New Economies and Community Economic Development: For People, Place and Planet – An interview with Mike Toye

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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.

By Jane Zhang Mike Toye

  1. In your view, what are some key elements of "new economies"?
  • Holistic measures of progress: There are many new measures bubbling up (eg. Gross National Happiness), but they need to take a more central place in decision-making, and they need to be refined and expanded in what they measure and how well they measure.
  • Respect natural limits: I see this as one of the central flaws of our current economic system. Environmental goods and their externalized costs are a major blind spot; we need to internalize those costs and respect natural limits, especially in the context of climate change. We have to work with nature, not against it.
  • (Eco)systems thinking: the recognition of the influence of relationships, and that human beings are not only part of the world, but connected to the world. This includes relationships between people and nature, but also between people, including the new connections that technology is facilitating. Taking a systems lens to thinking about economy and society is a foundation for understanding the impacts of decisions and actions.
  • Democratizing the economy & localizing control: New technologies can facilitate crowdsourced investment, connections and participation, but in-person communities, human and social capital are crucial. We are experimenting with the new ways technology allows us to connect, and re-discovering some older wisdom about organizing. The bottom line is that there’s an essential role for human connections in democratizing the economy.
  1. Why is neighbourhood-level development important? 

I think “communities” is the term most often used in CCEDNet, in part because it’s widely applicable, from geographic neighborhoods to communities of identity or interest. A community is a venue for people to get organized, connect and learn about each other, identify shared interests, challenges, opportunities to cooperate, and to change. For example, an immigrant community has specific needs – developing language skills, getting help to reach out to employers or starting businesses – and the foundation is that a community acts as an organizing vehicle to address those needs and create change.

  1. How do these relate to cities? 

Since cities have the highest concentrations of people, they are among the most dynamic places for connections, opportunities, and possibilities to be created. But the way they’ve been built has disconnected us from nature and each other. Cities need to be understood as part of broader regions. We need to recognize urban-rural relationships and the flows of goods and services, including ecological services, that a broader region provides. On the human side, there are many ways that cities can be better designed to deliberately create opportunities for relationships and cooperation, and connect the different spheres of our lives. Much of today's built environment was created when zoning and building practices reflected an older mentality of separation. Integrating systems thinking into the design of cities can create opportunities for people to relate and care for each other better.

  1. What are some major challenges to enhancing sustainable local economies?

In the New Economies world, there is a significant focus on business & finance, with valuable attention paid on growing more blended business models (social enterprises, BCorps, co-ops) and new finance models (impact investing, new types of investment capital, crowdfunding). These are creating lots of local opportunities for transition, which is exciting. However, I'd say there is less attention on places and people, from our angle of community economic development. Ideally, we should be connecting the dots between all four pillars: business, finance, places and people.

Another one of our biggest challenges is communicating these opportunities to a wider audience, both professionals in various sectors and the general public, in a way that is meaningful and engaging.

A good example of a places- and people-centered project is the Quint Development Corporation in Saskatoon, which has a mandate for the city's core neighborhoods. Among the local residents, there is a large Aboriginal population that has particular needs, so the employment and housing opportunities are combined with outreach that is tailored to their needs.

  1. What does real wealth mean to you?

Real wealth means freedom, well-being, and happiness, for current and future generations, and fairly distributed for as many people as possible.


Michael Toye became Executive Director of CCEDNet in August of 2008, bringing a deep background in community economic development (CED) to the Director's chair. Upon earning his Master of Social Work at McGill, Michael helped set up two worker co-operatives that provide research, consulting and training services related to CED and the social economy. Michael's involvement with CCEDNet dates back to 2000 when he helped organize CCEDNet's National Policy Forum while serving as a coordinator with the Coopérative de consultation en développement La Clé.

More recently Michael has deepened his knowledge of Canadian social policy and parliamentary process serving as a policy analyst at the Library of Parliament in Ottawa, while teaching courses on CED and social enterprise at Concordia University. Michael has written a number of articles and other publications on CED and the social economy, including co-editing the book, Community Economic Development: Building for Social Change.

Financing the Shift to Low-Carbon Economies: An Interview with Justin Ritchie

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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.

By Jane Zhang

  1. In your view, what are three (or key) elements of "new economies"? justin headshot

A key part of developing a New Economy is through redefining what it means to have a viable investment. I see that now with divestment, a movement that is stigmatizing the idea of investing in fossil fuel infrastructure, and diverting those funds to invest morally for the future. In the past, ideas of natural capital and externalities weren’t available to us. Now we understand what environmental and human impacts are. The idea of financial return hasn’t incorporated that yet.

Finding the investment – financial and labour resources – to fuel this low carbon future will be very important. From a traditional cost-benefit analysis, it may be that a low-carbon economy never makes sense, and we may not be able to sell it to your typical CFO. But we’ll need to mobilize not only at the government and municipal level but also at the level of individual firms.

  1. How does this relate to cities?

With the existing built infrastructure in North America, it’s still hard to get by without a car in many places. We are sprawled out, but on the verge of many new technologies that will change our relationships to vehicles. Whether it’s Uber or car-sharing, new options are slowly whittling away at the incentives for individual car ownership. In 10 or 20 years, things will look very different, and it won’t necessarily be for environmental reasons. Owning a car can mean $6,000 to $9,000 in gas and maintenance fees every year, and you may just decide that it makes more financial sense to spend a fraction of that on a car-sharing membership.

Cities will need to densify in a way that maintains mobility. Patrick Condon at UBC’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture has done a lot of work on regional planning in Vancouver and his modeling work shows that we can add about 800,000 people to the city without building another highrise – it can all be done with four to six-story buildings. Vancouver is actually not that dense, though we like to think it so. Our expectations around returns on real estate biases Yaletown-style highrise development, but a study from the Vancouver Foundation shows that the sense of community in these kinds of buildings is not that great. I hope we move towards more holistic regional planning that accounts for affordable real estate, and a retrofitting of suburbia that works with existing physical and social infrastructure.

  1. How do we finance the shift to low carbon?

How municipalities will finance infrastructure will be the key question for coming decades. In Vancouver, sea level rise will become an issue. With all the municipality’s existing obligations like health, education, etc., how are we going to finance climate change adaptation needs? We need to retrofit the city’s water infrastructure, and the full costs of living are going to change. Where the money will come from is still an open question. Based on my recent research on fossil fuel divestment, one possibility is putting the money divested from fossil fuels into proactive funds or bonds or anything that can address the needs for infrastructure changes. We’ll have to look towards forward-thinking policy, and carbon taxes and pricing carbon always helps.

  1. Can you share a few success stories of low-carbon transitions?

The city of Feldheim in Germany was forward thinking and has transitioned away from fossil fuel and nuclear electricity completely. Communities are starting to co-own and produce 100% renewable electricity, and that can actually be a revenue source for communities. From a financial perspective, borrowing rates are lower than anyone anticipated years ago and have stayed that way. When European governments had almost zero yielding debt, people are putting money into government bonds that only have less than 1% or negative returns – very risk-averse investments. So if you had the option to put your money into a solar farm, with a rate of return of three to five percent a year, that looks much more attractive.

Another great example is Solar City, which is using securitization of solar installations and bulk packaging them together as a financial instrument you can put money into, as solar is quite reliable as an investment. There are programs like Mosaic Solar in California that allows individuals to invest in solar installations and Abundance Generation in the UK which is a peer-to-peer platform to invest in renewable energy projects. Here in Vancouver, our credit union Vancity just started a fossil-free investment fund.

  1. What does real wealth mean to you?

I like to go back to the early days of capitalism, when Adam Smith wrote about the “invisible hand” in 1776. That’s the idea that most people jumped on, but less talked about is his theory of moral sentiments: the moral developments of human society as a result of the pursuit of wealth. He wrote about a mutual sympathy, something like a physical force that ties society together. That’s the reason why trends go viral. We as humans have a deep innate desire to see our sentiments shared by others.

To me, real wealth is about prioritizing human well-being, healthy personal relationships, and biasing that before the accumulation of financial capital.

A good friend of mine who worked in several major investment banks told me that people don’t want money; they want the feelings that money gives them, and so often you can get those brain chemicals delivered by the experiences we purchase with money in different ways.

Justin Ritchie is a research analyst and digital media broadcaster who works on data motivated inquiries into a low carbon energy transition and financial systems at UBC's Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability in Vancouver, BC. He is also the co-founder and producer of The Extraenvironmentalist Podcast and XE Live Broadcast video production company.

Industrial Symbiosis Programs: International Lessons

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By Tracy Casavant, Executive Director, Light House Sustainable Building Center and James Woodcock, International Manager, International Synergies Ltd (UK)

Canada is set to become the 21st country to launch a National Industrial Symbiosis Program. In the past ten years since the first NISP was launched in the UK, the NISP model has been evolving, meaning Canada is in a good position to apply the lessons learned from other countries. And so, in no particular order, here is what we have learned.

Lesson 1: It Matters Who’s in Charge

While government support of NISPs is critical, government agencies don’t make the best delivery agents, even if they are agencies that do not have a regulatory role. Delivery agents from the private sector who employ people with experience in industry are better received by businesses.

In Canada, a research report prepared by students at Concordia’s John Molson School for Business determined that a not-for-profit, arms-length organization would be an ideal delivery agent. A not-for-profit structure demonstrates to businesses that the program provider is not seeking to profit from the businesses efforts, but really is there to champion the businesses’ efforts. A not-for-profit structure is also important to access many types of government and private funding in Canada.

Cities (local governments) can be involved as financial and logistical supporters; advisory council participants; and even program participants – a municipal wastewater treatment plant can participate as a ‘business’. And of course, NISPs help cities to achieve many of their policy goals (see our previous blog post); provide important feedback regarding policy issues and economic development opportunities, and can provide data to support sustainability reporting.

Lesson 2: Capitalize on Existing Networks

Industrial associations can be important for recruiting large numbers of members. Working with trade associations, depending on how they are organised, can lead to rapid replication of synergies.

In Canada, this will mean working with organizations such as the Alberta Industrial Heartland Association, local Chambers of Commerce, or ClimateSmart, which has more than 700 business members. And, local economic development officers / agencies associated with Cities will also be important partners helping NISP-Canada to connect with local businesses.

Lesson 3: It Takes Two, Baby…. Or Three or Four

Apart from simple by-products, say wooden pallets, it is rare for materials to go from A to B without some form of transformation (which is often where jobs and new business start- ups are created) and added value. Working with a number of companies in one synergy can make something that individually would not be economical viable. The NISP model helps to identify these opportunities through its special workshop process, and through the use of dedicated regional practitioners who can connect companies working on similar synergies within a region… or even within the international NISP network.

Lesson 4: Pilot Wisely

The scope of a pilot should also be similar to the scope of a full-program, or the benefits may not be substantial enough to generate support for a full program. For example, it can be detrimental to launch a pilot without resources for at least one, dedicated practitioner to start and without at least a one year commitment so that multiple workshops can be delivered, and there is sufficient time for synergies to progress from idea to implementation (and performance measurement).

NISP Canada is seeking enough resources to launch each pilot region with at least 2 practitioners, for 2 years.

Pre-feasibility work around the specific delivery model can also be helpful.

Cities for People specifically supported pre-feasibility work for NISP-Canada that supported the development of the business plan for the pilot.

Pilot activities can raise awareness and enthusiasm but it is important that there is not too much time passing between pilot and realisation of practical delivery to not dampen expectations and enthusiasm.

The NISP model allows for frequent performance measurement. As the NISP-Canada pilot proceeds, these interim results will be used to seek support for a permanent program so that a permanent program can begin right after the pilot.

Lesson 5: Be Practical

It is important to balance academic research in potential synergies with practical delivery. Don't get lost in researching the potential of a synergy to the detriment of progressing the synergy through to practical completion. This is one of the most counter-intuitive lessons of NISPs – we do not need to conduct exhaustive material and energy flow analyses to identify synergies. Life is too short for full life-cycle analysis every time!

The NISP model relies carefully structured and facilitated workshops and specially, consistently trained practitioners to ensure a practical focus. NISP-Canada will of course adhere to that model.

Lesson 6: Research Does Have a Role

It is important to connect with research institutes, incubator companies, and venture capital to realise demand-pull on innovation from identified innovation synergies.

NISP-Canada will work with organizations such as universities or angel investor networks in each region, for example inviting representatives to observe at workshops to identify synergies from which they might benefit in supporting e.g., as an investor or to develop new technology that will remove a technical barrier.

Lesson 7: All Aboard – Engage Key Stakeholders Early

Building a broad understanding of the NISP model, such as including key stakeholders in some of the initial training, yields big benefits later in programme life.

The NISP-Canada Pilot will include key stakeholders, such as representatives from industry associations, in some of the early practitioner training. This will also help to create regional program ambassadors who can support practitioners in engaging as many businesses as possible as quickly as possible. (See also Lesson 2)

Lesson 8: Data Can Be A Common Language

The use of a common database system (SynergIE™) allows for regional programs to be linked, ensuring cross-regional activity can occur (even occasionally across different countries). The use of the SynergIE™ platform also facilitates the sharing of synergy opportunities and lessons learned across the network of countries with NISPs.

NISP-Canada, including the pilot phase, will also use the SynergIE™ platform. i.e., expertise and implementation tricks from one region will be available to all in the network.

Lesson 9: NISPs Can Be Many Things to Many People

NISPs can be driven from many directions – social, economic, and environmental. This is a strength of the model. Initially, the UK programme was based on landfill diversion because a landfill tax was due to be implemented. The tax was delayed and the drivers of the programme needed to be changed. . Although initial engagement by some companies may have been because of the landfill tax, they soon began to recognise NISP as a business opportunity programme. From institutions and governments, NISP has been recognised as a tool for climate change mitigation, eco-innovation, regional economic development and material security.

As discussed in the last blog post (URL), NISPs help cities to achieve goals as diverse as boosting businesses’ competitiveness to diverting waste from landfill. NISP-Canada is reaching out to a diverse group of partners, recognizing this strength.

Lesson 10: Return on Investment Can Be Fast!

Return on investment can be quick and often doesn’t require new regulations or complicated agreements. The experience of NISPs has shown that there are quick wins that can appear within 3-6 months. Although some synergies involving innovation/new technologies do take some time, there are many synergies that can be implemented quickly and have a culture change effect on the companies involved to want to do more. As the programme incorporates measurements, these quick wins can be quickly turned in to case studies/examples to encourage others.

Making the Leap to a True Economy: An Interview with David LePage

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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.

By Jane ZhangDavid LePage

After working in the non-profit and social enterprise arena for over three decades, David LePage founded Accelerating Social Impact in 2013 to pioneer an unusual type of business – a Community Contribution Company. This hybrid enterprise model blends the traditional for-profit corporate model with a targeted social purpose, and allocates 60% of its dividends to this purpose. This differs from typical social purpose businesses and benefit corporations, who are not legally bound to divert profits from investors.

The purpose of ASI itself is to accelerate this blended business world and help invigorate the social value of business, from policy all the way to purchasing and supply.

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

I think it’s actually the old economy. In North America 2000 years ago, the Aboriginal communities had a thriving cross-continent trading system that went from Mexico to Quebec to Vancouver, based on the exchange of goods and services to create healthy communities. If you trace historically the exchange of goods and services anywhere, it was based on a culture of mutual benefit, or “what do you have that I need?” mentality.

It wasn’t until the industrial revolution that we developed this idea of “you can’t have what I have unless you pay me more”. We created workers and factories, exploitation and the profit motive.

What some call the “new economy” is what I call the “true economy” or “community economy” – the economy as a tool to help us create healthy communities. In the modern world, we’ve switched it around and made the economy the objective.

  1. How do we make the leap to a community economy in the 21st century?

A recent article by Robert Reich looked at how many people employed now are actually producing material things. When you add in the new technology of 3D production and robotic construction, there aren’t many people making things. We’re just exchanging dollars and services. I think the conversation we’re having is about shifting the culture of today’s economy. It’s a new exchange, but we haven’t figured out how to shift from the old model of paying someone to make stuff and someone else buying it. The structure of our economy needs to catch up with how we function as a society.

  1. What would a more just and equitable system look like?

We need to change the structure of the economy and what we value as a society. We still have a minimum wage that makes people poor, and that working at fast food restaurant is not a legitimate job. We need to rethink what’s considered professional versus a service. We now have doctors running businesses based on what they can charge, yet people working in the service industry - nurses, naturopaths, homeopaths, and others outside of mainstream - having to struggle because it’s not seen as professional. This applies to any industry, where the dichotomy of working and owning is just changing.

Another aspect is that we have to do the environmental, social and economic all together. People complain about WalMart selling organic food because organic without a fair living wage is only halfway there.

More people nowadays are conscious of externalized social and environmental costs. The government has subsidized so many things to create a market for certain partners. We just don’t know what a McDonald’s hamburger costs, for instance. When we account for all of its impact on environment, society, and future generations, who’s going to pay $175 for a hamburger? We need to look past the artificially low prices, and be aware of the actual “costs” of what we’re buying.

  1. Are today’s new sharing economy platforms good examples of “true economy”?

Again, people are saying this is all new, but libraries have been around for a long time, and they’re a great example of the sharing economy. Farmers have had co-ops for almost 200 years and other models like tool-sharing and credit unions. Calling it the sharing economy and exploiting people doesn’t make it any different from the traditional economy. Take Uber for example, where they charge people more at busier times. Instead of paying a taxi driver, you’re just paying this other guy. I think whenever we create a platform, we have to look behind the name and evaluate the exchange value.

  1. How do these relate to cities?

As more opportunities arise, we won’t have everyone moving to cities but we may start having urban and rural cities again. In Canada especially, we have a concentration of people in urban areas, and rural communities are devastated in terms of jobs and opportunities. If we start to shift the meaning of a job or opportunity, people can start to be healthy in their own communities.

  1. What does real wealth mean to you?

Real wealth is putting community ahead of the individual. It’s not just about financial capital but social, cultural, and environmental capital as well. What truly makes a community wealthy is having a balance, maybe even an abundance, of multiple capitals.


David LePage is a Principal with Accelerating Social Impact CCC, Ltd. (ASI), one of Canada’s first ever hybrid corporations. ASI CCC was created to serve and promote the emerging blended value business and social finance sectors. David works as a consultant, trainer and advisor with a cross section of social enterprises, social purpose businesses and social impact investors. He is a founder of Buy Social Canada, an initiative to promote social purchasing and social enterprise certification.

David is the Chair of the Social Enterprise Council of Canada. He serves as a Program Adjunct to the Sandermoen School of Business MBA in Social Enterprise Leadership. He is a member of the Social Enterprise World Forum Steering Group, the Canadian CED Network Policy Council, Imagine Canada’s Advisory Committee, and BC’s Partners for Social Impact. He is a Board member of the Vancouver Farmer’s Market and a Board member of Ethelo Decisions. David is the former Team Manager of enp-BC and played a lead role in the development of enp-Canada.

Philanthropy and Social Enterprise: An Interview with Anne Jamieson

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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.

By Jane ZhangAJamieson

1. In your view, what are three key elements of "new economies"?

  • Collaboration at the individual and organization level is hugely important because there are many groups focused on a particular activity or vision, but we all need to work together.
  • Using the traditional marketplace to accomplish our social, cultural, or environmental mission.
  • Cross-sectoral partnerships with the corporate and public sectors. We should not set up an antagonistic relationship with large corporations, but really build on good work being done to get the best of all worlds.

2. What is the role of philanthropy in new or social economies?

It’s a critical pivot point for the new economy because there are people in the philanthropic world who are able to take more risk and have a better understanding of how the marketplace works in a traditional sense, and also understand how it might work for social good. What we call the “first risk” – the most risky capital – can be philanthropic capital. There are just as many types of philanthropists as there are activities in the social economy, but philanthropy can be the catalyst for a social economy. We just have to be careful that it’s not the only pillar on which the social economy rests.

For new social enterprises, the aim is to diversify the sources of revenue, with sales being the primary focus, and might be supplemented by government funding, grants from charitable organizations, donations, and fundraising activities.

3. What is the Toronto Enterprise Fund?

The TEF is a funding partnership between four contributors: United Way Toronto, the City of Toronto, the Province of Ontario, and the federal government’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy. Our fund was set up in 2000 to invest in social enterprises to hire people that are marginalized, primarily people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. We have supported 50 unique enterprises and currently support 18. We provide seed funding for startups, three-year operating funds, and continual support to those that meet our goals of generate significant revenue from sales, and moving towards being proximal business that helps a certain type of individual to become permanently connected to the labour market. For most part, the fund has been extremely successful in helping people disconnected from labour market to become and stay connected.

One of most successful social enterprises is Furniture Link, which is part of a charity called Furniture Bank, which accepts used donated furniture and reuses it for people who are moving out of shelters into independent accommodation. Furniture Link provides the paid service of furniture pickup, and employs about 30 workers who have multiple barriers to employment, whether they are living in shelters, newcomers to Canada, or youth unable to find work.

4. How does this relate to the city of Toronto?

Toronto has been around for hundreds of years, and grown enormously in last 50 years without strong urban planning. My sense is that there hasn’t been a strategy to include the social economy or social enterprises in the planning. However, that’s starting to change. In the last few years we have been rezoning our inner suburbs, which have been plagued by low levels of community service organizations, high unemployment, and unattractive residential towers. Part of the challenge is that these communities are zoned 100% residential, which means there are no businesses nearby. The rezoning would mean the businesses can be located in the towers or adjacent locations. That will help to change the dynamic of those areas to create local employment, access to goods and services, and reduce reliance on cars. Many of these businesses will be part of traditional economy, but there is now space for organizations to think about how they can help revitalize these communities through social enterprise.

5. What is the role of traditional businesses in the new economy?

In the last few years, more and more businesses are interested in being part of social economy. Many traditional business are going for the BCorps certification, which for some may be a marketing exercise and for others are grounded in their values. For years, large corporations have been looking to include sustainability, and are now looking to be more socially beneficial. This might be changing the way they hire, including people who are marginalized. There is a movement driven by the philanthropic and non-profit sector to get businesses to be aware of their social impacts, but I’m noticing that the businesses themselves are much more interested in making those changes. This is happening at all different levels from businesses operated by individuals to family businesses to large multinational corporations. I’m hopeful that this is not just fringe movement, but a deep-seated visionary movement.

6. What does real wealth mean to you?

From a community point of view, real wealth is about relations between people, sense of safety, access to goods and services, and having mechanisms for problem-solving. A wealthy community would be diverse and inclusive.

On an individual level, real wealth means having a job that allows you to be a net contributor (rather than net receiver) to the economy and to society.

Anne Jamieson is Senior Manager, Toronto Enterprise Fund, at United Way Toronto. In addition to overseeing grants to a portfolio of social enterprises, Anne is committed to building a strong, vibrant and sustainable social enterprise sector in Canada. She launched the Canadian Conference on Social Enterprise series in 2004, is a founding member of the Social Enterprise Council of Canada, chairs the Ontario Social Economy Roundtable, and is involved with the Toronto Community Benefits Network. She presents regularly on social enterprise development and impact investing at conferences, seminars and webinars.

Anne’s background is in small business development and, for contrast, international commercial finance. She helped young entrepreneurs get started with loans and mentoring while working at the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, and before that provided self-employment training and advice to out-of-work aspiring business owners in her position at the Community Business Resource Centre. Anne previously worked in the UK in trade finance and commercial lending. Anne holds an MBA from Ivey, and an Honours BA from U of T.

Industrial Symbiosis: Helping Cities Strengthen the Circular Economy

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By Tracy Casavant, Executive Director, Light House Sustainable Building Center

Cities for People is proud to be supporting the National industrial Symbiosis Program in Canada or “NISP-Canada” (see ).

Refresher – What is Industrial Symbiosis?

Industrial Symbiosis (IS) establishes relationships between organizations to improve their bottom line through more efficient and effective resource management.

IS accelerates the shift towards a circular economy by identifying waste-to-input linkages and promoting collaboration around energy, water, materials, technical expertise, and transportation.

NISP-Canada Pilot

The NISP-Canada Pilot will adapt the UK’s (and now EU’s) highly successful NISP model in several regions across Canada. The Pilot will run for two years in three to five regions and set the stage for a permanent, broader program.

The UK / EU model is the most successful in the world, having been adopted by over 20 other countries. The UK government saw an astonishing benefit cost ratio (BCR) of ~40:1 on its investment in NISP. Through independent verification and studies NISP has been found to be the most cost effective, efficient program for delivering economic, social and environmental benefits.

The NISP Canada Pilot will demonstrate that comparable benefits can be achieved in Canada and will inform the model for a long-term and fully national NISP-Canada.

NISP-Canada Will Benefit Cities

NISP Canada brings numerous benefits to local governments, and directly supports a local government goals. NISP Canada can:

Strengthen businesses’ competitiveness: IS reduces business costs, diversifies revenue streams, and fosters innovation. After 8 years, NISP-UK cut participant operating costs by $2.07 billion and increased participant sales by $1.88 billion. In the UK, 20% of all implemented opportunities involved innovation, e.g., development / demonstration / commercialization.

Attract new business: The program’s software platform creates a database of untapped resources to help local governments attract investment. In one UK region, feedstock for a paper manufacturer were identified together with markets for its by-products; the local economic development agency was able to use this information to help attract a new paper manufacturer.

Create jobs: By strengthening businesses’ competitiveness and financial positions, and by generating new business opportunities e.g., for a new business to form around transforming a by-product, NISPs help to create, and safeguard jobs. After 8 years, the UK program created and safeguarded more than 10,000 jobs, with 8,600 of those occurring in the 2005-2010 period which included the global economic downturn.

Support local waste reduction and diversion goals: NISPs divert waste materials from landfill by establishing IS relationships that result in virgin materials being substituted by ‘wastes’, or in the creation of new production lines (or entire new businesses) designed to transform waste into valuable products. In 8 years, businesses participating in NISP-UK saw more than 47 million tonnes of materials diverted from landfill.

Reduce GHGs: NISPs reduce GHG emissions by lowering embodied energy in materials through the substitution of recycled constituents; reducing energy consumption; creating fuel substitution opportunities; reducing transportation energy by driving regional supply chain opportunities with lower transaction costs; reducing biodegradable materials sent to landfill; and creating lower carbon energy generation opportunities e.g., anaerobic digestion with feedstock from multiple regional businesses. In 8 years, NISP-UK reduced GHG emissions by 42 million tonnes. In the UK, the cost per tonne of GHGs reduced or avoided was a mere $0.61 CAD per tonne!

Build skills and capacity: Other NISPs have shown that the majority of participants are small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). In addition to helping SMEs establish IS relationships, the NISP workshops, also promotes knowledge exchange and business-to-business mentoring. NISPs build SME capacity in waste and energy management; business case development and development and commercialization of new technologies and products.

Support a circular, green economy: NISP is recognized internationally by organizations such as the EU, Global Green Growth Forum, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as a key platform for advancing a circular, green economy.

 Delivering NISP-Canada to Canadian Cities

NISPs are delivered regionally. For the pilot phase, a ‘region’ refers to a metropolitan area – we are exploring the following large cities, Vancouver, Edmonton, Hamilton / Sarnia, Montreal, and Halifax. The pilot will help to identify how small or large NISP-Canada regions ultimately should be.

Cities within each region will have access to 2 dedicated IS Practitioners: A key factor of success for the NISP model is its use of specially trained, staff (‘practitioners’) located within each region. Practitioners facilitate workshops and are dedicated to working with businesses to follow-up on opportunities generated at the workshops; identify other IS opportunities; and shepherd IS opportunities to implementation.

Within each region, the NISP-Canada Pilot will deliver at least 4 Industrial Symbiosis Workshops with full practitioner follow-up; a Bi-Annual Performance Report, summarizing participation and key indicators such as number of synergies, projected GHG savings; and a Final Performance Report, documenting lessons learned across regions and providing recommendations, including policy, to support a full NISP-Canada program.

To learn more or provide your support, please contact Tracy Casavant at Light House Sustainable Building Centre

Additional Resources:

*Resource links and descriptions courtesy International Synergies Ltd. (UK)

NISP - The Pathway to a Low Carbon Sustainable Economy

Provides an insight into how some of the issues linked to climate change can be tackled using the industrial symbiosis approach and NISP model. The report charts the program's progress since becoming the world's first national industrial symbiosis initiative and showcases just a number of the thousands of synergies identified by the program and implemented by its members.

The NISP model has also been analysed and evaluated by numerous international bodies, and has won several international awards.

Globe Scan Circular Economy Best Practice Feb 2015

Two NISP programs (UK and South Africa) are cited in the top 30 recommendations for governments world-wide in this multi global consultancy report.

Industrial Symbiosis 3GF 2014: Positive Action for Green Growth

This newsletter was published for the Global Green Growth Forum (3GF) 2014 and provides an update on the progress of the Industrial Symbiosis PPP which aims to take urgent action to advance industrial symbiosis at scale globally.

Industrial Symbiosis at 3GF: Positive Action for Green Growth

This newsletter was published for the Global Green Growth Forum (3GF) 2013 which included a dedicated session on Industrial Symbiosis, led by International Synergies. The newsletter provides an introduction to Industrial Symbiosis as well as an overview of current global applications at local, regional and national level.

Outcomes of IWCAIS: Positive Action for Green Growth

This report sets out the findings of the first International Working Conference on Applied Industrial Symbiosis (IWCAIS), held in Birmingham, UK on 12th – 14th June, 2012. The conference was convened by International Synergies Limited, and co-hosted by Birmingham City Council, to highlight the ability of industrial symbiosis to address current sustainability challenges - economic, environmental and social.

NISP - A Policy Case Study

The study provides a detailed perspective of the progression of the program and considers factors, both positive and negative, that have had an effect on the program. The conclusion of the case study looks at the lessons learned for Horizon 2020 and states, "Essential insights for the planning, design implementation and monitoring of Horizon 2020 activities can be deduced from the key performance factors of NISP.”

Industrial Symbiosis in Action

Yale University produced a report on the highly successful International Industrial Symbiosis Research Symposium hosted by International Synergies in 2006. Leading experts in industrial ecology from across the world gathered in Birmingham in August 2006, marking only the third event of its kind, and the first to be held outside the academic community.

WWF Green Game Changing Report (2010)

International Synergies' applied industrial symbiosis approach as illustrated through NISP is acknowledged as one of the world's top 20 Green Game Changing Business Innovations in a report commissioned by the Worldwide Fund for Nature, 2010

European Union Waste Framework Directive (2009)

International Synergies' NISP is cited as an example of best practice in the European Union Waste Framework Directive published in 2009.

Voices of New Economies – An Interview with Lis Suarez

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Voices of New Economies – An Interview with Lis Suarez
By Alicia Tallack

Through a focus on women’s economic independence, Lis Suarez is working toward poverty reduction among both local and immigrant women in Canada. The FEM International founder works with women to increase awareness of social and ecological practices, provide tools for successful entrepreneurship, and deepen the knowledge- and skill-sharing networks amongst communities in Canada and the global south.

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

For me, new economies are people’s economies, rather than profit-oriented economies. Community-centered economies are those that encompass the interactions between individuals and their environments. In new economies as I see them there are four pillars:

  • Fundamental Rights: This includes social rights, environmental rights, economic rights, and also cultural rights. When we are looking at the division between the global north and global south, the capacity to approach issues from your own culture’s perspective is critical.
  • Self-determination: Developing nations have been following the path of the developed nations, replicating their development model, a path that is clearly not working, and they are now starting to frame things in their own perspective and context. This frame itself, of developing-developed, or global north-global south, is shifted in new economies. It moves from a colonial (how I impose on you- model), to how do we exchange as equals and work together.
  • Equality: Inequalities are essential to address in new economies. Access to opportunities for men and women, but also between countries, is important. Access to opportunities is key for poverty reduction, and inequalities are a barrier to this.
  • Circular economy: In new economies, the extraction of resources is reduced and waste is reduced. The principles of the circular economy are based on closed loop production, where there is zero waste production because waste is an input. We try to work with this in our projects because through a people-centered economy, the emphasis is on the services, on the people and then the material resources become minimized. We are able to generate necessary revenue, income that people need to access opportunities, through new kinds of products or services that reduce the use of actual materials, and that can loop back into the economy on a constant basis.

How does this relate to cities?

It is essential that new economies as community centered activities within cities. Cities are microorganisms that interdepend among each other. This is true in a global space too. Global interaction is becoming more and more decentralized, and more direct between cities. There is an influx of information sharing, and experiences and services that go around. Cities play a key role, as the entities that allow these exchanges to take place. When I say city I do not mean the local government, or any institution, I mean the communities; the organic component of communities as a gathering of people that come together over particular issues. They have their own dynamics, and can be embedded within larger city structures. It is the city in this sense, the communities, which are connecting with each other around the world.

What is the importance of women’s economic independence within new economies?

There is no one country in the world that has truly achieved gender equality. Inequality is one of the biggest barriers for poverty reduction globally and locally, so creating equal access to opportunities for women everywhere is critical. Even those countries that pride themselves on gender equality have a long way to go in terms of female empowerment, and the resulting ability to tackle poverty. Women in general tend to create enterprises differently than the way men do, maybe because women often have a deeper sense of interdependence. This is visible in their enterprises. The role of communities seems to be more important to women, and you see that in their projects. That way of thinking ends up being channeled into ensuring that there is continued increase of equal access, it paves the way for more men and more women to have that same access that they had. This becomes an opportunity for men and women, because empowerment affects both.

It is fundamental for men to participate in this too. In a society we are connected, and men need to work along the same way that we are moving with women. In new economies, equality is about access for both, including those that haven’t been able to participate in the past due to barriers. This is not a lowered role for men - it is a partnership. In patriarchal societies, men are the ones that need to be convinced that equal access is a positive thing. They are a vital part of inequality reductions.

What does real wealth mean to you?

I see real wealth as the capacity to choose what is best for you and yours and embrace it, not to take what you can because it is your only option, or the only thing you can afford. Having options, choosing, and living those choices is for me real wealth.

This is true as individuals, and as communities. A wealthy community is one that is able to choose what is best for them, has the opportunity to do so, and the resources to make it happen.

Related links:

- FEM International
- Ethik-BGC
- Gender Inequality Index
- Circular Economy


Lis Suarez Visbal-Ensink is an ASHOKA fellow, passionately engaged with women’s inner force, sustainable development, and socially responsible entrepreneurship. Lis believes that the dynamics of social entrepreneurship could canalize the potential of a human being toward the realisation of their inner force, their strengths, and their potential to be the managers of their own path by contributing at the same time to the wellbeing of their communities.

Born in Colombia, and having lived and worked with women and micro-enterprises in more than 6 countries over 3 continents, Madame Suarez finds herself connected with the causes she fights for in Montreal Canada, were she founded FEM International, a non profit organization of Bi-national Cooperation that empowers women to become self sufficient through socially responsible entrepreneurship. Lis has been the instigator of all successful initiatives of FEM International Modethik, ETHIKA, the 5a7ETHIK, and most recently Ethik-BGC, the sustainable business incubator for ethical fashion in Montreal. She was for over 5 years also the principal trainer and Coordinator of the Aurora micro-credit program of Compganie-f.


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: 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:


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.


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 – Nature As the Reflection of Our Best Selves

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By Victoria Wee

What are some key elements of “new economies”?
1. Education for sustainable development integrated at all levels of education.
There is a lot I am grateful to the public education system for. However it’s clear that currently there is a lack of education for sustainable development in the classroom. Concepts of what constitutes sustainable development, its history, its issues and challenges, and its applications to real life have to be made common knowledge. How else can we have the skills and attitudes required to choose sustainable lifestyles? Looking back at my years in the Canadian provincial system, sustainable development was commonly reduced to flat ideas about the environment and conservation. Though important concepts, these are not enough to empower and motivate large-scale behavioral change.

An important component is also looking to new, non-traditional ways of teaching. I am a big proponent of experiential education and have been lucky to have learned about issues like consumption and production, climate change, and the state of policy through independent participatory learning programs. We need to have government and citizens both committed to the idea that sustainable development should no longer be seen as an “interest” developed in a few enterprising students, but as a necessary part of life, and a necessary component to shaping an informed society.

2. Holding true to the Principle of Non-Regression
We need forward movement on stakeholder participation and engagement in all arenas. The non-regression principle is an international law principle which requires that norms that have been adopted by States cannot be changed, if changing them means moving backward on the protection of collective and individual rights. In practice, it means that we need to continue to bash and batter at the institutional constructs that hold citizens and decision-makers at arms-length of each other. We need to break down the glass wall between negotiating bodies and the people they are negotiating for, and we need to be vigilant watchdogs on any attempt to lessen the presence and input of stakeholders. I am using the Principle of Non-Regression particularly to refer to meaningful and effective citizen participation, but it is certainly something that applies horizontally to other, even all, concepts.

3. Empowering the next generation
Including young people in meaningful conversation is an emerging practice that bodies such as the United Nations and certain governments are beginning to implement. That’s certainly a good step! But let’s also jump forward and make sure that conversations aren’t all that we are having. I’ll let you in on a secret: young people are the ingredient X to really carving out the future that we want. Polling youth and engaging the social media generation on Twitter or Google Hangout is a solid start – but it’s really just a baby step and one that does not leverage the massive, massive latent power that a group comprising almost half of the world’s population naturally has. If we can engineer a behavioral shift in demographic of under-25 year olds, the consequences are enough to change the direction of our collective futures.

Real wealth is understanding that we need nature to be the reflection of our best selves. It is living the good life, but not necessarily the same “good life” that some of us are living now. Real wealth is living in a way that is fulfilling and free, certain in our knowledge that we are making choices that do not compromise the ability of future generations to live their lives in the same way. As a computer science major, I am reminded of the concept of recursion – the process of repeating items in a self-similar way. Our generation needs to be the base-case, the leaders who define the new, long-term values of the good life, and serve as the standard by which the succeeding generation borrows from. Then, our succeeding generation serves as the standard for the following, who pass on inherited values to the next, and so on. So buckle up! It’s all dominoes from here.


Victoria Wee is completing her bachelor's degree in Computer Science at Stanford University. As the Youth Engagement Director of We Canada, she led the organization of a national mobilization tour to consult Canadians across the country in preparation for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, Rio+20). On the tour, "Dialogues and Action for Earth Summit 2012," Victoria hosted presentations and workshops at schools universities in sixteen cities. The results of these consultations were compiled into a report submitted as stakeholder input into UNCSD, and published in a paper co-authored in Earth Common Journal. After spending the summer studying climate change in the Arctic, Victoria coordinated an international youth declaration to the Arctic Council in 2011, and founded an initiative to widen youth representation opportunities in the Arctic Council. Victoria was a workshop facilitator at the 2011 UNEP Tunza Children and Youth Conference in Bandung, Indonesia, and the 2013 UNEP Tunza Youth Conference in Nairobi, Kenya. The Starfish Canada named Victoria 2012's Top Canadian Environmentalist Under 25. At Stanford, you can find Victoria coordinating events for the Stanford Society of Women Engineers, coding up a storm, or learning about technology design and policy.


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 Mike McGinn

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By Alicia Tallack

Mike McGinn knows exactly what real wealth means for him, and it’s simple: health, and friends. These have been fundamental to everything he has done, from being a community member volunteer, to a lawyer, a non-profit founder, and the Mayor of Seattle. Mike has found the motivation for his ongoing work in his children, and believes that we are the first generation to see the effects of global warming, and we are the last generation that can do anything about it - “I want to tell my children we did everything we could.”

MikeheadshotWhat are some key elements of "new economies"?

There are three central challenges that I have seen as a part of new economies, certainly for America, and Seattle specifically, but I think it is true on a wider scale as well. These key challenges are:

1. Rising economic inequality;
2. The need to address institutional racism and bridge our diverse cultures, and;
3. Climate change.

When we consider new economies, we need to look for policies, investments, and strategies that, right from the front end of their development, are designed to work across all three of these challenges. What makes these difficult to address, is that we don’t have limitless resources. We have to heal the mistakes of the past, while looking forward. This makes it an era of choices in a way that is more stark than ever before.

How does this relate to cities?

These are deeply related, as cities are the closest form of government to the people in a way that no other legislative body or government executive is. The streets, land use, libraries, schools, children, families, are all affected. We run social programs, and deal with just about every aspect of day to day life - electricity, sewage, garbage, water, and so on. The Mayor is expected to respond to all of it. The neighborhood level is where people make a difference by coming up with new ideas. The types of policies and changes that are going to impact people’s quality of life won’t be solved with some big new highway, or dam, or industry – the solutions we are talking about have to be at a fine-grain level that reach people where they live. For example, how we deal with sidewalks, bike lanes, transit, solar panels, and natural drainage, is all impacted by a sense of community, and an understanding that we can look out for each other and lift each other up.

This doesn’t come from national capital, it comes from people in their neighbourhoods, and they look to their local governments to facilitate it. The challenge of the future is how to build a multicultural city that can lift everyone up, and deal with the environmental and social issues at the same time.

What does leadership need to look like for new economies? 

My own personal evolution within these issues has been interesting. When I was volunteering with the Sierra Club, working on congressional races, state legislative races, and city level races, I kept going more and more local. Two things began to coincide for me – I began to understand that creating a place with lots of housing and housing types, so that people can live near grocers, doctors, and transit, also positively impacts the global warming sector. There is real alignment between reducing our environmental impact and creating places that are appealing for people, with things like libraries, sidewalks, bike lanes, and all of the things that make a place delightful for people.

Recognizing this motivated me, which is why I moved from being a volunteer and a lawyer, to starting a non-profit (Great City). Getting out of my own neighbourhood, and seeing other neighbourhoods and the levels of disparity and challenges faced by marginalized communities that are systematically deprived of the ability to create wealth, through discrimination and government policies, was a big transition moment for me. This was a learning experience that deepened while I was Mayor.

One thing I learned from this, is that we can’t solve these big issues like climate change and the threats that come at us from the horizon, if we can’t figure out how to work together on the issues right in front of people, like education, safety, and being able to put food on the table. If we can’t come together around the basic issues, we will fail on the bigger challenges.

When I think about resilience, the new buzzword we keep hearing, I think that a lot of the time, peoples’ minds go to physical infrastructure and resisting changing environments. But I think that resilience is really about the capacity of a community to identify and solve problems. Effective leadership in new economies stems from the community level; it means going to where people are, listening to them, and letting go of authority so that people can create the change themselves.


Mike McGinn, Mayor of Seattle 2010-13, was the first Mayor in the country to begin the process of divesting from fossil fuel companies, building upon Seattle’s leadership on clean energy, green buildings, and sustainable urban practices. Before becoming Mayor, Mike founded and ran a non-profit, Great City, to urge elected leaders and the public, to adopt practical changes to enhance quality of life and prepare for the challenges of global warming. Prior to that, Mike spent years volunteering in the Sierra Club helping lead high profile ballot measure and legislative campaigns to stop highways, build transit, and support walking and biking. His experience as a champion of positive change, a community organizer, and a chief executive of a major American city gives him a unique perspective on the fight to reduce fossil fuel emissions. As a community member, and parent, he brings a sense of urgency to the work.


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.