Voices of New Economies – Internet Freedom, Rainbow Looms and New Economies

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By Alexa Pitoulis

What are some key elements of "new economies”?

• Rethinking what we value and how we measure success. What does Alexasuccess look and feel like at all levels of the economy? To answer this question we must be willing to redefine wealth and move beyond what our current economic systems value as indicators of success and well being. At a macro level, the Genuine Progress Indicator and the Gross National Happiness index offer positive approaches and at an organizational level, we might measure impacts based on the triple bottom line (people, planet and profit). At a personal level, my commitment to redefining wealth means making daily, conscious decisions about how I choose to spend or invest my family’s money and time. Sometimes this means, as a parent, I’m the odd mom out. Saying no to McDonald's or no to my kids playing or buying Rainbow Loom Bands. And saying yes to my kids riding bikes to school (even in the rain) and sorting the weekly recycling. Most importantly, I don't shy away from talking to them about why I make the choices I do.

• Rethinking our point of departure for creating businesses. Start with what is im(possible). Start with the large, system-scale problems that exist in the world or our communities (waste, poverty, unsustainable food systems, depleting oceans), and ask how we can build a business model that not only generates value but works at bringing positive change to these issues. I am inspired by business schools and organizations such as Bainbridge Graduate Institute, Presidio, and the Unreasonable Institute who are embracing this approach to entrepreneurship..

• Rethinking how we work together. I am passionate about creating the containers that support individuals to actualize their greatest potential to transform the world. By containers I mean businesses, organizations, and institutions that bring individuals together. What I often observe - whether it be in purpose driven businesses, non-profits or social enterprises - are people who launch organizations with clear purposes, values, or ideas of impact they want to make. At some point during their growth trajectory they fumble with how to operationalize the values and changes they are trying to make externally through how they function internally. The individuals in these organizations, so full of energy, creativity, and soul, get worn down by old embedded systems (patriarchy, capitalism, to name a few) that serve neither people nor planet. My work in this space takes inspiration from Carol Sanford’s The Responsible Entrepreneur and Frederic Laloux’s Reinventing Organizations who offer a new paradigm.

What role does the media play in new economies?

My work with OpenMedia gives me a deep appreciation of how important the Internet and digital tools are for new economies. How we describe, understand, and interact with media has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. The Internet is the critical tool to enable people to build a more connected and collaborative world. As Malkia Cyril, founder and Executive Director of the Center for Media Justice writes, "in a digital age, communities that have long been either the subject of debate or voiceless stereotype now have the means to control their own story.” This sharing of ideas and experiences creates the conditions for a new a economy.

OpenMedia's vision is to unlock the enormous potential of the Internet through universal access. We use the Internet to save the Internet. We are building a community that is finding new ways of actively engaging people with depth and authenticity through online tools. We had over 300,000 people from 155 countries help create Our Digital Future, a crowdsourced policy report for free expression online. As a leader in the massive, grassroots campaign involving over 5 million people from across the U.S. and internationally, we fought for Net Neutrality and won!

How does this relate to cities?

Cities are the sandboxes for change. They are where people have easier access to the systems (bureaucracies, financial markets, scope of stakeholders) that are otherwise out of reach. A great example of the power of municipalities is OpenMedia’s upcoming work to educate, promote and support the swell of Municipal Broadband initiatives. As Cynthia Khoo, OpenMedia’s Policy Research intern states “more and more municipalities across Canada have taken it upon themselves to ensure affordable, citywide Internet access through community-based networks known as municipal broadband.” Local ownership and control over Internet infrastructure is a key component to thriving new economies of the future.

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Alexa Pitoulis is the Managing Director with OpenMedia. Alexa brings over 15 years experience building and leading teams and projects for government and community organizations. A self-proclaimed kale-powered supermom on two wheels, she is a creative strategist driven by her passion for building regenerative social and ecological systems. With an MBA in Sustainable Systems from Bainbridge Graduate Institute, Alexa views organizations as living systems and is excited to bring this perspective to the "how" we work at OpenMedia. Inspired by Margaret Wheatley's wisdom that “people support what they create", Alexa is committed to authentic engagement and collaboration.

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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 – Restorative Enterprise Drive New Economies

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By Nadine Gudz

What are some key elements of new economies? 

New economies mean rethinking notions of value, innovation and the Nadine Picpurpose of business. It requires collaboration with non-traditional business partners. At Interface, we are driven by questions like: what would it mean to be a restorative enterprise? I.e. how can we create economic value while also creating social and ecological value?

One example is our global partnership called Net-Works - a collaboration with one of our yarn suppliers, Aquafil, ZSL (Zoological Society of London) and villages in the Danajon Bank region of the Philippines, home to one of 6 double barrier reefs in the world, threatened by overfishing. In the last few years, Aquafil has expanded their ability to recycle discarded Nylon 6 fishing nets into carpet fiber.

Net-Works provides a new stream of recycled content for Interface products while generating positive impacts in vulnerable human communities and marine ecosystems by:

  • Removing the nets (which can take hundreds of years to degrade) and thereby eliminating the detrimental environmental effects (eg. ghost fishing);
  • Creating a new source of revenue for local community residents, and setting up community banking associations in the local villages. This creates savings accounts for local families to help build long term, sustainable livelihoods going beyond charitable donations and one-shot beach clean ups.

How do these relate to cities?

Cities play a key role in broader systems level collaboration toward closed loop economies (e.g. regionalizing carpet reclamation and recycling). They serve as important nodes of activity facilitating material throughputs, transfer of goods and services as well as waste management.

In what ways do you see footprint reduction, product innovation, and culture change as being linked? 

It is hard to separate these things. When your company's purpose, lens, mindset and culture are all driven by sustainability, it transcends all areas and activities. For example, we will not innovate and launch new products if they don't bring us closer to reaching our mission zero goals to get off oil and eliminate any negative environmental impacts our company might generate by 2020.. Interface does not exist in a vacuum. Rather, it operates within a much larger, more powerful, and some might say unsustainable economic system. What is the obligation of a global carpet tile manufacturer to leverage its influence and collaborate with others to facilitate broader systems change? Systems transformation begins with transforming ourselves, inspiring a culture of sustainability while adopting new business models and innovations that respect the biophysical limits of Earth.

What does real wealth mean for you? 

Personally, it means creating sustained health, wellbeing and quality of life. From a business perspective, it means creating more holistic value opportunities. At Interface, we are redesigning our operations and supply chain to generate positive impacts in buildings, communities and society in general.

It goes back to the question of what it might mean to serve as a restorative enterprise and generate social and ecological value along with economic. It also means making products that can enhance quality of life that work in a space to foster health and wellbeing by inspiring positive connections between humans and nature. Interface believes that false notions of humans as separate from nature's systems are at the root of industrial ugliness. Biophilic design is a huge source of inspiration for us, and it is key to making products that not only have zero negative environmental impacts but also reconnect us with the natural world.

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As Director, Sustainability Strategy with global carpet tile manufacturer, Interface, Nadine drives and develops sustainability leadership through education, community engagement and innovative market solutions.

With more than 18 years experience in the fields of environmental education, community development and planning, Nadine taught in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University and served as a research fellow with the Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability before joining Interface. Her areas of focus include sustainable business strategy, organizational change and learning, materials stewardship and ecological design. Based in Toronto, she serves on a number of local and international boards and committees including the Council for Clean Capitalism and the National Advisory Panel to the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada.

Nadine is a LEED Accredited Professional and is currently completing a PhD in Environmental Studies at York University. She studied sustainable business and worked at Schumacher College in England and obtained a Masters in Community and Regional Planning from the University of British Columbia. She also holds a Bachelor of Sciences honours degree in Environmental Science from the University of Guelph. Her work on sustainability education and organizational change, including the creation of a life-size board game on sustainability has been published in the International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education and International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social 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 – 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

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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.

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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: 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 – Nature As the Reflection of Our Best Selves

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By Victoria Wee

What are some key elements of “new economies”?
Victoriapic
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.

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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.

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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 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.

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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.

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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.

 

Voices of New Economies: Todd Scaletta

Posted on:

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: Charles Montgomery

Posted on:

VOICES OF NEW ECONOMIES - AN INTERVIEW WITH CHARLES MONTGOMERY
By Alicia Tallack

Charles Montgomery has travelled around the world to better understand what it means to have a Happy City, how we can build it by focusing on what makes us truly happy, and how it changes everything when we do. This concept is a key part of the shift towards economies that work for people and the planet, because when we build cities around happiness, we are simultaneously building an economy that works for us as a whole.charlesmontomerypicture

What are some key elements of New Economies?

First up: new economies must value happiness and wellbeing, rather than relying on cold, hard GDP as a guiding objective. I think this is a reasonable transition, because the reliance on GDP as a measure of societal success was an invention itself. More than 200 years ago, when the intellectual elite of the Enlightenment concerned themselves with the pursuit of happiness, economists pronounced happiness unmeasureable, and concluded that since we can’t measure good and bad feelings, policymakers need to rely on what people spend their money on to tell them what makes people happy.

Now, scientists have studied human wellbeing, health, and happiness, and they’ve discovered two things: First, is that peoples’ self-reports on their own happiness correspond to physiological states in the human body as well as public health outcomes; Second, we can correlate these self-reports with all kinds of economic, societal, environmental, and health, contributors. So we now have the tools to move on from this simplistic idea of what it is to succeed as a society.

Another element driving new economies is that we are starting to measure things that really matter. We used to measure GDP, or products moved, or vehicle speeds on our streets; now, policy makers and the rest of us are considering things like life satisfaction, job satisfaction, health outcomes, and the most important ingredient of human happiness, resilience, and productivity, which is social trust.

Social trust is the most powerful ingredient of human happiness, but it is also a key driver of economic productivity, community resilience, and health outcomes.

Cumulatively, the previous two points add up to this one – new economies are social and collaborative, rather than individualistic and proprietary. This acknowledges that the most powerful driver of human happiness is social relationships. It is positive relationships along with social trust together that keep our communities resilient, healthy, and wealthy. These relationships also drive our economy.

How do we work toward fostering these types of genuine social relationships?

The most powerful tool for fostering social trust is the face-to-face encounter. So, while the internet and social media have been helpful in creating and broadening our social networks and in building useful connections, psychologists are finding that online connections are almost never as deep, honest, supportive, and trusting, as those that happen in person.

How does this relate to cities?

This is why the way we design our cities is so important. Cities mediate all of our relationships. We spent the better part of a century building cities that disperse people and destinations far away from each other. Now we know that this dispersal corrodes what geographers call social interaction potential, which is the ability for people to meet face-to-face. Fortunately, we’ve started to embrace complexity and connectivity in our cities. We’re recognizing that the mixed-use, walkable, connected, neighbourhood is not just a healthier place, but also a more social place, and a more creative and economically productive place.

Should we try to measure happiness? If so, how?

This is the great challenge. We have to avoid the trap that the high modernists fell into a century ago. We cannot rely on one measurement of success. It is tempting to want to use one survey question, such as a question about subjective wellbeing, like “how happy are you?” as the measurement of success of any initiative or place.

While we can learn from these surveys, we must not use any one measure to guide us, because human well-being is as complex and layered and multidimensional as our cities themselves. What we have done with Happy City is to draw lessons from all of the social sciences, and from great cities around the world, and then empower people at the local level to use those tools and create places that meet their needs, and are inspired by their own hyperlocal, complex, organic, nuanced, version of the Happy City.

For example, my team and I worked with the citizens of Mexico City to do a Happy Neighbourhood Audit of a contested neighbourhood called Doctores, and the participants stopped us part way through the process, and told us that our model needed a serious tweak to work in Mexico. We asked what they meant, and they pointed out that on our happiness framework we use in Canada, we don’t emphasize safety and security. In Canadian cities, security is no longer people’s first concern. But in Mexico, security is everything. It consumes people’s nights, days, and political passions. It shapes their worldview. Interestingly, while they were driven by a concern for security, they still suggested the same sidewalks, streets, parks, and interventions that we heard from Canadian, American, and European participants. There are some things that are always part of the conversation, but the local context matters. They taught us that no matter how robust a theoretical model may be, the local experience always trumps the global approach.

What does "real wealth" mean to you?

This is a question one has to take personally. I would say that real wealth means I have what I need to stay strong, connected, and challenged, while thriving. The foundation of that, is always going to be my relationships with other people.

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Charles Montgomery is an author, urbanist and creator of transformative conversations about wellbeing in cities. His award-winning book, Happy City, examines the intersection between urban design and the emerging science of happiness. Collaborating with the Guggenheim Museum and other entities, Montgomery has created experiments and design methods that help participants alter their relationships with their cities, and with each other. His writings on urban planning, psychology, culture and history have appeared in magazines and journals on three continents. Among his numerous awards is a Citation of Merit from the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society for outstanding contribution towards understanding of climate change science. He lives in Vancouver and Mexico City. Learn more at www.thehappycity.com.

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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.

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, paces, 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

Posted on:

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.