Voices of New Economies: Cities, Fair Trade, and the 21st Century Economy

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Cities, Fair Trade, and the 21st Century Economy
By Sean McHugh

Building a 21st century economy is not an easy endeavour by any means. That said, we’re at an interesting point in history where the decisions we make today, will have long standing effects on the generations to come.

SeanMcHughHeadshotTo date, we (in Canada) have lived in a world of abundance. Our economy has grown steadily, our ability to access the goods and services we need have been available to us, and we’ve enjoyed relative calm, compared to much of the world. Canada has largely stayed hidden from view, and we have been looked upon as both friendly and welcoming.

Canada has changed in recent years however, as has the world. Countries which were once considered “'Third World” now garner considerable attention on the world stage, traditional centres of power are changing, Canada’s position in the world has changed, and our values, goals, and aspirations have changed; some by choice, others through necessity or circumstance.

While the world has evolved and become increasingly interconnected in many ways, it has grown apart in many others. Income inequality has topped the charts, and new threats (such as climate change) threaten our very existence. We now stand on the edge of a divide, with traditional values, methods, theories and approaches on one side, and new, changing, and innovative ideas on the other. Will we move away from fossil fuels (because the burning of them is changing our atmosphere), or will we shift to solar, wind, geothermal, and other sources of clean energy and technology?

On a global level, we’ve got hard choices to make. Today, 1.1 billion people continue to live on less than one dollar a day, and the majority of the world’s inhabitants continue to struggle. Despite broad sweeping economic policy reform, free trade agreements, and the opening up of the world’s economies, wealth has become increasingly consolidated, rather than distributed, as notions of trickle-down theories falsely promised. Instead of seeing economic gain, workers, labourers, and farmers find themselves stuck, with little opportunity for advancement or change.

So what are we going to do about it? How are we going to turn the current situation on its head and build a better world, of which everyone is a part?

Governments at all levels absolutely have a role to play, as they have the ability to put in place protections and systems that can enable all of us. But in many cases government, international accords and agreements, corporate structure, and trade policies, have locked us into a world that is difficult to change.

We can circumvent these barriers however, by building alternative economies. Each of us chooses what type of world we want to live in, through what we buy and where we invest. Choosing one banana over another, or one bag of coffee over another, can in fact restructure the system from the ground up. Buying from a better business, who sources and sells fair trade, means shifting revenue from a system which is exploitative, to one that is empowering; if everyone made that choice, change would unfold rapidly. Similarly, if everyone looked at where their investments sit, and made the choice to pull them out of oil, and put them into solar or wind, we would see a drastic shift in priority, and wealth.

Public institutions such as municipalities and universities are at the forefront of this shift. Both are in touch with their constituents, and are accountable to them. They are being bold, challenging traditional norms, and setting the ground-work for new economies. When a university (such as UBC is close to doing) divests its 1.3 billion dollar endowment fund and shifts it to cleaner energy and other areas of focus; that shocks the system, the market, and the economy. When a city commits to becoming Fair Trade Designated, it commits to sourcing and selling fair trade coffee, tea, and sugar that have come from better sources that empower rather than exploit, redirecting considerable flows of money, which again, changes the system.

Our cities and communities in Canada are now at the forefront, investing in the future, rather than in the past. They are becoming more liveable, more enjoyable, and more community-oriented spaces. They are leading globally through activities such as ethical procurement, investment in clean energy and technology, alternative transportations from bikes to transit, recycling, and divestment.

We’re at both a scary time and an exciting time. There is doom and gloom, and there is also incredible promise. Our cities are leading the way, and will continue to do so, if each of us ensures that they do. The action of choosing fair trade items is simple, but important. The values and impacts run deep, and are part of something much larger.

Relevant Links:

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Sean is the founder and Executive Director of the Canadian Fair Trade Network (CFTN). Since 2009, he has worked with Fair Trade Vancouver, helping the municipality become Canada’s 11th Fair Trade City in May 2010. Sean also worked to support the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University in becoming Canada’s first and second Fair Trade Campuses. For the past two years, Sean has worked to strengthen the Fair Trade movement in Canada by founding and then leading the CFTN in its work to support advocates across Canada, helping to share resources and create connections between stakeholders. Sean is a graduate of Simon Fraser University and has worked and travelled in developing countries around the world.

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This blog is part of the 'Voices of New Economies' series within Cities for People - an experiment in advancing the movement toward urban resilience and livability through connecting innovation networks.

The Voices of New Economies series is collectively curated by One Earth and The Canadian CED Network.

This series is an exploration of what it takes to build the economies we need - ones that work for people, places, and the planet. We are connecting key actors, finding patterns, noting interesting differences, and highlighting key concepts and initiatives. Together, this series offers insights into the new economies movement as it develops.

Voices of New Economies – an Interview with Portia Sam

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By Alicia Tallack

Portia Sam is the Program Coordinator for Miscellany, a social enterprise that operates two thriving thrift stores and a variety of women and youth focused programs in Vancouver, BC. For Portia, the idea that a business can viably integrate revenue with community-based social programs just makes sense. In fact, she doesn’t think business is sustainable if done any other way.

Portiaheadshot In your view, what are some key elements of "new economies"?

There are many elements that make up how we run our economies in ways that work for communities. Two of the ways that Miscellany works, is through the idea of ‘conscious capitalism’, and through integrating community connections into our business practices and our daily routines.

  • Conscious capitalism: This doesn’t mean that we don’t want to make money – we do. It means that we want to make, and use, money in a way that is conscious to the needs of our direct community. There are a lot of microscopic examples of how we do this, such as recycling in a responsible way, and taking time to help people find out where they can properly dispose of materials that we can’t take, like mattresses. If you take the time, you can work in a way that your community approves of. We let our interactions evolve naturally, and then we take a closer look at how we want things to continue evolving.
  • Community connections: Conscious capitalism is impossible without recognizing that communities depend on each other, and that people matter. There are specific ways that we are touching our community; through networking with health, policing, and employment groups, for example. They know we are there and open to training people. A big part of what we do is train women for work experience when they get out of prison. As far as I know, there is no government program or stipend for this; it is simply not a priority to them. But we know different. We use our profits to pay for this program because we know that this is important, and we partner with women to give them a chance to break the cycle.

What are some ways that you listen to your community in order to genuinely connect?miscellanyfinds_header1

We do this in several ways, and it largely depends on what is needed. We listen directly, one-on-one, but also have some business-wide practices in place. These work together, so that we can respond to what people need. For example, we have gift certificates that we give to transition houses, where they give it to the women as needed. They usually give it to women as they are transitioning from the house into second stage housing, and they use it to buy things to set up their new home. When they come in, they are equal to anyone else in there. It is ultimately a thrift store, but it has been organized by our volunteers to feel like a boutique. So when a woman comes in with a gift certificate, she doesn’t feel like she is getting leftovers, she is getting quality items that are useful. Our donors recognize that just because a woman is marginalized, that doesn’t mean that she should have the dregs of whatever we can give her. And when we don’t have what she needs, we take the time to connect her with trusted organizations that do.

We also work with PLEA, a community courts service program for youth that have been in the system. We offer basic training for youth that have never had training or a job, that don’t know how to dress for a job, or how to talk to customers. These kids haven’t had anyone watching their backs and lifting them up, telling them that they can do it. They have been in the system, and we work with them to overcome their obstacles. They are usually very ready for this. They are willing to do whatever it takes to change their lives. It is really empowering to work with them and to see this. They show me how amazing humanity can be.

Can this type of connection scale up within cities?miscellanyfinds_web.001

Yes I think it definitely can. It scales up beyond one business by being part of standard policies and business practices. Integrating the expectation that through connecting with other groups around you, we are all stronger. For example, over time we have connected with the community-policing group, and they come to us when they know of someone that needs something that we can provide, like sleeping bags or blankets. They are always telling people that we are great to them – but we’re not; we are just enacting an important part of a social enterprise. Our mission is to take what we are given, and re-invest it in things that matter, in a responsible way. That is an idea that can easily go beyond our thrift store.

To me, a social enterprise is simply a business with a social element. It could involve training, which is our main thing, but it is more than that. You take the profits, and you put it back into social programs that ultimately contribute to a stronger economy overall. I don’t see any reason that all traditional business can’t move toward acting like a social enterprise. You still make a living and feed your own family, but you give back to humanity at the same time. Instead of making money for the sake of it, we can make money to help others, which in turn helps us. Everyone is better off because of it. If even a third of our businesses became social enterprises, we would solve a significant portion of our problems.

What does real wealth mean to you?

Real wealth is truly having the opportunity to give back. Building a sustainable business that promotes social programs and having the ability to develop programs that are suited to what your communities’ needs are.

Related links:

- Miscellany
- Social Enterprise Canada
- Conscious Capitalism 

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Social justice entrepreneur Portia Sam is the program coordinator of Miscellany Finds thrift store for social change. With decades of experience in business management and a dedicated passion to conscious contribution for community sustainability, Portia combined her talents to create a thriving resource to meet the diverse needs of a vibrant community. Portia is proud of the foundational programs Miscellany offers.

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This blog is part of the 'Voices of New Economies' series within Cities for People - an experiment in advancing the movement toward urban resilience and livability through connecting innovation networks.

The Voices of New Economies series is collectively curated by One Earth and The Canadian CED Network.

This series is an exploration of what it takes to build the economies we need - ones that work for people, places, and the planet. We are connecting key actors, finding patterns, noting interesting differences, and highlighting key concepts and initiatives. Together, this series offers insights into the new economies movement as it develops.

 

Faith Groups Energized to Map Their Community’s Assets

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Exercise part of second interfaith community hub workshop

By: Kathryn Cormier

FaithHubs_Workshop-Edit-LGOn Jan. 17, more than thirty people came together from all corners of Calgary for a workshop that explored how faith communities could serve as community hubs. It was the second event Knox Presbyterian Church and the Interfaith Council of Calgary hosted on this topic as part of their efforts to implement the Enough for All strategy.

Enough for All defines community hubs as intentionally designed spaces that facilitate connections between residents for community building, and to improve access to programs and services that support individual and family resiliency.

Community hubs are one way we can reduce poverty in Calgary. Hubs can empower people within a community to work together to develop actions that meet their needs and help them realize their vision for the future.

The workshop was facilitated by Vibrant Communities Calgary’s Darrell Howard and passionate changer-maker Amber Cannon and centered on finding abundance, creating resiliency, and building trust through community mapping.

“Too often we are stuck thinking about what is wrong with our community; we only see problems and focus our efforts on what we believe people need,” notes Howard. “We underestimate the gifts of individuals and the assets within our neighbourhoods. Truly innovative solutions to our most pressing issues start by understanding our collective strengths and connecting them together in meaningful ways. Asset-based community mapping is one way to begin that process.”

While the community mapping noted the community’s challenges, it paid particular focus on their assets.

Focusing on a community’s assets doesn’t mean outside resources aren’t required. It helps people build on their community’s strengths and concentrate on agenda-building and supporting the problem-solving capacity of residents, and it also supports local determination, investment, creativity, and control.

At the January session, participants walked through the community mapping exercise and were excited by the assets they discovered.

Participants at the workshop engaged in a lively discussion about the possibilities of community mapping. They agreed to reconvene in the coming months and share how learnings from both faith-hubs workshops have influenced “next steps” at their congregations.

Is your community interested in asset mapping and building community hubs? We encourage you to get involved by contacting Darrell Howard (Darrell@vibrantcalgary.com) for more information.

Community Hubs support the Enough for All strategy in the following ways:

Through supporting its vision
Calgarians have the resources, means, choices and power to acquire and maintain self sufficiency; to be able to be an actively participate in community life.

Through supporting the following key goals
All Calgary communities are strong, supportive and inclusive. Everyone can easily access the right supports, services and resources.

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New Scoop is a new Calgary news co-op, using generative journalism to explore and share stories of our thriving city. The pilot phase has received support from Cities for People.

This blog was originally written for Vibrant Communities Calgary and was posted to New Scoop Calgary news co-op on 11 February 2014. We received permission to re-post.


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Click here to read about becoming a New Scoop member and supporter.

Network Seeks to Change Calgarians’ Relationship with Their Money

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Strategist Salimah Kassam shares what she sees as possible

By: Michelle Strutzenberger

When it comes to changing people’s relationship with their money, Salimah Kassam loves things that create simplicity and allow for planning that isn’t painful — such as an automated savings set-up.

With these tools, people can be automatically improving their financial health even while they’re working through the deeper psychological aspects of their relationship with money.

Salimah is convinced that if more people were using these kinds of automated tools, it would be tremendously beneficial to the financial well-being of citizens across the city.

And thanks to a network she’s joined, she’s feeling more hopeful than ever that that can happen.

Salimah Kassam Salimah is a strategist with Financial Futures Calgary, a network of more than 40 organizations ranging from non-profit social service agencies to government departments and financial institutions.

This group is committed to strengthening the capacity of the entire community, including people living in poverty, to both build their own assets and create a new and improved relationship with money.

Salimah describes one part of her dream for the work this way: “I would really love to see every social worker at every agency in Calgary have the ability to understand what it takes to help someone manage their money, build assets and move out of poverty.”

Changing one’s relationship with one’s money. Building assets. It all sounds somewhat mysterious and complex.

But Salimah’s stories and examples begin to reveal a much clearer picture. What she and all her cohorts of the Financial Futures Calgary network are trying to encourage, support and equip people to do is essentially be wise when it comes to finances. Save money. Set up a system to automatically pay off debts over time. Consider not buying those high-cost luxury items on credit during one of Calgary’s boom periods.

Salimah recalls her years working with a non-profit agency in Calgary that supported people to gain or regain their financial health. She was repeatedly amazed at who came in — people about to be evicted, had ruined their credit, or lost everything they’d built — and the year before they’d been bringing in very nice-sized salaries.

“I see it all the time in Alberta and it’s just like, ‘Wow, you couldn’t think maybe to put $10,000 away? No? That wasn’t interesting?” Salimah says.

She’s speaking half in jest. All of this is easier said than done — as plain wisdom too often seems to be.

Hence the need for mentorship, counselling and support, not to mention automated tools. Hence the creation of a network with a bold goal of fortifying the entire community’s capacity to build assets and form a new and improved relationship with money.

Salimah is especially hopeful about the network’s effort given the Calgary Poverty Reduction Initiative (CPRI) as it brings poverty reduction to a central and visible stage in the city.

But there’s still lots of room for people to come out and play.

For instance, Salimah sees opportunities for Calgary’s corporate and financial sectors joining in to share their wisdom and strengths on financial literacy.

“There is actually this huge asset of people who know very well how to do that kind of stuff, who want to have meaningful volunteer opportunities,” Salimah says.

Or what if the banking sector got involved in creating safe credit products for those in poverty? This could combat predatory lending options that are on the rise in Alberta, provide a healthier option for people in poverty needing money and act as a win-win for the bank, which generates a more positive community profile.

“I’m hoping that with the CPRI and just more of an overall effort being put towards this stuff that we will get some more senior level engagement from the traditional banking sector on this, which would be a huge asset,” Salimah says.

As for how any change from financial empowerment might be measured, Salimah is less keen on the proposal to look at credit-risk scores and their improvement.

The better measure of financial health, she suggests, is to look at changes in the net worth of Calgarians.

This is a measure that should soon be much more possible thanks to a new financial vulnerability index about to be released by Prosper Canada and the Canadian Council on Social Development.

“I think especially with the financial vulnerability index we will be able to actually see if we can change the net worth of Calgarians . . . Is someone in poverty, for example, going from a negative net worth to a positive net worth where you are saving for the future, where you do have an asset or two under your name?”

To learn more about Financial Futures Calgary and get involved, click here.

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New Scoop is a new Calgary news co-op, using generative journalism to explore and share stories of our thriving city. The pilot phase has received support from Cities for People.

This article was originally written for the New Scoop Calgary news co-op on 5 February 2015. We received permission to re-post.


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Michelle Strutzenberger has more than 10 years of experience in Generative Journalism with Axiom News. Her areas of interest include deep community, social-mission business, education that strengthens a sense of hope and possibility, and journalism that helps society create its preferred future.


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Click here to read about becoming a New Scoop member and supporter.

You can comment on this story below, or e-mail michelle(at)axiomnews.com.

Elders Summit Creates Space for Community to Happen

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Feb. 6 gathering intended to help lead youth and community to increased sense of self awareness, cultural identity, and healing

By: Michelle Strutzenberger

CUIA-Round-Dance-EditPeople have experienced the healing touch of conversations that allow you to be heard and to listen to one another’s stories and wisdom. Put those in the context of your particular culture, and these conversations can have an added depth of meaning.

A Feb. 6 gathering, the Fourth Annual Calgary Urban Aboriginal Initiative Elders Summit, offers a haven for such conversations to take place.

“We want to provide space for our community to have conversations and connect with the youth and the youth to connect with themselves,” organizer Jennifer Fournier says.

The hope and anticipation is that through connection and conversation, people, especially youth, will be able to take steps towards healing, deepened self-awareness and a strengthened sense of cultural identity.

“Sometimes when you’re moving from reserve or a different province and you’re aboriginal, you can get lost in the fray of the big city,” Jennifer says.

“So we’re really hoping that with the summit this year we can connect youth with other youth, with community members, with the elders in our community, so that they can see if they need healing or gain an increased sense of self-awareness, or cultural identity — which is a huge thing and which the elders can also provide.

“That’s why it’s called a summit — it’s about bringing everybody together and just having everyone in the same room, so that those conversations can take place.”

Thirty elders, 65 youth and more than 100 community members are already registered to attend the summit, which includes a selection of keynote presentations and the opportunity to join one of four traditional teaching circles.

The day is hosted by the Calgary Urban Aboriginal Initiative (CUAI) Services Domain in collaboration with the Calgary United Way and the CUAI Youth committee.

CUAI is energized by a mission “to provide a home for ongoing discussion, co-ordination, and informed action in support of Calgary urban aboriginal issues and initiatives.”

“This summit also gives us the opportunity to discuss any barriers or gaps in services that youth are experiencing,” Jennifer says.

To learn more about the Elders Summit, click here.

To learn more about CUAI, click here.

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New Scoop is a new Calgary news co-op, using generative journalism to explore and share stories of our thriving city. The pilot phase has received support from Cities for People.

This article was originally written for the New Scoop Calgary news co-op on 3 February 2015. We received permission to re-post.


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Michelle Strutzenberger has more than 10 years of experience in Generative Journalism with Axiom News. Her areas of interest include deep community, social-mission business, education that strengthens a sense of hope and possibility, and journalism that helps society create its preferred future.


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Click here to read about becoming a New Scoop member and supporter.

You can comment on this story below, or e-mail michelle(at)axiomnews.com.

Life as a Cohouser: Prairie Sky Resident John Michell Shares his Story

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‘That sense of mutual support, that’s what’s important to me’

By: Michelle Strutzenberger

Every once in a while John (“Mich”) Michell and his wife, Duff Bond, think about what their lives might have been like if they hadn’t joined Prairie Sky Cohousing.

“We probably would have sold our house,” Mich reflects in a telephone interview with New Scoop. “We probably would be living in a condo somewhere. We might or might not know our neighbours. Our lives would be very much circumscribed.”

But the Calgary couple were intrigued by a different possibility when they learned of a cohousing initiative in 2001.

Realizing that they would soon become empty nesters — their only daughter was 14 — they were starting to think realistically about the next phase of their lives.

With their extended family living in Ontario and the U.S., and an old house that was taking time and money to maintain, they began picturing a different kind of future for themselves.

“We weren’t comfortable being in a single-family house in a trendy neighbourhood,” Mich says. “We wanted something that was easier to maintain and had a smaller ecological footprint, and we wanted some community around us for ourselves and our daughter.”

When Duff saw the notice at their church about a proposed cohousing development, they decided to attend an information session. In July, 2001, land for Calgary’s first cohousing project had been purchased and Mich and Duff joined as equity members. They were among the 29 adults and 24 children moving in when the place opened in May, 2003.

In the ensuing 12 years, Mich and Duff have experienced a number of “neighbours-helping-neighbours” scenarios that demonstrate for them how great it is to be living at Prairie Sky.

Just last year, as one example, Mich had recently undergone an operation, when the kitchen sink faucet needed replacing. He was definitely in no shape to do the work. Then a neighbour came and spent the evening installing a new faucet. During that same time, different neighbours — Mich calls them friends — were very helpful to both him and Duff in other ways. “They helped me get moving around; I wasn’t very mobile at the time,” he says.

Then there are the social events that happen at Prairie Sky — weddings and house concerts, birthday parties and movie nights — the sort of thing “that builds community and lets you enjoy your neighbours,” Mich says.

“I really feel part of a community,” he adds.

What About Cohousing Creates Community?

The intentional proximity of the units, the large common space complete with a full-service kitchen for about-weekly community meals and other indoor gatherings, the lounge and the ping-pong room. These are some of the cohousing’s physical features that are conducive to folks crossing paths, enjoying one another’s company and getting to know one another — to building community.

There’s also the intentionality of those who’ve joined the community; they’ve come looking for close community and are therefore more likely to be open to arranging and joining social events, helping their neighbours, and working through the inevitable challenges that arise in this kind of shared living scenario.

Prairie-Sky-with-snow-and-lights-500Mich also describes another lesser-known aspect of cohousing that contributes to community building — the business dealings related to running the community.

Typically, at least 14 of the 18 households attend these monthly meetings.

And while the business is the reason for the meeting, community engagement is at least as important as the business, so each meeting starts with members sharing the events of their past month.

The way business such as creating parking policies or determining how the budget should be spent over the coming year is addressed also has a quality about it that contributes to community building. Prairie Sky operates on a consensus method, which lends itself well to getting to know one another even better while providing an opportunity to demonstrate mutual respect for one another’s opinions.

“When you have consensus as a method of making your decisions, no one feels steamrollered, no one feels that, ‘Oh they didn’t listen to me’,” Mich says.

Who Might be Most Interested in Cohousing?

People who have something of a community spirit are most likely to thrive in cohousing.

“You need to want that environment and you need to be willing to throw yourself into that kind of situation,” Mich says.

“You also need to be able to give up a little bit of that ‘my home is my castle’ feeling.”

In other words, neighbourhood children just might run across your front porch, and speaking of that front porch, you could be sitting there reading a magazine on a lovely Sunday afternoon and a neighbour could call hello from the cohousing walkway only 15 feet off.

That isn’t to say there’s no private space — almost everyone has a back deck that’s a little more separate.

But largely “people who want their home to be separate from their neighbours and live in a little cocoon aren’t going to be that happy here,” Mich says.

The common wisdom about cohousing is that difficulties, if they arise, are likely to be about children and pets. Some people want quiet and others love the noise of kids bounding around in the courtyard. Sometimes somebody lets their cat out and that makes the dog one house over bark. So there are frictions that come up.

“For the most part we’ve been able to handle (the friction) by talking among ourselves, coming up with policies that people can commit to,” Mich says.

A group called Community Care exists to remain aware of areas of friction in the community and help people work through them, either as mediators or by bringing the issue to a general discussion at one of the business meetings.

“That Community Care group is very important to us,” Mich says.

And all that said, cohousing entails a lot of “learning to live in community.”

“It’s not easy, it’s not simple; it’s a lot easier in concept than in practice,” Mich says.

Even so, after 11 and a half years, Prairie Sky has had a total of only eight sales and none was due to residents who left dissatisfied with cohousing living.

In fact, Prairie Sky’s success in terms of its appeal has the potential to create what could be considered a challenge — depending on how one looks at it. Those 24 children of a dozen years ago are down to seven. And the number of adults is about the same at 31, but they’re all doing what we all do — aging.

Soon enough, this could become an adults-only community. New young families interested in Prairie Sky could be dissuaded by the lack of other children to befriend their own.

There’s also the fact that Prairie Sky wasn’t created as a seniors’ housing place, so there may be some challenges ahead for some residents with increasing mobility issues, for example.

But Mich doesn’t seem too concerned about those physical infrastructure issues either.

It’s that he’s able to age in a place where a sense of mutual support is strong — that’s what’s important to him.

“My daughter now lives in Regina. I do have a church community that’s important to me, but Prairie Sky is a major part of my life,” he says.

“It’s just really good to work on things together and create a nice living environment, not to mention that our costs are lower than they would have been in a condo.”

Cohousing is seeing increasing interest in North America, especially among seniors eager to create an owned-community scenario for themselves. A recent Globe and Mail article asked this question, “Can Seniors Make Cohousing Go Mainstream?”

Mich points out that setting up cohousing is not an easy or smooth option. Since 2003, Prairie Sky is still the only cohousing in Alberta. Another one that was attempted last year — with 33 of the 36 projected units already sold – fell through after it was discovered it would cost much more than originally planned to build on the hilly land that had been bought for the project.

That said, there are folks still interested to learn more about cohousing and possibly investing to make it a way to realize their dreams of aging in community.

Just this week, people wanting to take next steps in exploring aging in community options can join an introduction to cohousing and also learn about an upcoming series of aging in community study groups.

To learn more and register for the first session on Jan. 31, click here.

Otherwise, check out this great website on seniors’ cohousing.

And here’s the article mentioned earlier, Can Boomers Make Co Housing Mainstream.

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New Scoop is a new Calgary news co-op, using generative journalism to explore and share stories of our thriving city. The pilot phase has received support from Cities for People.

This article was originally written for the New Scoop Calgary news co-op on 27 January 2015. We received permission to re-post.


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Michelle Strutzenberger has more than 10 years of experience in Generative Journalism with Axiom News. Her areas of interest include deep community, social-mission business, education that strengthens a sense of hope and possibility, and journalism that helps society create its preferred future.


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Click here to read about becoming a New Scoop member and supporter.

You can comment on this story below, or e-mail michelle(at)axiomnews.com.

Voices of New Economies: Todd Scaletta

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INTERDEPENDENCIES REQUIRED FOR SUSTAINABILITY
By Todd Scaletta

Our world is based on nested dependencies (see work by Bob Doppelt, Peter Senge as well as Bob Willard). The environment is all-encompassing with society being nested in the environment and in turn business being nested within the environment and society.Toddimage

I have often used a quote from Björn Stigson, former President of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) – it is as follows: “Business cannot succeed in societies that fail. Likewise, where and when business is stifled, societies fail to thrive.”

Societies can fail due to economic, social and/or environmental reasons so a balance and a relationship among these elements needs to be understood in order to achieve real wealth creation today and for future generations.

Being a father of three children, I tend to have a future-oriented focus. What will the world be like in the years ahead for my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren?

I am fortunate that my role at Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada) allows me to explore, develop and test forward-thinking ideas that can help position the accounting profession to effectively address sustainability issues. As Peter Bakker, current President of WBCSD, has famously stated on numerous occasions “Accountants will save the world.” The competencies of professional accountants can be invaluable to organizations seeking to be more sustainable.

I had the fortune of meeting Paul Hawken, author of “The Ecology of Commerce”, and I asked him: “Do sustainability issues need to be measured in order to be effectively managed?” Paul’s response was “Yes, they need to be measured in order to be managed but they do not need to be  monetized in order to be managed.”

Organizations, no matter their size or the sector in which they operate, can benefit by focusing on sustainability. The practice can help to better identify and understand key risks, opportunities and stakeholders. Effective measurement then allows the organization to determine if its goals are being achieved.

I live in Winnipeg and the city provides an excellent example of a sustainability effort. A website that was developed with resources from the International Institute of Sustainable Development and United Way Winnipeg is called MyPeg (www.mypeg.ca). This website provides the user with economic, environmental and social data about Winnipeg in order to track and inspire transformation to a more vibrant and thriving city. Having the necessary data accessible in order to measure and manage sustainability initiatives is critical for success but what is ultimately required is action. However, to achieve the goal of a more vibrant city, the strategies and visions of residents, community groups, business leaders, politicians and others must align.  Society, business and the environment are always interconnected.

For many organizations, taking that first step toward sustainable practices and management is often difficult. I am glad to be part of a profession that is actively trying to help organizations focus on sustainability and effectively address the challenges that lie ahead

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CPA Canada’s Director for Research, Guidance and Support

Todd Scaletta, MBA, CMA, FCMA, C.Dir has over 30 years of management accounting experience in various sectors including construction, education, financial services, not-for-profit and real estate.

Todd leads the conceptualization, formulation, and distribution of Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada)’s research related to sustainability. Todd represents CPA Canada on the Accounting Bodies Network (ABN), International Federation of Accountants Committee (IFAC)’s Professional Accountants in Business (PAIB), and the Consortium for Advanced Management – International (CAM-I) Sustainability Interest Group.

He has written articles on sustainability from a management accountant’s perspective and has presented at several international conferences throughout North America on the subject of environmental sustainability.

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This blog is part of the 'Voices of New Economies' series within Cities for People - an experiment in advancing the movement toward urban resilience and livability through connecting innovation networks. 

The Voices of New Economies series is collectively curated by One Earth and The Canadian CED Network

This series is an exploration of what it takes to build the economies we need - ones that work for people, places, and the planet. We are connecting key actors, finding patterns, noting interesting differences, and highlighting key concepts and initiatives. Together, this series offers insights into the new economies movement as it develops.

Voices of New Economies: Alex Wood

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Voices of New Economies - An Interview with Alex Wood
By Alicia Tallack

For Alex Wood, Senior Director, Policy and Markets at Sustainable Prosperity, the concept of new economies is directly aligned with that of green economies.

AlexWoodheadshotCurrently, Alex is working on the Sustainable Prosperity Framework project. Focusing on the three pillars of environment, economy, and society, the Framework is designed to create a new vision for what a sustainable, competitive Canadian economy might look like in the coming years. That vision, which will be developed with leaders from business, civil society, and academia will form the basis of a sophisticated communications effort that will engage and inspire Canadians. 

What are the key elements of "new economies"? 

The Sustainable Prosperity Framework will focus on three elements:

  1. Sustainable – When defining green or new economies, there is a tendency to emphasize new forms of economic development and new sectors that have a lighter footprint. Our take on this, is that the definition can and should be recognized in the Canadian context, but we also need to bring in the ‘brown’ (non-sustainable) models of industry in our economy, to shape their future in a way that lightens their footprint. This is about how and who you engage, and why. We find a negative reaction when we discuss sustainability in traditional sectors of our economy (especially the extractive sectors), so we need a definition that includes these sectors and defines for them the opportunity that a more sustainable and competitive economy presents.. We want to focus on building out the greenest green, and engaging the “brown” green, to see how they can all contribute to our long-term sustainability.
  1. Competitive – This tracks closely with the sustainability point, which looks at how we build an economy on the back of a growing greenest green sector. If we’re going to continue to extract resources and use our natural capital, how do we do that in a way that sets us up for long-term competitiveness? A focus on sustainability in those sectors that is driven by innovation, that improves our competitiveness globally, and create solutions that then drive sustainability is important. As they focus on their models and solutions, they become more competitive. Sustainability then makes a business case because it can be competitive.
  1. Inclusive – We wrote our green economy white paper 2 years ago, and since then, there has been an increased focus on the social dimension of the green economy in global discussions. The basic assumption is that even if you choose to green your economy, there are choices that promote better social outcomes versus other options. Social outcomes such as economic opportunity, inclusivity, and improved economic benefits for aboriginal communities are all critical. The steps that Canada takes to create a sustainable economy can’t lead to worse social outcomes. The policies and solutions in the green economy must have concern around social issues embedded in them.

How does this relate to cities?

Our framework project will have a substantial component focused on cities. There will be three likely elements to this: cities, innovation, and investment. When it comes to cities, you have a platform that allows you to integrate policies, public, and private sectors. This is a huge opportunity – cities give us a platform on which we can say look at this city, its infrastructure, transportation, natural capital, etc., and think about how you can transform this into something more sustainable. The other dimension of this, of course, is that over 80% of Canadians live in an urban setting. So engaging Canadians in a positive, affirmative, our discussion of the green economy needs to describe what that looks like in an urban setting.

What happens in cities is what will determine the course of our sustainable economy.

What is your perspective on the recently launched Ecofiscal Commission?

There is a personal thread running through Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission for me, which dates back to work that I did 10 years ago on the National Roundtable on the Environment and Economy, as the project I managed was on ecofiscal reform in Canada. I worked on that for four years, and it had some profile and success, but the Ecofiscal Commission has really taken that discussion to a completely different level. This is important, because it points out the significance of communications around this. We have known for some time the economic and environmental arguments for ecofiscal reform, but coming from “us”, it hasn’t always translated the way it is now. When it comes to shaping economic decisions, people with backgrounds like mine (coming from the environmental side with an economic background) need additional voices of support in making the economic case. So the Ecofiscal Commission is a very exciting opportunity to do just that.

What does real wealth mean to you?

The word “wealth” provokes a personal response, and makes me think about a holistic definition of wealth, not just the economic part. Most of the time, my default is to think on the macro level, and to think of what wealth is in Canada. Often, we communicate about this based on concepts that are not well grounded, and that are hard to base in personal experience. As an economist, I’ve got a set definition of what wealth is; but as a human being, I’ve got a broader definition. For me, that definition is rooted in a set of experiences and a set of values that shape our experiences and our choices all contribute to this.

Real wealth is about a more holistic definition of a well-lived life.

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Alexander Wood is one of Canada’s leading experts on the green economy.  Alex has over twenty years’ experience working at the interface of the environment and the economy, with a particular focus on the development of market-based policies that contribute to a sustainable economy.  He has worked in the non-profit (WWF), public (NRTEE), private (TD Bank Financial Group), and is now Senior Director, Policy and Markets at Sustainable Prosperity. Alex is a graduate of the University of Toronto (B.A.) and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (M.A.)

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This blog is part of the 'Voices of New Economies' series within Cities for People - an experiment in advancing the movement toward urban resilience and livability through connecting innovation networks. 

The Voices of New Economies series is collectively curated by One Earth and The Canadian CED Network.

This series is an exploration of what it takes to build the economies we need - ones that work for people, places, and the planet. We are connecting key actors, finding patterns, noting interesting differences, and highlighting key concepts and initiatives. Together, this series offers insights into the new economies movement as it develops. 

Ushering in the New Economy at the Local Level

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Thrive Calgary introduces new learning community in January

By: Michelle Strutzenberger

If more people have access to community economic development learning opportunities, more community economic development action will emerge in Calgary.

That’s the bet, if you will, that Thrive Calgary, the city’s community economic development network, is making as it prepares to launch a new learning community early in the new year.

It’s a big and exciting shift for the network, though Thrive has always sought to be a relevant, effective force for ushering in Calgary’s new economy.

In the past, however, the work has centred on collaborating to put community economic development on the local policy map. In the last few years, that goal has largely been achieved.

Thanks to Thrive and others, community economic development is now a part of the city’s new Enough for All poverty reduction strategy as well as the economic development strategy hosted by the conventional economic developmental agency, Calgary Economic Development.

Now Thrive is sharpening its focus in 2015: Community economic development leadership and learning is its refreshed mandate.

The shift builds on a number of education achievements Thrive has already spearheaded. As an example, in 2014, a big focus was bringing the Simon Fraser University Community Economic Development certificate program to Calgary for the first time.

The 21 graduates of this program are now acting to improve the local community in many concrete ways. For instance, one graduate is preparing to launch a co-operative housing project in Ogden. The idea is to make it easy for seniors to establish income suites in their basements so they can live longer in their homes.

Another graduate led the development of the Calgary EATS! Strategy which was just approved by city council. This strategy for a local, sustainable food system includes community economic development as a core principle.

A third graduate works at the Calgary Regional Partnership, where community economic development is emerging as an important focus area for the region. This means that community economic development could become part of the fabric of how the 11 municipalities in the region interact.

Thrive has determined to make learning its official strategic focus following a series of community consultations and discussions with various partner organizations over the past several months.

Shaping this new effort is a belief that the most effective learning both builds human capital and creates a frame for political empowerment.

“It’s one thing to move people through a curriculum and learn what’s on the page,” says Barb Davies, Thrive’s community economic development co-ordinator, who over the past few months has done some great work herself building community economic development capacity in the community. She has taught introductory community economic development workshops to18 students at the faculty of social work and 23 community members through the Ethnocultural Council of Calgary. She aso co-hosted Calgary’s first Social Impact Failure Wake, a celebration of community economic development projects that didn’t work out as expected.

Barb Davies

“We’re really trying to inspire people to question the frame we live in in the first place and really seed a broad, diverse community of leaders who are ready to take action in their own communities,” Barb says.

Thrive’s learning community will offer a balance of opportunities for people to learn from those who hold new knowledge, as well as to create their own knowledge as peer learners.

Again, this is an approach it’s taken in the past. In 2014, for instance, Thrive provided Calgarians the opportunity to learn from well-recognized community economic development thought leaders such as Charles Eisenstein, Michael Shuman, and Anne Docherty. The graduates of the Simon Fraser University Community Economic Development certificate program now support each other with implementing community economic development strategy and ideas.

“We want to create the most permeable membrane between a learning environment, action environment and community as we can,” says Barb, noting a key inspiration for the effort is the Storytellers’ Foundation in Hazelton, BC.

The shaping of this learning community comes as Calgary moves into the next phase of actualizing its Enough for All strategy – a bold plan to reduce poverty in the city by half within the next 10 years.

Momentum’s community relations director, Carolyn Davis, sees the learning community as one strong path to realizing that goal.

Carolyn Davis

 “I really believe that we’re not going to be able to do that unless there is a sea change in the way that we think,” she says. Her sincere hope is that through the learning community people are empowered and inspired to take the kind of action that generates a shift in systems and root causes leading to significant change for people.

The time is also ripe for an effort of this sort as local energy grows around new economy concepts and action, thanks to people and groups such as REAP Business Association actively bringing them into the mainstream.

Thrive wades into this new effort with a collection of robust assets, including an engaged and committed network as well as steering committee that brings a rich diversity of perspectives on community economic development. Thrive’s parent organization Momentum, which has both a sturdy reputation and significant support from the community as well as a great team, is also a solid asset.

Thrive also counts itself blessed to have the funders it does — Family and Community Support Services of Calgary and the United Way of Calgary and Area. Both put forward visionary leadership in understanding that reducing poverty ultimately comes down to creating an economy that works better for more people.

Looking ahead, the opportunity and challenge is to present the intent and possibilities in this learning community in a way that reveals it as a real and concrete force for good, Carolyn says.

“One way this has worked so far is through partnership with post-secondary institutions and community organizations,” she adds. “In the last six weeks of 2014 Thrive reached over 120 people through learning events and workshops. This gives me energy as Barb and I develop the learning calendar for 2015.”

Committed to walking the new economy talk with respect to how it ensures the sustainability of this effort, Thrive is moving to a revenue model that includes both funders and participation from those who join its programs and events. In this way, it is striving to create a balance between ensuring a level playing field and accessibility.

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New Scoop is a new Calgary news co-op, using generative journalism to explore and share stories of our thriving city. The pilot phase has received support from Cities for People.

This article was originally written for the New Scoop Calgary news co-op on 7 January 2015. We received permission to re-post.


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Michelle Strutzenberger has more than 10 years of experience in Generative Journalism with Axiom News. Her areas of interest include deep community, social-mission business, education that strengthens a sense of hope and possibility, and journalism that helps society create its preferred future.


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Click here to read about becoming a New Scoop member and supporter.

You can comment on this story below, or e-mail michelle(at)axiomnews.com.

When You Build Community, You Build Love

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The story of Soul of the City Neighbour Grants

By: Megan Zimmerman

soulofthecity-776
In December 2013, Calgary Economic Development and The Calgary Foundation launched the inaugural Soul of the City Neighbour Grants. Dozens of grant applications were submitted and in April five groups were selected by a live audience to be the recipients of these $5,000 grants. The money would be used to turn their grassroots ideas of how to enhance or revitalize their neighbourhood into reality and these projects would be undertaken alongside their neighbours.

The result? Five diverse Calgary communities came together to undertake some very meaningful projects. The best part? Their entire journey was captured in a 30-minute documentary to inspire and delight you: Our City, Our Soul – Five Neighbourhood Stories.

A group of residents from Dover turned an unused tennis court into an open community garden and used the grant to create a colourful community mural to welcome people to enjoy the once forgotten space.

Children and youth from the northeast communities of Saddle Ridge, Castleridge, Falconridge, Taradale, Martindale, Coral Springs, and Skyview Ranch gathered for a weekly writing class and learned to overcome their fears of writing and then sharing their stories with their peers.

Community leaders from Haysboro engaged their neighbours in the creation of family crests which now decorate the outside of their community hockey rinks and have created a personalized and safe place for the kids to ride their scooters.

The residents of Wildwood turned garbage collected through their annual neighbourhood clean-up into a beautiful and unique water spiral which has become a gathering place and source of pride for the neighbourhood.

And a group of residents from Inglewood & Ramsay invited the community to ‘dance in the streets’ with them all summer long as they brought a variety of music and dancing to their successful Inglewood Night Markets.

What these Calgarians have created in their communities is an example of the people who make Calgary such a wonderful place to live. It is our hope that their stories will delight and inspire others to do something in their neighbourhood alongside their neighbours. As a group of elderly ladies and their youthful friends said in the film, “when you build community, you build love.”

Calgary Economic Development and The Calgary Foundation will be bringing the Soul of the City Neighbour Grants to the community again in 2015. Applications are open December 6 – March 17, 2015 and more information can be found at calgaryeconomicdevelopment.com.

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New Scoop is a new Calgary news co-op, using generative journalism to explore and share stories of our thriving city. The pilot phase has received support from Cities for People.

This article was originally written for the New Scoop Calgary news co-op on 4 December 2014. We received permission to re-post.


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Megan Zimmerman is manager of marketing, communications and research with Calgary Economic Development..


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Click here to read about becoming a New Scoop member and supporter.