Case Study: “Just Do It: City of Salmon Arm and Service Delivery Management”


Nestled in the picturesque British Columbian Shuswap with a growing population of approximately 19,400 the City of Salmon Arm (the City) has been steadily building and improving their asset management program for years.  

“We call it Service Delivery Management, to keep the focus on the services and so all staff can see their role in it” says Jenn Wilson, Service Delivery Management Coordinator for the City.  The City’s journey of formalizing asset management practices began more than a decade ago when Jenn (as the City Engineer at the time) attended NAMS training together with the City’s CFO. Their goal was to support a shift from reactive to proactive decision-making. Following the training, staff worked to incrementally build systems for service delivery management – yet it often felt like the work was being done off the sides of their desks.   

In 2021, City Council approved a Service Delivery Management policy along with funding for a full-time position of Service Delivery Management Coordinator. The top-down endorsement gave new momentum to the foundational work that had been done by staff in prior years.     

The Importance of Climate Change 

The City is a signatory to the BC Climate Action Charter and has been reporting on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for several years, conducting facility audits and energy reduction projects as opportunities arose. Some work has been done to identify and adapt to climate change risks, although this has been driven by separate initiatives such as integrated stormwater management planning or efforts to mitigate wildfire.  

The City recognizes that they may be vulnerable to other impacts of climate change, such as increased drought, flooding, or changes to lake water quality. The City wants to be able to understand the potential significance of these climate impacts to service delivery and what they could do about them. 

The Approach 

In 2022, Jenn jumped on the opportunity to sign the City up for the Climate Action Cohort program being offered by the Canadian Network of Asset Managers (CNAM) and funded by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM). She saw the Cohort program as a great opportunity to bring a team of staff from the City together to learn about integrating climate considerations into service delivery management, share with each other the work they were doing, and look for opportunities to centralize their individual efforts. 

Participating municipalities were encouraged to identify an initiative or project to advance through the approximately year long program. The City had recently started the process of business continuity planning, and identified this as an ideal opportunity to start talking about climate change in a way that could help build a broader understanding of the potential impacts to the services they were delivering.  

The business continuity planning began with high-level risk analysis. The introduction of climate hazards into the process enabled a broad range of staff to begin to make the connections between climate change and service delivery, based on information currently available. It also identified where further detail about climate hazards and impacts may be useful – such as understanding changing flood risk.  

The City has now convened a Climate Action Steering Committee to make connections between climate action and the organization’s goals, and to guide further work on climate adaptation and mitigation. Many members of the Climate Action Steering Committee are also members of the Service Delivery Management Committee, which will lead to further integration of the work. 

The next step for the City is to develop a Low Carbon Resilience Plan, which will help provide further information on climate risk and priorities for reducing GHG emissions that staff can integrate into decisions about service delivery. 

The City of Salmon Arm also presented their efforts at the Asset Management BC 2023 Conference, slides available for download here. 

Lessons Learned 

As Jenn reflects on her journey with the City and more recent experiences with integrating climate into service delivery management, she shares some lessons learned. 

“Don’t put your head in the details – focus on the big picture, for us that was centered around service delivery. “ 

The City has known that climate change will have impacts on service delivery, but struggled to advance the conversation without the details of knowing the exact changes or specific impacts. However, Jenn remembered sage advice she received during the initial NAMS training years ago: “the instructors emphasized to not always worry about the details – to step back and connect what you’re doing to the big picture.” The City saw success with climate mitigation initiatives by starting conversations at a high level and then building up increasing detail over time, where it was needed.  

“Just start the conversations, talk to people frequently, make connections.” 

In previous years, climate adaptation efforts were happening through a handful of individual projects but the City had not gained broad momentum. Introducing climate adaptation into a topic people were already engaged in – business continuity planning – created a platform to start the conversation and build broader awareness. This awareness led staff to make new connections, both with the topic of climate change and with each other. 

A significant benefit of the Cohort program was the ability to make connections with staff in other participating municipalities and share perspectives, successes, and challenges. The learning that City staff gained from other participants highlighted the value of connecting beyond their organization. 

“It’s hard to drive change when you’re working in your own siloes. When you have a team, and people are checking in, you work together. 

Even though the City is not a large organization and each staff member wears many different hats, there are still siloes that emerge in day-to-day work. The Climate Action and Service Delivery Management Committees have helped to build momentum because there is a team moving the work forward together. Each member can educate others on what they are doing and together the Committees can identify connection points. 

This initiative is offered through the Municipal Asset Management Program (MAMP), which is delivered by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), and funded by the Government of Canada.