region for the program.  This is a competitive process so please be as complete as possible in your application.

Apply here.  Applications must be received by Friday, September 13, 2024.


If you have any questions or would like further information, please contact GMIST at info@gmist.ca.

Supported by: Government of Canada