Our Courses


Jan - Dec, 2024

Building Strong and Resilient Communities

2024 ACTivate Program

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 have sometimes 3 or 4 plans sitting on a shelf collecting dust?    So, we set off on this incredible journey of discovery around how to do community development differently.  What if we stopped talking about the needs (what is missing) as our starting point and started from the abundance in our communities?  Could we change the narrative?  Could we start to make visible the invisible treasures and gifts in our communities?  We believe that the answers reside in the people within communities and while we have no magic bullet that says do this to get what you always wanted, we do believe that using a strength 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 building out a templated 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 tourism plan, or it may be pursuing a new early childhood education centre to support working parents, or it may be tackling a housing shortage.  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 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 12-month period January through to December 2024.  In addition to the learning components, the GMIST and Coady ACTivate team will provide guidance and support to participants throughout the course through site visits, 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 and will streamline communication and information sharing for the cohort.

This 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 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 or general community members.  During the program, the members of each community cluster will work closely together in applying ABCD tools and techniques.  There will also be opportunities to interact and learn from peers in the other participating communities as this enriches the learning.


All participants are expected to be fully engaged in the program over the 12 months, including attending the online group learning sessions 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.

Course Schedule (subject to change)

Timeframe Key Activities
January 2024 Onboarding session via Zoom including overview of program and participant/community introductions
January – February 2024 Two introductory online Zoom learning sessions, 2 hours per session (January dates TBD)

GMIST/Coady team make site visits to participating communities to discuss the program, expectations and outcomes (February dates TBD)

March – April 2024 Participants gather stories from their community and begin to develop their core story using various community engagement techniques
May 2024 In-person learning in Gros Morne (5 days) – w/o April 28 – May 2, 2024

Community clusters identify a potential tourism outcome and formulate an Action Plan by end of week

May – June 2024 Begin implementation of Action Plan

Zoom Touchpoint Session

July – August 2024 Scheduled monthly check-ins
September – November 2024 Scheduled Zoom touchpoints (1-3)

Additional learning opportunities (virtual and potentially in-person)

December 2024 Completion of a tourism outcome

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 and group meals for the in-person session in Gros Morne (some exceptions apply).  In addition, GMIST will reimburse participants up to $1,000 in travel expenses from home airport to Gros Morne, NL for these in-person sessions (some exceptions apply).

What are participants saying about ACTivate?

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

“Thanks so much for the opportunity, it’s making me a more confident community connector and leader and helping feel empowered to make change.”

“What a magical experience this program has been. I feel so lucky to have been a part of this program and feel much more engaged by the work that I get to do now. I think I had forgotten that we can just do things to make our communities better and this work does not need to come from institutions and governments. My next steps will be finding the people in my community who want to be a part of this.”

“Learned that while we will go back and be ‘alone’ in our own work we are doing so together.  Deepening connections with others working in this space.”

Interested in Learning More?

Click HERE for the recording of the info session.

You may also learn more about the program by downloading this document.


Applications are currently being accepted for the 2024 ACTivate Program until 5 PM ADT, November 23, 2023.  Community selection will be completed in December 2023.   Note that space is limited, so please be as complete as possible in filling out your application.  A contact person for your community must be indicated on your application.

Applications are now closed.  We will be informing people of their status over the coming weeks.


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

Supported by: Government of Canada