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Alberta Council for Global Cooperation (ACGC)

Member Profile January 2013

This month CCIC spoke with Heather McPherson, Executive Director at ACGC, which is made up of 70 very diverse member organizations. ACGC members work in Alberta and around the world in many geographical and thematic areas. Heather tells us about ACGC’s involvement with students and teachers through “Development in a Box”, which was created to build a connection between ACGC member organizations and the Alberta education system. She also talks about upcoming events and many opportunities to engage during International Development Week, which is taking place nationally on Feb. 3-9, 2013.

Rosemary McCarney
ACGC staff work on developing the 'Development in a Box' program


CCIC: When was ACGC incorporated? What have been your greatest challenges and accomplishments over the years??

ACGC:  ACGC was the first provincial council for international cooperation in Canada. Our original iteration as the Alberta Committee of International Agencies came into existence circa 1975. The primary mandate at that time was to work with the Province of Alberta to disburse and manage international development funds at a Provincial level to organizational members. The council adopted the current name of the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation in 2001.

ACGCs greatest achievements have always been the strength and influence we wield as a large, vocal, and very committed group of people and organizations. Our motto is Stronger Together and that idea of collaborative action has a long history within the organization. In recent history ACGC has taken a lead in campaigning against attacks on our sector, including a very active resistance to federal ODA cuts in 2004-2005 and more recently, in 2009, ACGC and its member organizations campaigned and successfully were able to get 1.5 million dollars of Provincial international development funding reinstated after it had been cut from the Provincial budget.

Another achievement we are very proud of is our increased capacity to assist our members and to engage Albertans in conversations about global citizenship and international development and cooperation. In the past five years we have substantially increased our public engagement programming, particularly targeting the education sector. ACGC is now seen as the premier organization for educators to consult with regarding curriculum support, teacher training, lesson planning, and collaboration with the international development sector. In terms of challenges ACGC faces, reliance on our funders is the most pressing concern at this time.


CCIC: ACGC has a diverse membership; what are the services and the added value that you bring to your members?

ACGC:With over 70 members, ACGC is one of the largest coalitions of international development and social justice organizations in Canada. Our membership is comprised of organizations representing small, medium, and large CSOs, environmental groups, first nation groups, teacher associations, boards of education, student groups, universities, research centers, film festivals, theatre companies, and a wide variety of individual members including educators, administrators, and professors.  ACGC members work in Alberta and around the world in myriad geographical and thematic areas.
The Council’s goal is to support the work of its diverse membership through networking, leadership, information sharing, training and coordination, and to represent member interests when dealing with government and others. The objectives of the Council are to promote and mobilize greater Albertan participation in assisting international development. ACGC aims to be an effective advocate and representative to government agencies and the public for international development concerns on behalf of the membership and to keep member organizations informed as to important shifts in Canadian foreign policy.
Our membership is a dynamic network of international development organizations in Alberta working towards ending poverty and achieving a peaceful and healthy world, with dignity and full participation for all. A few of the concrete benefits ACGC provides to its members include:


Members can contribute to ACGC’s various communication initiatives such as:

    • ACGC’s “Changing Lives Around the Globe” Post Media newspaper section.
    • ACGC E-bulletin highlighting member events and activities.
    • ACGC Connect, ACGC’s quarterly newsletter.
    • ACGC Connect, ACGC’s monthly podcast.
    • ACGC Teach, ACGC’s educator newsletter.
    • ACGC’s website and social media tools

Members participate in capacity building and training initiatives such as:

    • Lunch & Learn capacity building trainings.
    • Multi-day workshops.
    • Podcast training.
    • Access sample tools, policies and resources.
    • Receive individual assistance with grant and proposal preparation.
  • Members network and build relationships through initiatives such as:
    • Annual ACGC AGM and gala event.
    • Mentoring with other organizations within the sector.
    • ACGC’s Members’ Only portion of the website and participation in forum discussions.

Members benefit from ACGC public engagement programming through initiatives such as:

    • The ACGC display of organizational materials at public engagement events around the province, including teacher’s conventions.
    • Development in a Box curriculum resource.
    • Organizational profile available on the ACGC website.

In addition, ACGC staff work very hard to identify specific organizational members that would benefit from additional support and opportunity, often engaging specific members one on one to provide personalized capacity building opportunities.


CCIC: ACGC is very active during International Development Week; can you tell us more about what you are organizing for IDW 2013? (Feb 3-9)

ACGC: As always, ACGC has a very full agenda of activities and events scheduled for International Development Week 2013.

On February 6, ACGC is publishing a special section of the Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal in collaboration with Postmedia Network Inc. The objective is to raise awareness of important work being done by Albertan organizations and individuals who are working locally and globally to achieve sustainable human development and reduced global poverty.
Readers will find 8 full-colour pages profiling the work being done and personalities behind ACGC member organizations around the province. Stories include a look at how working at the U of A’s Global Education Program changed one student’s business when he moved back to Malaysia, why Sombrilla volunteers risked life and limb for humanitarian work in Central America, and what Calgary youth are doing to become leaders in water issues.

In addition, ACGC is organizing a Youth Day in collaboration with the University of Alberta in conjunction with the University of Alberta’s International Week. 160 students ranging from grades 9 – 12 will attend a full day of programming at the University of Alberta, with a wide range of speakers and opportunities for the students to engage with. This is an enormous opportunity for these students to gain valuable insight into Alberta’s international development sector and the role individual Albertans play as global citizens. In addition to programming by ACGC member organizations, ACGC is very pleased to offer the students the opportunity to partake in an afternoon workshop with Sheryl WuDunn, co-author of “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.”

Sheryl WuDunn will also be presenting a free keynote speech to the general public to engage Albertans in the important issue of gender equality.

ACGC is releasing another edition of its very popular “Top 30 Under 30” Magazine, which profiles thirty Albertan individuals and individuals from the Global South who are under thirty years of age and who are involved in social justice and global citizenship work across the globe. The magazine is a wonderful platform to both celebrate the hard work being done locally and globally by youth, and offer ways which interested people can become more involved in a whole host of opportunities within the field..


CCIC: You have been doing a lot of work with teachers and educators; can you tell us more about Development in a Box?

ACGC:Development in a Box was created to build a connection between ACGC member organizations and the Alberta education system. In keeping with Alberta Education’s focus on global citizenship, Development in a Box is a collection of educational resources from contributing ACGC member organizations to be used in grades one through twelve to aid in the incorporation of global issues into the curriculum and classroom.

Educators are provided with a wealth of lesson plans and activities to support them in guiding their students through the Alberta curriculum as they journey towards becoming global citizens. The lesson plans and activities included in this toolkit touch upon a variety of thematic areas and include the following: a summarized lesson description, lesson objectives, Alberta curriculum links, estimated time needed to complete the lesson, as well as a list of all necessary materials. In addition, a DVD of all of the materials is included. All lessons and materials are also available on the ACGC website for teachers who prefer to access the important resources digitally.

The Change Your World Alberta Youth Leadership Tour is another component of the Development in a Box program, which was launched into schools at the beginning of 2010. The tour, held every two years, is an opportunity for Alberta youth to visit and connect with Alberta non-governmental organizations and their partners, working in the Global South and see firsthand the impacts being made in international development.

The participants filmed their journey and developed a short documentary and presentation of their experience upon returning home to Alberta. With this presentation the youth shared what they learned about international development work, both locally and globally, with a diverse population in Alberta, hoping to encourage other young people to become involved in their local and international community. 

ACGC has completed 2 tours (Ethiopia 2010, Peru 2012), visited 13 international development projects, had 10 amazing high school students selected to participate, visited more than 50 schools and communities groups to share the experience, and presented to more than 2500 young Albertans.

In addition, hard copies of the ACGC Development in a Box resource are currently in 350 schools, with educators accessing the online resources over 2000 times.

In addition to ACGC’s Development in a Box project, ACGC works closely with educators, administrators, and students through school support and assistance in developing relationships and making connections with CSOs working in the international development sector.  ACGC staff provides training to teachers on partnership principles and ways for teachers to engage their students more appropriately in global citizenship initiatives and ACGC hold several youth workshops and conferences every year to engage students in important issues related to social justice.  For example, the Yes Men, Stephen Lewis, and now Sheryl WuDunn have all worked directly with young Albertans through ACGC.


CCIC: What are the benefits that you see in being a member of CCIC? And how do you explain the complementarities between CCIC and the provincial councils?

ACGC: ACGC values its connection with CCIC. This collaboration allows ACGC a greater opportunity to have the voice and experience of Albertan CSOs heard at the national level and provides member organizations with easier access to information and policy analysis.

CCIC provides comprehensive and informative analysis of current issues affecting ACGC members in a way that ACGC does not have the capacity to do.  In addition, through the creation of policy briefings, news releases, the CCIC Flash bulletin, and social media updates, CCIC provides important updates and information that ACGC shares widely with its networks.  CCIC has a vital role within Canada, and indeed, through the Open Forum Process and participation in High Level Forums, within the global international development community.

As a convenor of organizations, CCIC also provides enormous benefits to the entire sector, including the Provincial and Regional Councils for International Cooperation, and their member organizations.  By bringing together sector representatives to discuss, learn and network together it is possible to keep abreast of changing international development landscape.

Obviously, ACGC also cherishes the important work the Communication Taskforce is doing and is pleased to be able to contribute to the taskforce and the upcoming Ottawa Citizen blog.

One of the key complementarities between the Provincial and Regional Councils for International Cooperation and CCIC is the ability to access over 400 organizations nationally when we work together on key identified projects.  The Provincial and Regional Councils for International Cooperation assist is extending CCICs reach, and CCIC is able to provide services around ethics and policy that the councils cannot.


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