Neighbourhood Revitalization

What greets you when you step out your door? It’s your neighbourhood. Do you love it? Do you wish it were different?

What about your organization? The way an organization perceives its place in the world can have a huge impact on neighbourhoods. Are the work and perspective of your organization supporting the thinking and planning that lead to vibrant, inclusive communities?

Local businesses are a hub, a meeting place, a treasured resource. They can support both their workers and the environment. They contribute to their communities in many meaningful ways. Does this describe your business?

Clearly no one individual or organization can answer all these questions. They apply to different sectors of our community. And they demonstrate that it really does take a whole community to create a vibrant neighbourhood. It’s only through joint actions and perspective that revitalized neighbourhoods come into being. And using community economic development approaches can help.

Community Economic Development can create great neighbourhoods, ones where residents can live and work well. It understands the challenges and the struggles of the neighbourhood. It builds on what’s already there. It uses the capacity and the infrastructure of a neighbourhood to help it thrive.

And through the connections built by the Thrive network, nonprofits, business, government and individual residents use CED approaches to plan for revitalized communities together. Connect to the Thrive network to join us on the path to neighbourhood revitalization.

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.


Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Association

The Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Association (HSCA) continues to grow community economic development through engagement in their community. Quentin Sinclair, Executive Director of the Association, says that “historically, the culture of this community has been one of activism.” A quick look at their website shows just how focused the HSCA is on creating a sustainable and vibrant community and local economy. Truly a Community Economic Development superstar in Calgary, the HSCA has had a busy few years: they’ve started a Winter Farmers’ Market, piloted a second summer market, created community gardens, and expanded into new businesses.

By far the biggest project of 2015 was a new social venture. HSCA acquired the tenant-run day care that had been in the building for decades. They were able to come to an agreement with the existing business and began implementing the plan over the second half of the year. With the acquisition, HSCA has doubled the child care staff and increased their engagement with neighbourhood families. Sinclair pointed out that the service was already there, but HSCA was able to grow it in size – and ensure that residents would be placed at the top of the waiting list. “We were also able to align our programs, interests, and business model” through the acquisition, added Sinclair, while also providing value to the community.


HSCA also piloted a Saturday Farmers’ Market in 2015 for eight weeks during the summer months. As a result, there were two outdoor markets at HSCA per week for a short duration. “It brought out more residents,” said Sinclair, “the community came out to support it.” The fantastic success of this eight week trial has lead to HSCA adding the Saturday Farmers’ Market as a staple in 2016, with a full 20 weeks scheduled this summer. With this economic endeavor, they’ve been able to expand their customer base and support more local vendors, while at the same time engaging the community and city.

As for what else 2016 has in store, Sinclair says that HSCA is taking steps to become more sustainable, looking at a triple bottom line approach and new methods for waste management. They plan to hold focus groups with residents before moving forward, as they want to ensure they have the support of the neighbourhood before making any decisions. There is also the ongoing Flea Market, Farmers’ Market, and of course the continuing merger of the day care program. It may seem like a lot to have going on in one neighbourhood, but Sinclair pointed out that “ambition exists within the community and the staff have fed off of that.” When it comes to the community and programming within it – “when they see something that’s important, they make it happen.”

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Evergreen Theatre – A Unique Community Space

When faced with the termination of their lease, Evergreen Theatre wanted to do more than just move. They decided “it was time to take a big risk” and purchase a building that could be remodeled into viable and vibrant community space – a decision that lead to the creation of Evergreen Community Spaces. I had the opportunity to speak with Artistic Producer Valmai Goggin their move, their funding, and their integration into Mayland Heights. In terms of choosing a location, they wanted something central and accessible. The north-east, said Goggin, is an under-serviced area, with little access resources, and would benefit from the addition of a sustainable, collaborative, and socially responsible space.Studio Signs

Evergreen Theatre knew they would not be able to qualify for a traditional loan. After searching for non-traditional funding models and secured funding with the Social Enterprise Fund in Edmonton. After applying and securing a mortgage through the fund, the company was able to purchase their new home and begin revamping the space. Goggin and her team could not be happier with the results, saying “we have partners that are invested more than just financially. They want the entire project to succeed.” The funding through the Social Enterprise Fund also allows Evergreen Theatre to give back to the community in a unique way, with the interest they pay on the mortgage going back in to the endowment fund. “We’re supporting other projects in the community,” Goggin stated, “simply by making mortgage payments.”

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When asked about the impact that the new space has had on the community, Goggin was quick to point out that they are the new neighbour in the area and that they want to be respectful of the work already being done to revitalize the area. The introduction of Evergreen Community Spaces to Mayland Heights is just “part of the ongoing resurgence of the north-east”  she said. They’ve begun facilitating access to programming in the community, providing a dozen different programming streams. They’ve also started renting office spaces in the building to create a diverse internal community and to get more people coming through the building. “We want to be known in the community, to have good neighbour connections. True community building is the best form of integration,” said Goggin, excited for the work to be continued in 2016.

The new space is simply beautiful, featuring a brand new cafe, modern rooms for meetings and dance classes, and plenty of local art. Best of all, it’s completely open to the public. Encouraging all Calgarians to come experience Evergreen Theatre’s new home, Goggin said “we have an open door policy. We want people to wander in and poke around.”

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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

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.


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.


Curate your own sustainable style on Fashion Revolution Day

Some things in life we cannot do without: clothing is one of them. But in the global economy, we are increasingly disconnected from the processes behind our garments. Clothing ourselves in an ethical manner is a daunting task, and Fashion Revolution Day reminds us of this.

On April 24th 2013, 1,133 sweat shop workers died in a clothing factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh. To commemorate this tragic occasion, forward-thinking members of the fashion industry have started Fashion Revolution Day, which aims to raise awareness of the true cost of fashion, and celebrate all those involved in creating a more sustainable future.

More consideration for the social and environmental impacts of our fashion choices are needed from both the supply and the demand side. By prolonging the lifecycle of both your garments and others you can get more sustainable with your clothing now. Here are some quick tips to stay fashionable without increasing demand:


Shoppers can be compelled to go back to the mall on a seasonal basis, creating a glut of underused clothing. What is the silver lining? Fashionistas have access to a near-endless supply of material to comb through and upcycle (creating something new out of something old). Profitable businesses have developed out of this near-waste stream, giving you greater access to repurposed clothing.

  • Shop second hand, and feel good about it! Check out REAP member ReWorks Upcycle Shop for some great accessories, bags, or items for around the home.


How many of us have clothes in our closet that we haven’t worn in months, or even years? One answer to overconsumption is not a break in purchasing, but rather to rethink what we truly need.

  • Cut down on your purchasing! A quick Google search of essential clothing items will give you ideas of how to pare down your closet without sacrificing style.
  • Buy higher quality clothing! Those bulk socks from Costco may be the same price as the quality pair, but twice the material, twice the work, and twice the shipping. They are cheaper for a reason, and the price could be due to lower quality or a social or environmental cost.


One (hu)man’s trash is another’s treasure! Give new life to your underused clothing. Aside from giving it away (we suggest Women In Need Society’s social enterprise Shop 4 Change), here are some other options to give your clothing a new home.

  • Put it on Kijiji! If you didn’t get full use out of an item, you might as well recoup some of the cost, and find someone who will lend a hand with wearing it out.
  • Organize a clothing swap with friends or colleagues! SquareKnot Coop member Paula Blundell organizes an annual clothing swap that plays host to over 15 women who wind up with numerous items for their wardrobe that, though not new, will be appreciated that way. Thrive partner Momentum has an annual clothing swap for its staff members (<50). Could you host a clothing swap at work?

Shopping Sustainably

If you do want to find ethically sourced, environmentally friendly clothing, Riva’s Eco Store is an excellent local business here to start at.

Knowing the detailed story of every piece of your clothing can be a daunting task, so take it one step at a time. By following these quick wins you can ensure your economic footprint is considered along with the environmental and social, and start becoming a more sustainable shopper.

How to Adapt to Gentrification & Ensure Community Engagement. A Kensington Story.

Written by Allison Smith, Thrive

House Santuary is a non-profit coffee shop owned and operated by First Alliance Church. The shop opened its’ doors in 2001, with the aim of being a positive place for community in Kensington. “The thought was to get out there into the neighbourhood and be love and grace,” explained Derrick, the shops Manager.


Tackling the Barriers to Employment

Everyone who comes through the doors is treated equally. One of the first people who walked through their doors, was a man who had been kicked out of every other coffee shop in the neighbourhood. “We gave him an environment to help him re-integrate into the community,” said Derrick.

This isn’t a one-time story. The shop is a place for many others who face barriers to community inclusion and employability.

Skill building and community involvement is at the core of the shop’s mission. House Sanctuary has aided kids in getting off the street through their employee mentorship program that intentionally invests in relationship building and positive enforcement. They’ve also worked closely with the Louis Dean School Discovery Program, that is the program of choice for pregnant and parenting teens. “We want to help kids get behind the counter and  tackle the barriers of employment,” explained Derrick. Many of the kids that have gone through their mentorship program have become full-time hires or have received employment elsewhere.

Adapting to the Changing Community

With well kept sidewalks, hanging flower pots and community art, the neighbourhood has a strong sense of walkability, security and vibrancy. The streets have become more dense with local restaurants, coffee shops and higher end retail stores. With that, the Kensington community has experienced gentrification  and the decline of street people living in the area.  In response, the shop is strategically thinking about how they can engage community while still addressing social injustice. “As the demographic in Kensington changes, what is our role in the community?” Derrick explained their constant reflection.“Kensington has gone through a lot of shifts, where it becomes different things for different communities,” he added. “I want them to care about street people,” Derrick said in regards to the new residents.

Jenessa has been working on this issue since 2008 and is now the Community Manager. She changes their community engagement in response to the changing needs of community.  “We realize there is a different demographic in Kensington so we need to be intentional about our shop and products,” explained Jenessa. For example, she’s done this by changing the interior design, events and altering some of their programs. With menu changes, courtesy of the amazing Jordan Maier.


Jenessa and Derrick see this as both an obstacle and an opportunity since gentrification has brought new assets into the community that could be leveraged. They are conscious of the community changes and accurately responding to them, to appropriately bridge the gap between the different demographics. “Because we want to grow and develop our existing programs. The goal is to partner artists from different demographics,” said Jenessa . That way the responsibility isn’t on the shop to continue to provide support, by the relationships move beyond the walls of the coffee shop and into the community. They also continue to provide their diverse programs for local talent to activate local assets. From showcasing local art in the shop, to hosting AA meetings, to community potlucks, their programs address diverse issues in the community. Finally, they  provide space for local graffiti artists to showcase their art on the back alley wall.


The evolution has happened over the last 10 years, and will continue to happen as neighbouring communities continue to be revitalized. The challenge for them is to keep the culture, and exisiting community engaged, while meeting the needs of the new community. Since change is inevitable, it’s important that community champions such as House Sanctuary play an active role in facilitating that change.

Reciprocal Community Relationships.

Derrick said his greatest experience has been becoming close friends with people he otherwise would not have had a chance to connect with. “I became a guardian to a homeless guy who had a brain injury, I walked with him for nearly a decade and got to see a different side of life that I  wouldn’t have seen otherwise,” Derrick said with admiration remembering his past friend.

He continues to build these strong relationships that enrich his life “It’s very reciprocal, as you help people transform they help you transform too,” Derrick said.

Visit the House Coffee Sanctuary website for more information on their community events:



Cate Ahrens & the Sustainable, Inclusive Hillhurst-Sunnyside Community Food Program

Written by Allison Smith, Thrive

“To Preserve and Enhance a Healthy and Vibrant Quality of Life for the Residents of Hillhurst-Sunnyside”

Housed in the vibrant Hillhurst-Sunnyside Community Association, is the sustainable, accessible and inclusive Hillhurst-Sunnyside Community Food Program. Leading the important initiative is the friendly Cate Ahrens, the Community Food Program Supervisor. I had the pleasure of meeting with Cate to learn more about the awesome work her and her team have been doing this past year, in addressing some of the community’s food security and accessibility issues.

Cate explained that the food programs build off the momentum of the community association’s popular Farmer’s Market and were incorporated in the HSCA food strategy. All the food programs are founded on the CED principles of community development and resident skill building. Currently, there are 5 programs that address the varying food accessibility needs within the community (outlined at the end of this post).

“Farmers shouldn’t be asked to lower their prices, people living in poverty deserve to have better incomes.”

At the mention of living wage, Cate quickly chimed that she is a living wage advocate and that it’s integrated in all the food programs. Although there is a lot of anti-poverty work being done in conjunction with sustainable food programming, there is definitely still a divide. “There is a place in the middle where people living in poverty can’t afford sustainable food. Farmers shouldn’t be asked to lower their prices, people living in poverty deserve to have better incomes,” Cate passionately explained.

Cate went on to describe the disconnect between sustainable food purchasing and poverty displacement both locally and abroad.  “If we’re buying coffee that is not fair trade or organic, because that’s all we can afford, then we’ve just impoverished people in another country. It’s just displacing the poverty, ” she explained. Cate sees the food programs as an opportunity to bridge this gap in the community.

“The farmer’s market isn’t for everyone.”

HSCA has conducted a community need assessment, that is the foundation for all of the food programming. The assessment has helped to address resident’s needs in terms of content, timing and location.

“The farmer’s market isn’t for everyone. It’s about breaking down those perceptions. There has been criticism that farmer’s markets are generally white affluent spaces. How do we challenge that? How do we respond in ways that provide other services for people that don’t feel comfortable there.” said Cate.

They are constantly striving to be more inclusive by  supporting initiatives such as senior specific programs and a farmer’s market seniors day. They also work with residents and partners to ensure that the needs are properly met and aligned.

The importance of partnerships

The HSCA strives to share their knowledge, experience and resources with other Calgary communities interested in food programming. Cate explained having a lot of key partners will help them achieve this goal.  In addition, their existing partners have helped strengthen their existing initiatives and programs. For example the Collective Kitchen Program partners with the Women in Need Society and CUPs. In addition, The Calgary Foundation has been a big supporter of the food programs, and has made it possible for the HSCA to develop these programs.  Other strategic partners include: the Calgary Horticultural Society, Alberta Health Services, local farmers, Calgary Housing,  the City of Calgary Office of Sustainability, Green Calgary and more.

Sharing her knowledge and expertise has gone far beyond just residents and communities, but to the greater Calgary community.  Cate sat on the Calgary Poverty Reduction Initiative,  Food Constellation and aided in the food strategy recommendations.

The food programs play a vital role in poverty reduction, community engagement and food security. The collective impact of the food programs include:

  • Citizens that are actively engaged in shaping the communities in which they live
  • Citizens are accessing sustainable, healthy food sources
  • Citizens understand the local food system and its place within the global context
  • Citizens are engaged in local, sustainable food production
  • Citizens have gained transferable skills
  • Replicable programs that are available to other communities
  • Multi-sector partners are established or strengthened

The programs are constantly adapting to the needs and issues of the Hillhurst-Sunnyside community. Presently, HSCA food programs include:

1) Kids Food and Garden Leadership Program: The program focuses on leadership development, healthy food production and active community gardening. In addition, the program promotes youth civic engagement by encouraging participants to take action on local food issues that are important to them. Activities have included planting seeds, transplanting, worm composting, garden journals and making herbal teas.

2) Collective Kitchen/Adult Program: This program focuses on Adult skill development, building social connections and creating a positive environment. They use food safety, budgeting and skills training as the medium to do so.

3) Community Food Events/Local 301: Local 301 is an initiative aimed at bringing awareness to food issues such as urban agriculture, raising and eating sustainable meats, and growing food indoors.  These are free public events and gain an audience of between 30-60 people.

4) Community Garden and Orchard Programming: This program intends to build community, relationships and resilience through a shared, collaborative gardening initiative.  That’s not all. The food is then donated to local community agencies.

5) Community Food Network: The goal of the network is to help replicate the food program in other interested neighborhoods. They will do this by using the Hillhurst-Sunnyside experience and community assets to empower other communities to facilitate resident led programs and opportunities.

To learn more about the Hillhurst-Sunnyside Community Food Program, visit their website here.