Monthly Archives: June 2015

What’s Working Locally in YYC

What is working here in Calgary that’s creating real prosperity for all? What’s working that’s revitalizing our neighbourhoods, creating meaningful jobs, rethinking our economic systems and stewarding our natural resources?
I recently attended the BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies) conference in Phoenix. Annually, they convene a group of passionate localists in a conference like no other. The theme for the conference was ‘what’s working locally.’ I was inspired recognizing that what we are doing here locally is being emulated across the continent. This includes challenging the paradigm of ownership, growing entrepreneurs and developing conscious leaders.

Arriving home, I discovered NewScoop’s latest ‘news’ in my inbox. This generative news cooperative is celebrating local success through their ongoing publications. Most recently, The Grain Exchange was featured– a new worker cooperative and urban bakery here in Calgary. This worker cooperative is not only creating delicious baked goods, they are creating new ways of doing business.

The Calgary Tool Library, a community-owned lending library for household tools, celebrated their first year in business this June by hosting a tool party (kind of like a pool party, but with less water). They have much to celebrate with over 300 members their first year and over 1500 tools loaned. They’ve built social capital among members, diverted waste from the landfill, saved members $70,000 by borrowing tools rather than purchasing them and hired their first Living Wage-earning employee.

Economist and pioneer in the ‘local first’ movement, Michael Shuman, presents a strong case for why the pathway to prosperity for all is in growing local entrepreneurs. In his latest book, “The Local Economy Solution,” Michael provides case studies of ‘pollinators’ across North America that are doing just that. One of the ‘pollinators’ featured is Calgary’s local business association, REAP. For local business owners passionate about people and the planet, REAP offers a powerful marketing platform to grow their business.

A new initiative that is growing entrepreneurs locally is the Heart of the New East – Incubator Project of the International Ave BRZ. The Heart of the New East will support newcomers to gain skills, become entrepreneurs and build community, all the while revitalizing International Avenue.

“What if real prosperity meant that it was actually alright to care about others?” asks Michelle Long, the Executive Director of BALLE. What would that mean for business leaders? BALLE 2015 showcased business leaders that are experimenting with models that lead with generosity, inspire reverence and cultivate connections with purpose. Highlights included Etsy, a platform for selling handmade goods. After 10 years in business, they are evolving their work to support small businesses succeed. Eileen Fisher, a woman’s clothing company, has a vision for 100% sustainability; ‘where human rights and sustainability are not the effect of a particular initiative, but the cause of a business well run.’ Their management team uses techniques and leadership practices to lead with love and develop conscious leaders within their company. Here in Calgary, Conscious Brands is working alongside businesses to activate sustainability, develop conscious leaders and grow the local economy. They consider themselves sherpas on the pathway to sustainability.

I’m inspired and reflective of my experience at the BALLE conference and continue to grow my knowledge of ‘what’s working locally’ here in Calgary. I challenge all of us to step out of our ‘norms’ and collectively build the future we want for our children, our nephews and nieces and those of our neighbours’.

• Share back to Thrive what you see working locally, so we can celebrate collectively.
• Seek out examples of ‘what’s working locally’ to create real prosperity for all. Vehemently adore them with your love and support.
• Read Michael Shuman’s newest book, “The Local Economy Solution” and share it with your friends and neighbours
• Get inspired with this video on “What is Prosperity?”

Written by Barb Davies

Financial tools for social innovation in Alberta

Tim Draiman

Tim Draiman, executive director of Social Innovation Generation (SiG)


Imagine yourself as a grain farmer in rural Alberta. You sell crops to a local grain terminal, but its owner hopes to increase revenues by centralizing grain collection.  You face the prospect of driving 100 kilometers to Edmonton to sell your grain – now with higher costs. What will you do? Seth Leon, research officer at Alberta Community and Co-operative Association (ACCA), would suggest you chat with Westlock farmers.

In 2002, Westlock community members raised $1.2 million to buy their local grain terminals using the New Generation Cooperative model (NGC). So far, so good! After the first year, Westlock Terminals investors – more than 200 local farmers and local business owners – received a dividend of 7%. It is one of the busiest grain terminals in Western Canada today!

Seth Leon

Seth Leon, research officer at Alberta Community and Co-operative Association (ACCA)


Seth shared the story of Westlock Terminals June 9th during a fascinating conversation on social finance organized by Thrive and Calgary Economic Development. This discussion revealed that this small Albertan community is not simply lucky. Tim Draimin, Executive Director of Social Innovation Generation (SiG), shared with the audience that financial returns of impact investing – another name for social finance – is substantial. When surveyed, 87% of investors who chose to support social or environmental initiatives “either met or outperformed expectations in 2013” in terms of financial return. Impressive!

Tim describes social innovation simply, as things that reduce our sorrows and multiply our joys. Many aspects of our society that we now take for granted were social innovations in their early days. Think of labor standards, antibiotics, and social media. More recent social innovations include collective impact, and the emerging sharing economy.

Social finance is one handy instrument in the larger social innovation toolbox. It will not cure all social issues, just like antibiotics have no use for flu. Still, the people of Westlock invested in a business that yields sustainable financial dividends along with important social improvements. Any other rural and urban community can do the same.  Want to know how?

Take actions:

  1. Learn how to create a cooperative in your community with ACCA’s Guide for Community Leaders.
  2. Register for the 16th Soul of the City: Why the Collaborative Economy is changing everything on June 25: follow the link for more details and RSVP.

Written by Hanna Zavrazhyna

Recruiting 24 leaders for September 2015 in Calgary!

We are recruiting twenty-four leaders to take the 2015-16 SFU Certificate Program for Community Economic Development with a special cohort of Calgary’s most active change-makers. Continue reading “Recruiting 24 leaders for September 2015 in Calgary!” »