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PIE project offers a slice of ‘social capital’

Facilitators gathering like-minded people to create new ideas
Jim Ricks and Cheryl Thomas get silly over comfort food apple pie. The pair will co-facilitate a session to create the community version featuring people

The concept is easy as PIE – people, ideas, engagement.

Well, it will be once facilitators Jim Ricks and Cheryl Thomas gather a gaggle of like-minded folks and set them loose with their ideas.

Thomas says the PIE project is all about providing the space – spiritually, physically and emotionally.

“It’s not a project fair … It’s a process of – quit being paternalistic and patrolling and bring like-minded people together and have them define the project they want to take on,” she said. “Lots of people want to get involved in making their community and world a better place… but they don’t necessarily get together and make it happen. This is a way to allow that.”

The PIE Project aims to invite people to energize and animate themselves in coming together for projects within the community; and engage with each other in the PIE community and their project teams.

“If people think of giving service to community, they think of existing projects,” said Ricks. “What the PIE project is, is inviting people to imagine what they’d like to do… then co-create a project.”

It’s an opportunity to invent something that might relate to a dream or wish or idea they’ve had, then investing the time to make it a reality.

“It’s a way a community can build social capital,” Ricks said. “This is just to give people a boost and get things in motion.”

The idea is to attract people from the community to create a range of project ideas and generate teams which commit to designing and completing projects based on the ideas that come out of the meeting.

“We’re used to facilitating and getting to an end result defined by who our client is or who we are,” said Thomas. “There’s some really neat examples of where this has happened where if you get out of the way and empower people, amazing things happen.”

The first gathering is followed up every few months to share news about projects, ideas and reinforce results with the group.

“It can be as simple as providing a place for seniors and preschoolers to get together. … It might just be a chalk board on the street where people can write down their dreams and aspirations,” Thomas said. “Some of the folks that it sounds like are going to be involved may already have some projects in mind, but they don’t have the people to carry them out, so if they can persuade a few more others involved it may just happen.”

As a Rotarian and board member at the church, the type of activity isn’t new to Thomas. It’s indicative of ongoing works at Oak Bay United that don’t necessarily relate to organized religion itself.

“The church sees itself as a steward of the property, but responsible to the community,” she said. “We see our job at Oak Bay United Church is to facilitate that process and be the cheerleaders in the back. To keep the energy going… good intentions sometimes fizzle.”

The first gathering is set for March 14 from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Oak Bay United Church. Pre-registration is required – email – and space is limited. Learn more at