Monthly Archives: November 2014

Social Impact Failure Wake Dec 3rd

POSTER3 Social Impact Failure Wake

by Elisha Kittson

It’s going to be a night of storytelling about the raw risk-taking reality of entrepreneurship. On December 3, at the St. James Corner pub four brave souls will share their tribulations during the city’s first-ever Social Impact Failure Wake. The event is presented by Thrive and Calgary EATS, and will be emceed by Court Ellingson from Calgary Economic Development.

“I think this kind of gathering is particularly important in Calgary because it is so easy to take a 9-5 job and make lots of money. By talking about risk and failure we can encourage and validate the desire and effort required to pursue our own kinds of meaningful work,” shares third-generation farmer, Calgary EATS representative and event co-organizer Renee MacKillop.

Giving us the goods on past pursuits that petered out are Gena Rotstein founder of Place2Give, Kevin Hayes from Epic YYC, Lana Selbee with REAP and Carolyn Davis of Momentum.

“As an entrepreneur I’ve experienced risk and the huge reward and sense of pride in having my own business. And then I experienced the opposite, closing a business. It took time to recover from the guttural reaction and the void it created. Those experiences planted a seed that failure was possible, and also that possibility is just around the corner,” says Barb Davies, Wake organizer and Community Economic Development Coordinator at Thrive.

According to Davies the evening format includes 10-minute speeches by those closest to the dearly, and perhaps not so dearly departed projects. Followed by any necessary keening, crying and laughter, and will finish with a raising of the glass to the dead body (of work).

There promises to be something for everyone’s favorite flavor of failure. From art galleries, to a youth entrepreneurship program. A sustainable clothing store, and even a few broad-scale attempts to shift the way businesses in Calgary procure labor, goods and professional services in the hopes of achieving dramatic collective impact.

“Calgary is increasingly placing an emphasis on building people and community in economic development. The initiatives that we’ll hear about all had good intent. This event is about learning and moving forward,” shares Ellingson.

So, fear not. You might find yourself so inspired by all this radical honesty that you, yourself, from the safety of a fluorescent lit office cubicle the very next day will put just one toe in the water of “what if?” The rest will be history. You, Samantha, Gary, Carrie, and Clive will go on to change the world*.

*Or at the very least consider sharing your epic fail with a light heart at next year’s Wake.


Hammer it Home

Renos 4

by Elisha Kittson

Calgary Tool Library co-founder (and Momentum’s Financial Literacy Manager) Courtney Hare takes some time out of her busy, err…redonkulous schedule to tell us about her tool lending program. A social enterprise setup in Calgary’s downtown neighborhood of Bridgeland promoting tool sharing as a means to reduce cost, waste, and help people get to know their neighbors.

“You’ve heard the phrase ready, fire, aim? That’s how you start a tool library,” joked Hare. “As my first foray into entrepreneurship I’m noticing it’s like decorating a house, you get new curtains and think the place will look finished, but then realize you need a new couch. It’s a seemingly un-ending unfolding of possibility and opportunity. You’re always thinking, when I get this done it’ll be done, but it never is.”

Stemmed from Hare’s personal frustration in buying one tool, for one job, and never needing it again, the initiative has now blossomed to include over 30 volunteer ‘librarians’ who staff a tool shed housing over 400 of the most in-demand products.

For a very reasonable $40 per annum, members can borrow home and garden tools, learn about using different tool types, and participate in workshops that range from home to basic car maintenance and repairs.

“We wanted the offering shaped by the needs of the community. This project has attracted the most amazing collection of human beings gifts and talents that I’ve ever seen, from artists and stay at home moms to engineers and lawyers. It’s an awesome community of people,” shares Hare.

Members of the ever-growing tool lending community gathered onsite at the Bridgeland Riverside Community Association (BRCA) on November 11 for a retrofit and expansion of the library’s space. A group of 18 volunteers worked on electrical upgrades, lighting and winterizing the shed which will enable the library to accommodate the availability of donated tools to double its inventory, and its membership base.

First Calgary Financial among other partners like Skyfire Energy who provided a solar panel to heat the space during the winter months took some of the sting out of the financial implications of growing to scale.

“We’re very proud of Courtney and her team of volunteers,” says Teri Buckley, First Calgary Financial’s Corporate Citizenship Advisor. “The tool library is a great example of Community Economic Development at its core – it’s not only empowering people with applicable skills and knowledge, but helping create more resourceful, resilient communities.”

This isn’t the first-time the Tool library’s innovative model has attracted investment. Last spring, it was chosen as one of four projects to receive a share of the $25,000 pot from Simon Fraser University’s Community Economic Development (CED) certificate program’s Social Innovation Challenge (of which Hare is a program graduate). The year before, the Awesome Foundation awarded The Tool library $1000 in a pitch contest.

“We’ve been fortunate to have some great partners. In addition to the financial support from the Calgary community, we received mentoring from the folks at the Vancouver Tool library. But all of that came as the project unfolded. You can do this on a shoestring, and it doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to get done. The coolest thing is the sense of ownership it fosters in the community,” concludes Hare.

Momentum’s Carolyn Davis Receives Top 40 Under 40 Award

Carolyn Davis 445x280

By Elisha Kittson

As Community Relations Director at Momentum, Carolyn Davis is a mover and shaker in Calgary’s community economic development scene. She’s also just been recognized by Avenue Magazine in the Top 40 Under 40, class of 2014.

It’s a good thing to know she stood out amongst the 400 odd nominations for “best and brightest in the city”. Because, while some of us were drinking beer and backpacking in our 20s, Carolyn was busy trying to make a dent in persistent poverty.

“Poverty is caused by many things, but it’s always about not having enough money. So at Momentum we work to grow the assets, financial and human of about 4,000 people per year one person at a time. We also identify and understand the barriers and send that info over to our public policy team so they can work on eliminating the barrier or issue at the root. So we have a feedback loop that enables us to deliver legitimate programming,” she says.

During the six years she’s held a leadership role at Momentum Davis has contributed to policy development processes such as the Calgary Economic Development Strategy, Calgary Poverty Reduction Strategy, Alberta Social Policy Framework and most recently the Social Innovation Endowment (2014). She’s also attracted over $3 million in philanthropic contributions, growing Momentum’s fund development portfolio five-fold under her leadership. Holding a senior role at Momentum she helped secure an innovation award from the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations and create the conditions for recognition as a Top 50 employer and Psychologically Healthy Workplace.

Carolyn and her team work to create the conditions for understanding poverty, by using story and policy advocacy (you’ll get the jist in this important article she wrote about supporting low-income families to save for education).

Articulate and heartfelt in her commitment to her work, Carolyn brings it all home for us in these closing words.

“This isn’t about being poverty heroes. As CED practitioners we believe everyone is vulnerable and everyone has assets. My route to Top 40 was relatively easy. On the next page of Avenue magazine, Jill Drader, a Momentum graduate, had a much different path. I’m not diminishing my accomplishment, just pointing out that for lasting community change, we will go further when we go together.”

Carolyn is also a graduate of the SFU Certificate Program for Community Economic Development hosted by Thrive.