Category Archives: Meaningful Employment

Harvesting inspiration, collaboration and action from Thrive’s Community Huddle

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”        

                                                        ~Jane Jacobs

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Inspired by Jane Jacobs, an urbanist who believed firmly in economies being created by and for the people, Thrive brought together neighbourhood champions, entrepreneurs and local economy leaders at a Community Huddle on October 27. The purpose of the event was to engage and inform the community about Thrive’s new approach in advancing a thriving, resilient and inclusive economy for all in Calgary.

At the event we heard that the community looks to Thrive to:

  • “Raise the profile of inspiring economic activity that can benefit all Calgarians”
  • “Activate resources and leaders who champion economic equity for all”
  • “Build networks of champions to empower communities to solve their own problems”


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Through a participatory art project that had attendees envisioning their dreams for community we learned that Thrive’s values resonate with our community. You care about:

  • inclusion – a healthy economy is one where no one is left behind
  • ownership – connecting local knowledge and talent to solve local challenges
  • relationships – recognizing that economies are social constructs that emerge from meaningful collaboration between local leaders and community resources
  • prosperity – spreading sustainable solutions to create resilient economies


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You will see these values expressed in the way Thrive engages with the community and through the learning and resources we offer. Moving forward, Thrive’s emphasis is to support communities and businesses to build and sustain the local economy from the ground up. We use a community economic development approach that invests in people and places to build community well-being, fosters local ownership and provides valuable social benefits. You can connect with Thrive to:

  • Grow your leadership in building the local economy
  • Launch a social impact venture in your community
  • Accelerate a socially-minded business
  • Access resources to move your idea forward
  • Be inspired by what’s working in other communities

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We asked the community, what skills they needed to create sustainable social and economic change:

  • “How to be effective challenging existing economic models”
  • “Business management to improve my business’ efficiency and ability to grow”
  • “Skills in hosting meaningful and participatory conversations in the face of challenging topics”
  • “More insight into the lived experience of folks who struggle to build strong communities”
  • “How to leverage resources to build citizen capacity in order to create local economies with social impact”

We were also reminded of the important role Thrive plays in demonstrating how we as individuals are key influencers on the local economy through our purchasing and investing choices. We will continue to exemplify and demonstrate how the smallest of actions can create significant changes in creating a resilient economy.

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We asked the community, what individuals or groups could increase their impact with Thrive.

It was affirming to see the growing number of individuals and groups working on projects that have social impact in Calgary. Since the Community Huddle, we’ve been reconnecting with old friends and making new ones as we reach out to the individuals and groups identified. We are also curious about how to connect with others in Calgary, wanting and looking to create an impact in the local economy, who weren’t at the Community Huddle and don’t know about Thrive.

It has left us thinking critically about how Thrive can broaden its reach to identify individuals working on emerging projects that are seeking to create social change in our city. As we move into 2017, we are spending time developing a communications strategy to meaningfully engage with a growing number of individuals interested in activating sustainability in Calgary – from those with lived experience, to business and community leaders.

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Thrive was humbled by the feedback we received that the Community Huddle was the ‘folk fest for community economic development.’ This was a refreshing reminder that coming together matters in deepening our relationships with one other. We learned that people are seeking intentional purposeful engagement that moves us towards action. In the new year, you will be invited to join conversations hosted by Thrive as we pilot programs to activate change.

As one of our core values, we know that relationships matter. We value our relationship with you and are grateful for the many contributions you offered at the Community Huddle. To stay in touch with us, connect with:

  • Philip if you are a neighbourhood champion or entrepreneur seeking to create social impact in your community | 403-204-2681

  • Barb if you are curious about learning initiatives offered through Thrive or are working on a collaborative project to advance a local economy for all | 403-204-2668

  • Chas  if you are an entrepreneur looking for business training to integrate sustainability into your day to day operations | 403-204-2670

Thrive takes great pride in our strong network of partnerships to reach real people, create real opportunities and champion real change. We look forward to connecting with you again as we collectively build a thriving, resilient and inclusive economy for all Calgarians.


What’s Your DEAM Job?

Two central tenants of developing a thriving local economy are inclusiveness and the long-term employment of residents. Ensuring that all individuals have access to meaningful work and can participate in their local economy and in their community are key components in any community economic development work. During October, the Calgary Employment First Network (CEFN) and local human services provider Prospect will be delivering an inspiring example of these initiatives with their Disability Employment Awareness Month activities.




2016 will mark the second year CEFN has celebrated DEAM in Calgary. Alexi Davis from Prospect said this year a “huge strategy was around increasing employer engagement. Disability employment doesn’t happen without employers.” The goal is to create discussion around disability employment; blowing up myths, creating conversation, and highlighting employers in Calgary who are already fostering and supporting an inclusive workforce. Events will include round table discussions, award galas, employer profiling, and film festivals, plus great ways for individuals and organizations to engage their own networks.

Even if you are not an employer, Davis encourages everyone to get involved in this month and in the conversation. “Consumers are more and more community-minded, ” which in turn creates a larger demand for inclusiveness and diversity from businesses.

So, how can you participate in the discussion during Disability Employment Awareness Month? This year, CEFN has partnered with some amazing local organization to provide public events to support, encourage, and foster conversation. Davis said “this year, it’s about awareness. So anyone who connects to the idea of disability and employment for whatever reason, we want them to be part of the conversation.”

DEAM Proclamation 2016

The official launch of DEAM 2016 will be held at City Hall and includes Mayor Nenshi’s proclamation. Join CEFN, community members, and the media as DEAM 2016 kicks off!

When: October 4 from 3:00pm to 3:30pm

Where: City Hall Atrium, 800 Macleod Trail SE

DEAM Film Fest

Bow Valley College and Picture This Film Festival have partnered to present a one-day film festival. Featuring a broad selection of local and international offerings, this event will provide a variety of perspectives on disability and employment.

When: October 19 from 10:00am to 3:00pm

Where: Bow Valley College, North Campus Main Floor, Room N124


New Conversations

CEFN has partnered with MRU’s Institute for Community Prosperity to highlight the Inclusive Community: Visible and Invisible Disabilites. This cocktail reception at Caffe Artigiano will feature Pecha-Kucha style story-telling with guided table discussions. With eight rapid-fire presentations, participants will be offered different lenses on employment and disability from a variety of perspectives.

When: October 20, 5:00pm – 7:00pm

Where: Caffe Artigiano, 5010 Richard Road SW

#DEAMJob Employers

In order to highlight the benefits of disability employment, CEFN and their partners will be celebrating employers already providing #DEAMJobs in Calgary. Davis noted that “when a workforce is inclusive and diverse, it becomes more competitive and that is more representative of your customer base and your stakeholder base” which is why they’re encouraging local consumers to highlight companies and employers who are #LivingTheDEAM. Up until October 16th, individuals can nominate employers that are already championing diversity on a local level. In return, these employers will be profiled throughout the month of October and will have the opportunity to receive formal awards at the Employer Recognition Gala being held in the last week of October. You can check out the DEAM Nominated Employers and create your own submission today.

Take Action!

To stay up-to-date with DEAM activitys, follow Calgary Employment First Network on Twitter and on Facebook

Excited to attend events? Visit the DEAM Calgary website for listings and how to participate.

Want to engage with your organization? Download the DEAM Employer Toolkit

Make sure you attend the Film Fest at Bow Valley College

Learn more about Prospect’s work in the Calgary Community

Want to know more? Read about DEAM activities in Manitoba  or the history of NDEAM in the United States

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2015 Community Economy Leader Award – Muttley Crüe

Muttley Crüe Organics Grooming and Daycare

Each year Thrive takes part in REAP’s Be Local Awards by sponsoring the Community Economy Leader Award. This year we received a number of fantastic submissions, but were truly impressed by Muttley Crüe and their initiatives. Open to all REAP Members, the Community Economy Leader Award recognizes members that are adopting practices to build a resilient community and local economy. They are rooted in Calgary and it shows in how they invest in people and places, are committed to purchasing fellow local businesses, and provide valuable social benefit. Muttley Crüe truly exemplifies all of this and more.

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Muttley Crüe Organics Grooming and Daycare

In her video submission for the Community Economy Leader Award, owner Annie Cole said “we try to be as part of our community as possible. One of the biggest things starting Muttley Crüe six years ago was that I didn’t want to be just another building on the block. We want to be part of our community. Our community and this city is what keeps this business and other small business thriving.”

After six years of hard work, Cole and her Crüe have achieved what they set out to do. With a focus on creating partnerships with other local organizations in Calgary, Cole emphasizes that Muttley Crüe relies on “as many local businesses as we possibly can when it comes to products that we use, even what we sell in our retail.” The shampoos and diffusers come from All Things Jill, the cleaners are supplied by Small Planet, and the personalized Muttley Crüe biscuits are made by Bark YYC. Their retail area itself consists of over 60% locally made products.

It isn’t just about their partners in business, though. Muttley Crüe also ensures they are giving back to their community. Partnered with AARCS, the Spay Neuter Task Force, Stardale Women’s Group, and the Veteran’s Food Bank, Cole explained “we have a donation in lieu of a fee for our trial day of boarding.” By allowing new clients to make a minimum $5 donation instead of paying the normal $35 fee, Muttley Crüe is able to support valuable resources and organizations in Calgary and Southern Alberta. Cole is quick to point out that no one has ever left just $5, which led to $2,000 being raised for their chosen charities in just three months.

Muttley Crüe isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. In 2016, they plan to begin an apprenticeship program for First Nations women. Muttley Crüe pays for the cost of the six month grooming course, while paying a living wage to the apprentice so that they’re actually making a living to support themselves and their families while learning a trade.

We’d like to offer a big congratulations to Muttley Crüe and Annie Cole for being Thrive’s Community Economy Leader in 2015. They may be a small business, but they have a mighty impact in their community and city. Through their partnerships, local supply chain, outreach to non-profits, and focus on the environment, Muttley Crüe is paving the way to a sustainable future in Calgary.

Take Action:


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Going Further Together

Thrive and Conscious Brands Partner on Leadership Program

This fall, Thrive is teaming up with Conscious Brands to help launch Calgary into the new economy. We are joining forces on a collaborative leadership program, Spiral Table®, providing unique peer-to-peer training for leaders in purpose-driven organizations to accelerate personal and organizational growth.

The initial nudge for the partnership came from Stephanie Jackman, founder of REAP Business Association, and member of the Spiral Table® program. ‘You should really check this out for Thrive’s learning community.’ Intrigued, but unsure about Conscious Brands’ willingness to join forces, Thrive arranged an initial meeting.

The Spiral Table® program seemed like an ideal fit for Thrive, who was seeking ways to provide Calgary leaders in sustainability and social change with opportunities to effectively connect and grow their skills.

Over a quick cup of tea, the synergies between the two organizations became immediately clear. As a result, a partnership to grow the Spiral Table® program in Calgary was born.

This partnership exemplifies one of Conscious Brands guiding principles, “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go further, go together” (African proverb). Rather than reinvent the wheel, Thrive is able to adopt an existing program, the Spiral Table®, into their offerings. It provides the structure and processes to deepen relationships and collaborate on effective solutions for a vibrant, new economy in Calgary. At the same time, Conscious Brands, will benefit from the connections Thrive has to local businesses and social innovators via their developed network.

What exactly is the Spiral Table® program?

Spiral Table® is a form of collaborative leadership development, or peer-to-peer learning, created by Conscious Brands. It’s aimed toward leaders and change-makers of purpose-driven organizations, to help them grow and evolve, together. Meeting monthly over the course of one year in groups of 6-8, each session involves dialoguing through the most pressing challenges and opportunities faced by individual members. Backed by thoughtfully cultivated research and facilitation from Conscious Brands, each Spiral Table® effectively becomes its own senior level advisory group, sounding board, and idea generator for the organizations involved.

Collaborative leadership development goes beyond a simple exchange of advice and information. Going further together means a deeper, more connected approach. It requires an environment of trust and vulnerability, and a commitment to the other leaders to help grow their skills and achieve their goals, as well as one’s own.

Rarely in the professional world are we given the time and opportunity to open up in this way, and have a group of mentors in our immediate circle.

It’s this level of reflection and engagement that produces the most meaningful transformations in the participants.

The concept began as a pilot several years ago, and the original Spiral Table® is still going today, 7 years strong. Now, with 4 active Tables and 2 more to start this fall, Conscious Brands can say with certainty that it’s been a game-changer for them and their members – one that is ready to be offered to a broader audience. That’s where Thrive’s vibrant network of local economy leaders comes in.

Take Action:

  • Check out Conscious Brands here. Follow them on Twitter or Facebook, or stay in touch by signing up for their newsletter database.
  • Follow Thrive on Twitter or Facebook, or sign up for Thrive’s newsletter database to stay up to date on local happenings that are building a vibrant sustainable local economy in Calgary.
  • Join a Spiral Table® and grow your leadership collaboratively. Contact Barb Davies at Thrive by phone 403-204-2668 or email for details.

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

Reflections on the SFU Community Economic Development Program

Kristina Roberts is one of 22 students that recently took part in the Simon Fraser University’s Community Economic Development Certificate Program, hosted by Thrive. Kristina captures the importance of the human element in our systems, which is something that certainly gets accentuated in a living local economy.


Below are some thoughts on her experience. And the full article can be found on the JS Daw and Associates website. Thanks Kristina for sharing some of your learnings!


Reflections on the SFU Community Economic Development Program

By Kristina Roberts


I recently completed the professional certificate program in Community Economic Development (CED) through Simon Fraser University. I initially applied for this program because I wanted to gain a deeper perspective to bring to my work here at JS Daw & Associates. I wanted to see how actions taken at the grassroots level might align with the CSR and community initiatives of our clients. Over the past five months, I have learned a lot and had a really awesome experience. I hope to share some of my learning with you!

What is CED and Why is it Important?
In modern western society, we are conditioned to believe that competition for money, financial status and material goods can fulfill our need for meaning, purpose, and relationships. Capitalism has transformed many of our relationships into services and our natural resources into products. The missing connections to nature and a sense of community have created an emotional void that people feel can only be filled through consumption. The insatiable needs and wants of consumers lead to economic growth. Economic growth has been deemed as necessary – if the economy isn’t growing, it’s dying. But economic growth isn’t always the wonderful phenomenon it’s made out to be. As the economy grows and the GDP increases, it directly correlates to an increase in environmental damage and social inequity. Why must there be a trade-off between economic prosperity and environmental/social well-being? Why does this need to be an ultimatum?

Perhaps one answer to this conundrum could be CED, which I’ve come to understand as: the ways in which we can restructure our relationships with each other and nature in order to secure long-term well-being and a sustainable future.

Practical Action: What can be done?
Michael Schuman, author of Local Dollars Local Sense, taught us that building a resilient economy was all about becoming as self-reliant as possible and maximizing the number of local jobs. He outlined the myriad of environmental and community benefits that stem from localizing the economy, such as reduced carbon emissions from transportation and increased support for local charities and events. What’s more, there is a multiplier effect — buying local keeps four times the amount of money circulating in the local economy.

Final Thoughts
Working on strategic plans for community engagement and partnership development at the organizational level can sometimes cause me to lose sight of the more human element of this work. Every individual in the program (as in life) had their own story and had overcome their own unique challenges. After 5 months in the program together, everyone felt comfortable enough to be vulnerable and authentic. This program served as a really good reminder that our economy is made up of real people.

I would highly recommend this program to anyone who wants to explore the alternatives to the dominant systems at work in our society, and the narrowly defined roles of our institutions. Exploring and testing out these alternatives is becoming increasingly critical. As our instructor for “Sustainability of People, the Planet and Places”, Sean Markey advised: if we’re going achieve a sustainable and equitable world with 8.2 billion people, we’re going to have to get weird.

Vecova: Breaking the Barriers to Employment in Calgary


Vecova Bottle Depot Interior

Written by Allison Smith, Thrive

Vecova is an innovative Calgary non-profit breaking the barriers to employment since it opened its doors in 1969.

Vecova is a disability services agency that focuses on the quality of life for the clients that they serve while promoting an inclusive community. They serve over 225 clients on a monthly basis, providing living, employment and wellness support. In addition, Vecova has a learning centre that supports financial literacy and money management skills. Continue reading “Vecova: Breaking the Barriers to Employment in Calgary” »

What do I want to do for a living?

264800_226381044058708_4933313_nWritten By Allison Smith, Thrive

We can all relate to the heavy, difficult question “What do I want to do for a living?” It’s a tough question, that means something different to everyone. It’s not just a question for recent high school grads anymore. Continue reading “What do I want to do for a living?” »

Leaf Ninjas: Collectively fighting the urban battle for local food!

Written By Allison Smith, Thrivedave

Leaf Ninjas are transforming our urban communities, and putting our wasted backyard space to good use! They’re a  spunky, driven, and eco-conscious group of urban farmers and permaculture designers in Calgary. But they aren’t doing it alone. With the help of community residents, Canadian experts, local farmers, restaurant owners and more, they’ve spread their roots in the Inglewood-Ramsay community, with urban farms split between 8 backyards.

The four childhood friends started Leaf Ninjas  as a leaf raking and compost business. After they mastered the art of raking lawns, they started to dream bigger. Continue reading “Leaf Ninjas: Collectively fighting the urban battle for local food!” »

GOOD Company: Changing the way Calgarians think about Business & Meaningful Employment!

Chris and Gillian jump2_smlWritten by Allison Smith, Thrive

This year marks the 1 year anniversary of GOOD Company doing good for good people.  The company was founded by the talented, community champions Gillian Hickie and Chris Wharton (pictured above). The nitty gritty of what they do is branding, promotional materials and website design. Plus, they strive to work with clients that they connect with and that are making an impact in Calgary. While having a bit of fun too!

Both have rich backgrounds in graphic design, with the dream of being business owners on the back burner. Thankfully for Calgarians, their shared dream came to light last year.  “Being able to create something that is aligned with our own thinking rather than have it dictated to us, has been a fantastic, positive experience,” Chris described his experience as a social entrepereneur.

Creating a Model for Meaningful Employment.

The two described the transition as a leap of faith that has been very rewarding. With nothing but good things to say about their work, community and their clients, the words meaningful employment practically exuded from their smiles.

“What is a good model for a creative company? What do people want in their  job-life balance?” asked Gillian. They are very conscious to consider meaningful employment both for themselves and their contract designers. Such as ensuring work place flexibility or fostering a collaborative, open work culture. Prior to launching GOOD Company Gillian created a company culture handbook that has been integrated in their everyday practices. She’s already dreaming ahead to when they start taking on more full-time hires. “Treating our employees fair is a given, it’s about going further than that,” Chris added. Although, the vision has always been to become a boutique size design firm.

The two are living wage advocates and definitely take it into consideration when contracting. “If people are happy with what they are being paid, they’ll do better work and end up wanting to work for you more often,” Gillian explains one reason why it’s important to pay a living wage.

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They’re Picky About Their Clients… For Good Reason.

GOOD Company works with clients that are doing good. There is no strict criteria as to what “GOOD” is, whether that’s environmental, social or economical. “Nothing is clear cut, they have to be trying to do good things and trying to innovate,” Chris explained. Although, they have turned away individuals that do not meet their impact model. It’s been a bold and brave move to set such criteria, that could have worked against them. However, they’re happy with its reception, especially with the movement in socially responsible businesses in Calgary. “There’s something distinct about us, that people want to self identify with,” said Gillian.

“There is a bit of mythology about Calgary and the industry in Calgary, that you need to have some oil and gas,  or you can’t make it without a little in Calgary,” Chris described the misconception.  On the flip side is the belief that if you want to do good, you have to design for charity. They have been pleasantly surprised that neither holds true. With clients ranging from non-profits, for-profits and social entrepreneurs.

They are changing the way we think about business and how we do business, especially in the design sector. Businesses can look beyond the bottom line, and critically think about their mission, impact and their choice of clients. By setting such principles and guidelines in their business practices, hopefully GOOD Company can influence other local business owners to do the same!


To help celebrate their 1 year anniversary, GOOD Company is hosting its’ second Grow Your Good Initiative. It’s simple. Let them know the good you’re doing, and you could win $1000 in design work! For more information on contest details, visit: GrowYourGood

Check out the new GOOD Company website  and more awesome jumping pictures here: