About Beringia Community Planning

Our Approach

Beringia’s planning approach and practice is founded on principles of collaboration, community development, social inclusion, participatory action, transformative learning and respect for culture. Founded in 1998, Beringia works with Aboriginal (First Nation, Metis, Inuit and Urban Aboriginal) groups and agencies to support comprehensive, holistic and interdisciplinary approaches and processes to community planning based on the following 7 Practice Guidelines:

1. We honour, listen to and learn from the deep planning history, knowledge, experience and customs of each community

2. We focus on strengthening local planners, methods and tools in ways that promote mutual learning, skill development and capacity

3. We support community-driven processes and relationships that are led by a local team of planners on the ground

4. We believe that community involvement is critical at all stages of planning to deepen learning, understanding and healing

5. We promote processes and plans that are comprehensive, holistic, integrated and interconnected

6. We emphasize cultural expression in all planning documentation, communication and information

7. We strive to help communities maintain active plans that generate desired change by the community

Beringia’s core elements in building great planning relationships include:

  • Servicing the planning needs and approach as identified by the community in flexible, creative and supportive ways
  • Investing  time in building relationships, personal connection, trust and shared understanding
  • Ensuring the process and plan is community-based, capacity-driven and community inspired
  • Being responsive to cultural, political, social and food harvesting rhythms of the community
  • Exploring planning roles and responsibilities with the community to enable local control and choice
  • Learning from the traditional knowledge, planning protocols and practices, values and methods of every community
  • Maintaining strong and ongoing communication with open feedback to promote strong collaboration, respect and trust

The Beringia Team

Beringia’s work involves collaboration between a diverse and experienced team of employees and colleagues.

Principal: Jeff Cook, MCIP, RPP

JeffCook150x150Jeff Cook is the Principal of Beringia Community Planning Inc. Working in the community since 1991, Jeff is a planning facilitator, community engagement specialist, educator and trainer with community planning and development experience (comprehensive, sector and project planning), working with over 40 First Nations and community groups across Canada.


Planner: Paula Hay, MCIP

PaulaHay150x150Beringia welcomed Paula to the team in June 2017. Paula worked in South Africa on projects related to disaster risk reduction, public health education, and the application of Indigenous knowledge for climate change adaptation. More recently Paula was a Planner with the First Nations Health Authority where she supported organizational planning and transformation. Paula’s areas of interest include community-based planning processes, participatory and applied research, and innovative facilitation and engagement techniques.


Planner: Vanessa James, M.A. (IDS)

VanessaJames150x150Vanessa James joined the team at Beringia in September 2015. Vanessa’s educational background is in Geography and International Development Studies, with a specialization in health geography and geomatics. Vanessa was previously working with the United Nations in Africa where she offered logistical support to various peacekeeping missions across the continent.


Planner: Naomi Schatz, M.Ed. Community Development and Adult Education

NaomiSchatz150x150Naomi joined the Beringia team in February 2019. Her experience spans 15 years in community development and planning, educational design and training and participatory research. Naomi has worked with First Nations and Inuit governments, non-profits, grassroots groups, and post-secondary institutions and students. She has worked with groups across Canada including Nunavut, Northwest Territories and northern Alberta and internationally in Central America and Botswana. Naomi is passionate about youth empowerment, social justice, and innovative planning and facilitation practices.

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