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Managing and Coordinating Language Activities
One of the main problems facing Aboriginal languages in the Northwest Territories is the lack of coordination of resources and activities within and among language communities. The extent of this problem varies among the different language communities.

With most of the Aboriginal languages in rapid decline, it is unlikely that independent and isolated projects and activities will reverse the existing trend. From a strategic perspective, it is imperative that language communities collectively manage and coordinate the limited resources they have toward the common goal of language retention and revival.

This coordination must first be done internally. Each language community must ensure that all of the activities and projects taking place within its traditional area compliment each other, and that the information and resources generated are shared. Having a designated language and cultural agency of some sort – such as the Inuvialuit Cultural Resource Centre, the Gwich'in Social and Cultural Institute, or the proposed Deh Cho Language Institute – would allow for better coordination of activities, as long as this agency also works cooperatively with the regional Teaching and Learning Centres.

At the very least, regional and community steering committees made up of key language stakeholders could provide a forum for developing, managing, and evaluating Aboriginal language activities. Obviously, territorial, federal, and Aboriginal government agencies that have an Aboriginal language mandate must be kept informed and involved.

Well-managed programs and projects have the following elements:

  • Full commitment to the program by the sponsoring agency;
  • Formal and practical goals and objectives that can be evaluated relatively easily to determine if they were achieved;
  • Abudget that is used as a framework for all financial decisions;
  • Clearly defined roles and responsibilities for all people involved, particularly with respect to decision-making (who has the responsibility to make what decisions?);
  • Methods for dealing with conflicts;
  • Skilled personnel; and
  • Aformal process of evaluation - what was actually achieved for the amount of money and other resources utilized?

A simple rule of effective management is that success creates opportunity. It is much easier to access ongoing funding for a well-managed and effective program than for a program that has inconclusive results.

External coordination of activities can also be very beneficial. For example, the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre worked with an Aboriginal software company to develop a set of language lessons on CD-ROM. Once the basic pattern of the lessons was established, it was used for three different Cree dialects, two Chipewyan dialects, and Saulteaux. The development costs were then shared among the different language communities. This type of cost-sharing approach could be used among the language communities in the Northwest Territories, but a process for coordinating these types of efforts must first be created.

Both internal and external coordination and management require a commitment to communication and networking – sharing ideas, information, questions, concerns, insights, and successes. Communication is more likely when a shared commitment to a specific goal has been made. The goal becomes the reference point for decision-making. The most important question at all times is: What is the best thing to do at this time in order to help achieve the goal?

If the goal becomes the focus, then personal issues are less likely to interfere. If the goal is unclear, or not shared, personal issues can easily interfere with program activities.

For Aboriginal language communities, the overriding goal is likely the same – more people of all ages learning and using the language on a day-to-day basis. Utilizing the existing resources, as limited as they are, to maximum the achievement of this goal will require skilled and conscientious management and coordination of a wide range of language activities; and it can be done.

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