Monthly Archives: April 2015

How local benefits individuals and communities

Michael Shuman pic

Michael Shuman is a powerhouse in the localization movement. An economist, lawyer and prolific writer, he has done pioneering work to show that local businesses are key for economic development and are highly effective. “We’ve won the war on ideas,” says Shuman. “Even HSBC wants to be ‘The World’s Local Bank.’ We’ve also won the war on evidence that local economic development is far more effective and cost efficient than what is practiced today.”

Research shows that communities with a high density of local business have higher per capita job growth and higher per capita income growth. Other studies show that a strong local economy increases civic engagement, fosters social responsibility, improves public health, and facilitates environmental protection.

To gain all the benefits of local, Shuman argues, we must go way beyond the notion of spending dollars at local ‘Mom & Pop’ shops. Shuman challenges us to look deeply at what it means to localize. Where do your dollars go when you make a deposit at your bank? Who benefits from your mortgage payment? How are foundations and government participating in local economic development?

“Most economic development today is wasting money on attracting or retaining nonlocal business,” complains Shuman. “It’s far smarter not just to focus on locally owned business but to support them through private enterprises that are self-financing entities I call “pollinators. For example, rather than build a business incubator that costs the government money every year, do what Fledge in Seattle does: charge incubated companies a percentage of their annual revenues for a few years to underwrite the next round of incubation.”

One might argue that localization in a city as prosperous as Calgary is unnecessary. Shuman warns, however, that “economic development based in one industry – like fossil fuels – only works when you reinvest your short-term bonanza in local business for the next generation.  Diversification is the ticket to long term prosperity.”

REAP members are a significant economic force for long-term prosperity. Together, we represent 7,500 locally rooted jobs and $8.5 million in charitable contributions. Talk about reinvestment!

The next frontier, according to Shuman, is our investments. Canadian businesses with the highest profitability have 10-20 employees—with profits 60% higher than those traded on the Toronto stock exchange. Yet almost none of Canadians’ retirement savings are being invested in these small businesses. “Local investment,” Shuman argues, “not only can deliver great returns to your community, but also holds the promise of paying better returns to you personally.”

To learn more about how to use your dollars to grow the local economy join REAP, Thrive and the Arusha Centre during Down to Earth Week and hear more from Michael Shuman.

Take Action:

1. Propel your impact initiative forward with expert advice from Michael Shuman and networking with Calgary’s social innovators on April 17th at Social Innovation Pollination. Click here to register now through Eventbrite.

2. Celebrate the world-wide movement to localize with Michael Shuman, live music, a local market, workshops and family fun at the ReLocalize Fair on April 18th. Click here for more details.

3. Learn how to align your foundation’s investment strategy with its philanthropic efforts at Brunch and Conversation with Michael Shuman on April 19th at Hotel Arts. Click here to purchase tickets now through Dexterity Ventures.

4. Tweet about any of the above events and tag @reapcalgary and/or use the hashtag #BeLocal for a chance to win one of Michael Shuman’s books!

5. Review Michael’s Small-Mart Revolution Checklist and consider the right next step for localizing your life and your business.

6. Read Michael Shuman’s new book The Local Economy Solution: How Innovative, Self-Financing ‘Pollinator’ Enterprises Can Grow Jobs and Prosperity.

Fully Equipped: It was two years in the making, but DIY enthusiast Courtney Hare has completed her biggest project yet


It began when avid DIYer Courtney Hare had a eureka moment in the middle of the night. What if people could access a range of tools without having to buy, rent or store them?

Hare pitched the idea to the Awesome Foundation, hoping she could get a grant. She got one. That pitch also attracted a small community of volunteers who went on to create an enormously successful tool library in Calgary’s Bridgeland/Riverside communities.

Hare says the two-year path from “eureka” to launch day wasn’t always smooth. “Maybe we were afraid of failure. We weren’t entrepreneurs. We had no capital, no experience, no existing model in the city.” The project hibernated for months before Hare, who works as financial literacy manager at Momentum, decided she’d better just go for it. “It’s better to do a thing and get it wrong than not to do it at all.”

She put a notice in the Bridgeland-Riverside community newsletter inviting people to get involved, and set a launch date of June 7, 2014.

From that point, Hare says, it was the little library that could. A team came together, a neighbour who works as a tool consultant for Makita got a discount on tools and the president of the community association took the idea to Bridgeland’s condo communities. The team secured a shed and began to stock it, pooling their own tools and purchasing others.

Less than a year since it opened, the Calgary Tool Library has become a prized community resource and gathering place, attracting patrons not only from Bridgeland but from neighbourhoods all over the city.

Entrepreneurs, small business owners and the nearby Bridgeland Community Garden uses this resource, as do people tackling home repairs and art projects. Beakerhead became the Library’s first organizational member and the Bench Project, a community-based initiative to construct and install free benches around the city, also relies on the Calgary Tool Library.

The Library is beginning to offer basic equipment-training workshops, and Hare says it provides plenty of informal training as well. “The library is a hub for great conversations. People stay and ask questions and chat with other members.”

Hare lives in a 1928 bungalow that needs plenty of maintenance — an activity she’s always loved. “I learned through YouTube and my grandfather and trial and error. I was always borrowing tools.” Hare is happy that she no longer needs to drive around the city picking up tools in order to complete a project, and even happier that the Calgary Tool Library represents a step forward in the city’s sharing economy. “There are so few of us that need our own tools, and there’s really no advantage to individual ownership.”

Today, the Calgary Tool Library is one of five in Canada (the others are in Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa and Halifax) and one of the few lending programs in Calgary, including Protospace, the Permaculture Guild Mobile Garden Tools and the Albert Park Gardening Tool Rentals.  Hare would love to see more. “Every major condo building could have a tool library. Every community. That would be really cool to see.”

The Calgary Tool Library This volunteer-run program lends, maintains and stores a range of tools to Calgarians in exchange for a $40 annual membership fee. The Library is run out of a 500 square foot shed in Bridgeland.


This article was originally published in the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations Further Magazine written by Julia Williams. Photo by Jared Sych.


What You Sow: Stephanie Jackmans’ sustainability-led business association is bearing fruit – literally


In 2004, Stephanie Jackman left her corporate marketing job and created REAP, an organization with no clear precedent. If it didn’t work, she reasoned, she could always go and find another job. “The joke’s on me because I could never go back and get a traditional job now. I didn’t know that then. But I didn’t ever really think that it would fail.”

More than 10 years later, this unique business association has more than 100 members. In 2012 it launched a collaborative carbon-offset initiative that is quietly transforming the city.

The project began when Calgary food truck The Naaco Truck approached the organization with a plan to donate and plant trees in the city. Stephanie says they wanted to tie the project into food security as well as environmental responsibility. “We said, you’re a food business, so wouldn’t it be great if we planted fruit-bearing trees and put them in areas of the city where people don’t have easy access to fresh food?” Greengate Garden Centres agreed to provide plants, and a community orchard was born.

After a distributed orchard was planted across four sites in Forest Lawn in 2013, more donors came on board for 2014. However, planting plans were delayed when the association was unable to get permission to plant on the site it had chosen. Undaunted, Jackman recognized that the organizational requirements of the program were becoming too great to manage solo. She sought a partner.

“Houston Peschl is a professor of sustainability at the University of Calgary. He said the U. of C. has an Enactus chapter that’s all about social entrepreneurship and building leadership through community projects.” Peschl connected REAP with the Enactus Green Projects team, which committed to a minimum of five years with the Community Orchards program. Jackman says the students will help with the logistics of the program and come up with an approach that is consistent and scalable. Meanwhile, Jackman is planning a double-plant this summer, so that the Community Orchards of 2014 and 2015 can take root.

She’s also fielding inquiries from other centres in Western Canada that want to set up associations with the same values as REAP, and says it’s fulfilling to see how creative people can be when they choose to do business sustainably. “I love the innovation that comes from refusing to trade off something for another thing.”

Jackman sees no reason why the Community Orchards shouldn’t continue to flourish and grow. “I would love to get to the point where we’re planting a thousand trees a year. We’re having much bigger conversations about where this could go. In another five years I’d love to see these orchards all over Calgary, creating community spaces that everyone can enjoy.”

Stephanie Jackman, who describes herself as a relationship manager, is planting communities as well as orchards. A key component of her job is introducing, facilitating and maintaining the collectives that form around good ideas. What began as a conversation between REAP and The Naaco Truck now involves several donors and no fewer than three strategic partners, the International Avenue Business Revitalization Zone, Bridgeland Riverside Community Association and Enactus, University of Calgary Chapter. REAP, which stands for Respect for the Earth and All People, is a professional association for businesses in Southern Alberta that use and value sustainable practices. Since 2012, REAP has partnered with local businesses to plant orchards in community green spaces as a carbon-offset initiative.


This article was originally published in the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations Further Magazine written by Julia Williams. Photo by Jared Sych.


YYC Main Streets reflects on issues, opportunities and visions for Calgary

APR Main Streets Wordle

On March 12, Thrive and REAP hosted The City of Calgary’s Main Streets team for a conversation about making Calgary’s main streets better places for communities and local business.  More than 50 people from our network joined in this engaging discussion. We brought local economic development ideas to issues and opportunities faced by streets like Edmonton Trail NE, Bowness Road NW, and 1 Avenue NE recognizing that a vibrant local economy is the one most likely to bring prosperity to everyone.

We heard about a number of issues faced by small businesses and communities:

  • There is a shortage of affordable space suitable for innovative businesses, community and non-profit use
  • Some main streets don’t currently have ideal infrastructure. For example, there’s a need for wider sidewalks, safer crosswalks, more frequent transit and easy-to-find parking
  • The mix of businesses and housing options don’t always support a thriving and active main street experience

We heard about main streets as opportunities for local success:

  • Main streets can be a great place for new, unique, and independent business concepts
  • There is a strong demand for more creativity in neighbourhood gathering places from plazas to patios
  • Main streets are a smart place to locate affordable housing

We heard about visions and outcomes for the future of Calgary’s main streets:

  • These streets should be the heart of their communities and destinations for all Calgarians
  • Community and business should thrive along our main streets
  • Businesses and residents alike want to live, work, and play in and around main streets in their neighbourhoods.

Thanks again to those of you who were able to contribute to the conversation.  The City’s Main Streets team will be back out in Calgary communities with a round of open houses from April 21 to May 13.  Learn what Calgarians have been saying about their main streets. Share your perspective for thriving main streets in our city with planners and developers from the City of Calgary.  For more information, visit Together we can create thriving main streets for local businesses and community residents alike.