Why spend 8 months and $4,800 on formal training in Community Economic Development?

Elisha Kittson, 2014 Graduate, asks fellow alumni.

“The timing was all wrong, but I made a strong case to the Food Bank’s board and my family and jumped in with both feet. Sustainability, the environment, localizing dollars, doing business better. All of these pieces were part of my life journey and in the CED course they were weaving themselves together,” says Barb Davies former Executive Director of the Golden Food Bank and now Coordinator for Thrive, Calgary’s Community Economic Development Network.

It was the ‘learning zone’, a fantabulous (that’s fantastic and fabulous) place.

Where you have to “Get comfortable being uncomfortable,” says Jeanette Nadon, changemaker extraordinaire and Communications Coordinator for the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District.

Change is uncomfortable. But by choice and through professional development, it’s an aware and awake kind of change you’ll come to know as the ‘wonder zone’.

“Through the program I found out that my years in the trenches had given me a wealth of tools for community building, leadership, and innovation that I hadn’t previously recognized. It awakened me to my own power to harness our collective energy and encouraged me to aim higher and dream bigger,” says Stephanie Jackman founder of REAP Calgary’s sustainable business network.

Dream big! You should. And there is another way or two or ten.

“It was interesting to be poked and prodded in such a supportive environment to look at innovation in new ways,” says Damien Bryan, General Manager at Discovery Organics, Western Canada’s largest independent distributor of certified organic and fair trade produce.

“I took the course while I was between opportunities. So it was so synergistic to be offered the position with Discovery straight off the back of the program. I now work for a company directly involved with growers in community development and fair trade models.”

Stellar, right? Personal growth, dream jobs. Amazing. But come inside, there are a few other returns on this eight-month intensive.

Like sheer relief in the host of inspiring advisers and case studies that give life to any would-be balderdash. You’ll come to know reciprocity; gift economies; deep versus wide growth; relocalization; joint sourcing and asset sharing; opportunity development corporations, social enterprises, and community contribution companies; and right-sized community development more intimately. You’ll grasp the ripple effects of social capital, host a study circle, and you might even come away with your very own theory of change.

Done all that? Not to fret, there’s still a reason to harken the call, or open that email from SFU Program Director Nicole Chaland (one more time). Because even a seasoned CED practitioner knows there’s always more to think up.

“I took the program because after five years working in community economic development; I still didn’t have a grasp of the fundamentals. Sure, I knew about lots of tools in the CED toolkit, and I could roughly answer what was and wasn’t CED, and of course I had a sense of why I was doing the work. But I was missing the deep-rooted foundation and the ability to make an argument for my CED worldview that would hold up to critical analysis,” explains Carolyn Davis, who holds a leadership role with Calgary’s community economic development organization Momentum and was recently recognized as one of Calgary’s Top 40 under 40.

Our definitions and explanations of the work in this field is a collective effort. That’s why facilitator Philip Lozano says the social bonds we established through the program are so important.

“CED work is constantly evolving. The course did a great job at challenging my tight definition of CED as well as encouraging me to develop the tools myself to create change. The connections and networks that I’ve established have been incredibly valuable.”

As program alumni, we say go for it. Trust what compels you.

Calgary’s Tool Library co-founder Courtney Hare reminds us it’s all about the journey anyway, “I found what I was looking for and so much more. I didn’t just become more educated or find ‘the answer’, I have a whole lot more perspective and found a place to shape the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of CED.”

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