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By cheyanne turions

Perhaps counterintuitively, one measure of a system’s resilience is its “redundancy.” Efficiency is dangerous because of the ways it makes a system vulnerable: if there is only one way to accomplish something that needs to get done—even if it is the quickest method or uses the fewest resources or returns the largest profit—any disruption in the process means that the system breaks down. In Resilience Thinking: Sustaining Ecosystems and People in a Changing World, Brian Walker and David Salt describe this phenomenon: “Resilient social-ecological systems have many overlapping ways of responding to a changing world. Redundancy in institutions increases the response diversity and flexibility of a system (Ostrom 1999)...Totally top-down governance structures with no redundancy in roles may be efficient (in the short term), but they tend to fail when the circumstances under which they were developed suddenly change. More ‘messy’ structures perform better during such times of change.”[1] With the caveat that I am not a musician, I’d like to propose that practices of improvisation might be a method for generating resilience within social systems. The potential for improvisation to take music, musicians, and audiences to unanticipated, strange, or surprising places is itself a value, aside from the qualities of the sound produced. In the language of resilience theory, we can think of this as generating redundancy, diversity as strength.

Listening builds relationship laterally, tangentially, without regard for divisions of power. In performance, musicians occupy the stage, but the audience is their collaborator as much as the musicians are each other’s. Listening is a movement of the body, a folding of the flesh, not only an aural reception of sound waves. Listening changes you.

At 2014’s Guelph Jazz Festival, the four men of Postcommodity—Raven Chacon, Cristóbal Martínez, Kade L. Twist and Nathan Young—performed songs from their LP We Lost Half The Forest, And The Rest Will Burn This Summer (forthcoming). Based in New Mexico, Chacon explained the album’s title in a discussion following their performance: “Where we come from, there is not a lot of rain. There is drought. Constant drought. Every summer, the few forests we have in New Mexico burn and then they grow back eventually. They burn every summer [but] they don’t have an opportunity to grow back to what they once were. This…affects animals, and some of us hunt, so we thought of these songs as hunting songs, songs to call toward animals, or songs you might make up while in the woods hunting. We composed these songs as improvisational frameworks to sing within.” Improvisation builds a way of being in the world, of being in relation.


Postcommodity performs at the Banff Centre. Image courtesy of Postcommodity.

And yet, when asked later about the nature of improvisation in their work, Chacon clarified:

“I don't believe what we are doing is on the side of improvisation, for two reasons. The first is that we each have intentional rigs (setups, systems, signal chains, instruments) that are very limited in what they can do. We have intended this to be the case, so that each member can play a role in the song as well as give each other space when oneself cannot play beyond that role. I believe that this aim toward control cannot truly be improvisation.

“Second, and most important, is that the songs have preplanned structures or instructions. Such as ‘create blasts of loud sound’ or ‘so-and-so starts with a solo then we get quiet’. There is also a set duration. Within a structure, we are free to choose pitches or tones to complete the given duration, but I don't think that free choices necessarily equals improvisation. In other words, we have set up enough preparations that one cannot easily steer the song to a different outcome.”

While the musicians that afternoon did not explicitly engage in improvisation, or at least not simply so, it was a part of the experience for me as a member of the audience. My usual ways of listening would not do. The music wanted something else from me, something agile, tough, and humble. Postcommodity’s Twist suggested that the music itself was action beyond sound: “A lot of the work that we do, a lot of our practice, could be labeled as Indian Futurism, or in Canada, Aboriginal Futurism. A big part of that is imagining a future that is more desirable, and being able to place metaphors, position them, in circumstances of self-determination. Reverse engineering back to the present is what Indian Futurism is about, and what we are doing with our music.” Given the ongoing process of colonization invoked in his comments, and the way that colonization produces the position of settler and Indigenous both, everyone in the room was implicated in this becoming.

In service of this reverse engineering of a cultural self-determination, Martínez articulated a method: “We take these tools that are tied to pervasive media and the rapid changes that are happening in the world and basically we hack them. Noise is a great format for that because noise is already a culture that is about repositioning tools in new and innovative ways. How do we reposition these tools in a way that allows a re-imagination suitable to ritual practice and ceremony? So we can imagine new ways of rationalizing and operationalizing the change for self-determination? Some of the protocols for this music have a lot to do with listening, which is hard. We have been thinking about dialogue and protocols, when it is appropriate to listen and when it is appropriate to speak, realizing it is more about listening than speaking. It’s a lot about relationships and how we encounter one another.”

Protocols of listening get us outside of ourselves, which somehow returns to the ecological idea of a resilient redundancy by prompting new ways of being in relation. And yet, because an ecological notion of resilience obscures the agency of human actors, the term “resilience” is insufficient to describe the work associated with protocols of listening. Postcommodity’s work is about changing the circumstances through which a diversity of cultures are supported and the reciprocal obligation of their audience, of me, is to listen carefully to the tenets of an Aboriginal Futurism. What does support look like? Sound like? Listening is humble, and yet settlers and Indigenous people alike only stand to gain from Aboriginal Futurism and Indigenous self-determination. Perhaps a term like “mutual becoming” better captures the connotations of relation, responsibility, and vulnerability that are so vital to Postcommodity’s project.

Chacon relates a poignant example: “A lot of our work speaks about the future, a possible apocalyptic future that American Indians have already seen in the past. This is history repeating itself. We came together as a response to so many contemporary artists speaking only about the past, and not enough about the future.” Aboriginal Futurism recovers the past in service of an inevitable environmental change—more likely environmental collapse—and what I must imagine to be a social upheaval that will accompany it. Twist suggests that the scale of this cultural self-determination and mutual implication will be both large and small: “There is a lot of pragmatism in the public policy arena, which is about connecting strategies one step at a time. Change comes about through increments. This is the process that Indigenous people go through: consensus building. Though we cannot speak on behalf of 565 Indigenous nations in the United States, but we can speak on behalf of that framework. It is essential. To always exercise self-determination and the sovereignty of context, to expand the context to create space for an Indian future.”

In Guelph, as guests, Postcommodity have put themselves in a position of practicing protocols of listening through their People of Goodwill project. In speaking of what they heard on their previous research visits, Martínez relates that, “one of the things that came up was the need to enhance diversity in the art community and to enhance diversity in the city of Guelph. So much thinking has already happened at the federal, provincial, and city level. We took the plans that have already been developed and are working through them with the community with the specific goal of placemaking for a more diverse population of immigrants and culturally diverse people in the art ecology. The Guelph Black Heritage Society has the heritage hall and they are stewards of the underground railroad experience and the keepers of that history, and it is the goal of that organization to re-imagine and extend that narrative and living history to new immigrants coming to Canada and Guelph as a placemaking strategy. As stewards, they are offering their history, and as artists we are offering our capacity to bring people together, to rationalize that history and to create new narratives.” In supporting these new narratives, no doubt Postcommodity will be the richer for it. And Guelph too. Not that the tactics present themselves pre-formed, but that they too unfold from improvisation, from trying, listening, re-articulating, and trying again.


This piece is informed by a public discussion that followed Postcommodity’s performance at the Guelph Jazz Festival on 04 September 2014.

[1] Brian Walker and David Salt, Resilience Thinking: Sustaining Ecosystems and People in a Changing World (United States of America: Island Press),148.

Shaping a New Narrative for a New Economy – Webinar Dec 8

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December 8, 2014, 11:30am – 1:00pm (PST)

What role does narrative play in shaping economic life? How must the current narrative change if we are to have a viable human future and an economy that works for all, including Living Earth our home and source of nurture? What will it take to discover and establish a new narrative in the public mind? If this is an exploration you are interested in please join us!

You are invited to join a MaestroConference conversation with two visionary thinkers, David Korten and Otto Scharmer, whose current books challenge the foundational assumptions of established economic thought and call for a dramatic restructuring of our economic narrative and institutions. (All you will need is your phone to join this conversation. You will not need to be on a computer!)

The conversation will be hosted by master convener and gifted facilitator, Charles Holmes. Attendees on the call will have a chance to discuss their views in small groups and field questions to David and Otto.

While there is no charge for this December 8 web event, registration is required for access to the conference line.

Click here to register

Vancouver Climate Risk Forum – Dec 5

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On December 5th, the Vancouver Climate Risk Forum will build on similar events hosted in Seattle, Boston, and San Francisco, and bring together local leaders and investment professionals to talk about the impact of climate risk on our pensions, cities, foundations, churches, and other public institutions.

Scientists and organizations like the International Energy Agency are warning investors that most fossil fuel reserves need to stay buried if we hope to avoid the worst effects of global warming. At the same time, more than a trillion dollars a year over the next 36 years must be invested in clean energy if we hope to limit warming to two degrees Celsius.

The Vancouver Climate Risk Forum looks to accelerate this transition to a safer, cleaner economy by supporting local institutional investors looking to manage climate risk and engage with companies to improve their practices on clean energy and carbon.

The forum consists of a daytime program tailored to investment professionals and decision makers, as well as a free public panel in the evening, with former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn as the keynote speaker.

Register to attend the Vancouver Climate Risk Forum
RSVP for the evening
public leadership keynote

To learn more, visit:

SIRC webinar #2: The 100in1Day movement and Active Citizenship

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100en1 webinar GOOD copy

100in1Day has been dubbed many things, from the heart of active citizenship to the prototyping of the co-created city.

The global, citizen-led movement was born in Bogota, Colombia in 2012. The one-day event featuring 100+ interventions from citizens all over the city has since spread to 14 cities across four continents. The movement, which empowers individuals to beautify and transform their urban spaces, took off in Canada in October 5, 2013 starting with Montreal. Earlier this year, three other cities - Vancouver, Toronto, Halifax - joined in the movement along with Montreal on June 7, 2014.

At the heart of 100in1Day is active citizenship, which means going beyond voting and complaining to living consciously and embracing our own power as everyday urban citizens. What do you want for your city? Join us in exploring the practice of active citizenship and finding your own personal connection to place and community. Dare to step out of your personal bubble and into the commons.

Date: Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Time: 9am PST12pm EST1pm AST

Eventbrite - SIRC webinar #2: 100in1Day movement and Active Citizenship

About the Presenters

Juan Londono

Juan Carlos Londono is the initiator of 100in1Day Montreal, a social entrepreneur, and a researcher. Born in Bogota, the birthplace of 100in1Day, he is a self-described "explorer of human potential". Juan is the co-founder of Lupuna, a socially-oriented enterprise that uses collaborative practices to enhance people's capacity to work together for the common good.
Cédric Jamet
Cédric Jamet, curator of the Citizen Spaces at Cities for People and the Montreal Urban Ecology Centre, knows a thing or two about transforming the city. Passionate about the relationship between active citizenship and the urban imaginary, he is involved in several projects that aim to rethink public space and citizen engagement. He was one of the initiators of the 100in1Day movement Montreal, and currently facilitates active citizenship through Transforme ta Ville and Get2gether neighborhood projects.

E-Learning Course: Introduction to a Green Economy: Concepts and Applications

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This e-learning course will introduce participants to different concepts and facets of the green economy, as well as global, national and sector-specific challenges and opportunities to advance low-carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive development. Additionally, participants will begin to develop basic skills for applying the green economy concept in a real world economic, policy and/or personal context.

After completion of the course, participants will be able to:

  • Define the concept of a green economy and explain its value
  • Distinguish relevant planning processes in support of a green transformation
  • Identify enabling conditions for greening national economies
  • Discuss principal challenges and opportunities to advance a green economy
  • Recognize the range of international and regional green initiatives and support services to foster green development
  • Apply the green economy concept to a real world economic, policy and/or personal context

Date : 27 October - 19 December 2014

Duration of event : 8 weeks

Course fee : 800 USD*

*A number of full/partial fellowships are available for participants from developing countries working in the public sector, academia or non-profit organizations. For non-eligible participants the course participation fee is 800 USD.

For more information on the fellowship application process please contact

Register here: Online Event Section.

Registration Deadline: 19 October 2014

Fellowship Application Deadline: 17 October 2014

Global #MapJam 2014 to Put the New Economy on the Map!

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On October 13th, the Sharing Cities Network will launch the Second Annual Global #MapJam to bring activists together in cities around the world to map grassroots sharing projects, cooperatives, community resources, and the commons where they live.

Mapping all of the shared resources in your city not only shows that another world is possible--it shows it’s already here! Asset maps are powerful organizing tools. They make community assets more visible, create a base for further community development, spark new collaborations, and illuminate openings for new projects to fill in the gaps. They also get a lot of web traffic! Depending on the size of your city, your map could easily get thousands of visits in just a few months after creating it.

Scheduled to coincide with New Economy Week, the Map Jam will launch on Indigenous People’s Day and continue for two weeks from Monday, October 13th - Sunday, the 27th.

Global #MapJam Day will take place on October 16th featuring a 24hr mapping ‘round the world across multiple continents and timezones

The second annual asset mapping event will build upon the tremendous success of last years campaign when 500 mappers partied together in 60 cities and made 50 maps in just 2 weeks launching the Sharing Cities Network in the process. Groups in many cities have already begun to step up and are planning to host #MapJams in Barcelona, Frankfurt, Hartford, Louisville, Nairobi and Rochester just to name a few and many groups from last year will be coming back together… who knew that mapping could be so much fun?

The #MapJam has received a broad base of support led by the Sharing Cities Network  and partners including: New Economy Coalition,US Solidarity Economy Network,Transition US,Center for a New American Dream,OuiShare,P2P Foundation,Post Carbon Institute,The People Who Share,Students Organizing for Democratic Alternatives,Solidarity NYC,Data Commons,  RIPESS (International Network for the Promotion of Social Solidarity Economy) and many other community and Sharing Cities groups.

Interested in organizing a #MapJam in your community? Or attending one? Please sign up here to get involved.

#MapJam’s are easy to organize and a small, dedicated group of people can get together for a few hours to map as many shared resources, cooperatives and sharing services in their city or town as possible. Like a musical jam, it should be fun, social, and jammers should find a groove as they work. Join the Sharing Cities Network facebook group to get the latest updates and meet other ‘map jammers’.

Join us to Put the New Economy on the Map!

Sign up now to host a #MapJam and you will be provided with a comprehensive Guide to Mapping, Webinar, Q&A/Support Calls and Promotional Materials to support the success of your local event.

New Economy Week 2014

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What would it take to build the economy we need, one that works for people, place, and planet?

New Economy Week is a public exploration of creative resistance – an opportunity to shine a light on the thousands upon thousands of efforts that everyday people are making right now to build a new kind of economy. 

From October 13-19, the New Economy Coalition (NEC) will be hosting live keynote panels, publishing powerful essays, and spotlighting member events (open-houses, info-sessions, film screenings, panel discussions, pot-lucks, etc.) from across the US and Canada — with the goal of raising the profile of those doing this work and diving into some of the questions that stand between us and a New Economy.

NEC has partnered with YES! Magazine online to share some of the best responses to their 'questions of the day':

1. How can we honor and learn from the rich histories of communities building New Economy institutions on the frontlines of fights for racial, economic, and environmental justice?

2. How can we catalyze public conversation about the need for systemic change and the viability of economic alternatives that put people and the planet first?

3. How can we connect and learn from successful experiments, pilot projects, and campaigns to build broad-based power and effect deep transformation at scale?

4. How do we transition to a renewable economy without leaving the workers, young people, and communities most impacted by extractive industries behind?

5. How can we support neighborhoods, cities, towns, and regions as the fertile ground for the kind of economy we need?

Get Involved!

We invite you to join these conversations online and to host some conversations of your own in your community.

The Coffee Cup Revolution – Monday 6 October in Vancouver

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On Monday October 6th, from 9:30am-2:30pm in Victory Square, Vancouver binners are carrying out a street-level environmental action, reminiscent of United We Can’s efforts in the early 1990’s. That work helped shift social behavior and responsibility and resulted in the expansion of the deposit laws for beverage containers.

The ignition key for this event will be a “pop-up” depot in Victory Square that will pay binners 5¢ for each of those ubiquitous used paper cups that we see strewn across the urban landscape every day.

The spark behind this action is an exploratory venture, The Binners Project which is being supported under Cities for People, an experimental program for advancing urban innovation.

For its première event, the Binners Project has intentionally identified the “disposable” cup as the symbolic evidence of a conspicuous shift in consumer habits over the past several decades. Binners get up close and personal with our urban waste every day so they see first hand, the effects of this shift. Some older binners recall a time when people used to sit together in cafés chatting over steaming pottery cups of hot coffee. Today, in a busy wireless age, with paper cup in hand, we pursue our goals on the go; leaving a trail of cups, lids, stir sticks, and maybe even some of our values behind us in the dust.

A symbol of our times, but so much more, paper coffee cups have become a serious environmental problem. They litter the highways and byways of our cities, each one of them, an aesthetic assault to our collective unconscious. While it is difficult to estimate with absolute accuracy just how many of these cups we go through every year, the most recent statistics we could find suggest that conservatively, it’s well past the 1.5 billion mark. And that represents more than half a million trees, thousands of tons of garbage, and millions of liters of the fossil fuel needed to move this waste to our landfills and incinerators.

Event sponsors and partners: BC Housing, City of Vancouver, Vancity Community Foundation, Central City Foundation, Vancity Community Investment, Haebler Construction, UBC Learning Exchange, The Dugout Drop-in Centre Society, Recycling Alternative, United We Can, DTES Street Market, and other anonymous supporters.

What is a binner?
binner \`bin-ner\ – noun
Canadian west coast colloquialism
1. A person who collects bottles and cans and other objects of value from garbage (in bins); a dumpster diver; The binner pushed a shopping cart full of empties to the bottle depot.
Origin: Attributed to Robert Sarti (Vancouver Sun journalist) - 1990

Dawn of the Anthropocene: Livestream melting ice sculpture Sept. 21

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An artistic intervention on the occasion of the Peoples’ Climate March and the Climate Summit  (New York City). This event has now ended. See below for the time lapse.

On September 21, 2014, artists Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese present Dawn of the Anthropocene a large-scale ice sculpture of the words “The Future.” The sculpture is 21 feet long, 5 feet high and weighs 2000 pounds. It will melt throughout the day taking anywhere from 8 to 24 hours to disappear.

The artists call these events “temporary monuments” filming and photographing them throughout the process of their disappearance. They stream the sculpture’s transformation live on the website meltedaway to expand the site specificity of it. The website becomes an expanded documentary incorporating internet, video interviews, photography and text allowing viewers off-site to experience the piece in a multiplicity of ways.

This use of media has been an integral part of Ligorano Reese’s temporary monuments from their inception drawing on the sculpture event’s performative character and taking inspiration from Josef Beuy’s concept of “social sculpture.” Dawn of the Anthropocene will be the first temporary monument to offer the video stream to other websites as an embedded feed. The artists are using an array of social media platforms to present the event live including Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and Instagram, which is also available for embedding.

The artists will offer short-term writers’ residencies during the event for journalists, poets, and essayists, and an open mic will also be provided so that the writers and general public can share their views on the climate during the livestream each hour, on the hour.  All media is posted on the meltedaway website at the end of the process in order to form an accessible archive of this public action in the service of climate justice and safeguarding our ecosystems.

Text by Marshall Reese, Nora Ligorano and Todd Lester.

Todd Lester is an associate producer of the event for Cities for People, Art & Society Team.  Just last week Todd worked together with Musagetes and the Art & Society Team of Cities for People to pilot the Artist Round Table (A.R.T.) approach with Mark Prier.  Prier's artistic practice elicits dialogue on the environment, sustainability, the climate and ecological concerns broadly.

Time lapse video:

The Walrus Talks Resilience

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How cities and communities build themselves to thrive through difficult times

Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas St. W, Toronto
Wednesday, October 8, 2014, 6:30 P.M.

Tickets: Members $17 | Public $20 | Students $12
Purchase tickets here

Are you interested in ideas about how cities can not only grow and develop but also flourish? Are you invested in building a more resilient, collaborative, and innovative community?

Cities for People invites you to an upcoming Talks event produced by the Walrus Foundation. The Walrus Talks Resilience will feature eighty minutes of lively, thought-provoking ideas about how cities and communities can become more resilient in the face of numerous challenges. Eight speakers with diverse backgrounds and interests—from the arts to indigenous rights, entrepreneurship to the environment to technological innovation—will offer new ways of thinking about how our cities can thrive. Speakers will have seven minutes each to discuss their ideas and challenge the audience to see the future of our communities in new ways. While each speaker will reflect on a range of experiences and viewpoints, they all have one thing in common: the desire for real conversation about the issues that affect the future of Canada. The Talks event will be followed by a spirited reception with attendees and participants.

Poet Mustafa Ahmed
University of Guelph’s Ajay Heble
Cisco Canada’s Rick Huijbregts
People for Education’s Annie Kidder
Cisco Canada’s David Miller
Aboriginal Professional Association of Canada’s Gabrielle Scrimshaw
SiG@Waterloo’s Frances Westley

6 p.m. doors open
6:30 p.m. The Walrus Talks
Reception following

(416) 971-5004, ext. 242