Published December 20, 2006
In five years, United We Can, a downtown eastside Vancouver recycling project, evolved from a loose ad-hoc network of “binners” (dumpster divers) into a thriving business enterprise and an increasingly healthy community of workers engaged in providing an essential recycling service to their broader community. Today, United We Can employs 33 people full-time, most of whom had not been previously employable. On average, there are 700-750 street people visits a day, with 300 core binners coming every day. United We Can has an annual revenue of 1.6 million dollars, and recycles 50,000 bottles a day, processing more than 20 million cans and bottles each year, all of which would be lost in the waste stream without this enterprise.
Sustainable Development Characteristics
United We Can is a concrete example that by doing something good for the environment (the ecological imperative), in this case reducing waste through recycling, you create jobs (the economic imperative), thereby augmenting agency (the social imperative), and is one of the few concrete examples of ‘achieving sustainable development’ (Dale and Robinson 1995) in Canada.
This case study is about how people in a ‘marginalized’ community self-organized and then accessed outside resources to move from surviving to getting ahead by creating their own physical place, a recycling depot that makes significant reductions to the traditional waste stream, that would otherwise not occur without this social enterprise. This physical place then provided a space to facilitate building collective social capital through increased connection and a sense of community, leading to psychological space for some, and for many, personal recovery.
United We Can is the only social enterprise in this country that fundamentally integrates the ecological, social and economic imperatives equally. Many initiatives are now attempting to reconcile ecological and economic imperatives, whereas the social dimension is always forgotten. Their organization is also contributing to the revitalization of a downtown community in the heart of Vancouver, that many define as marginalized.
Critical Success Factors
The following factors were identified as being crucial to the success of this initiative:
- initial seed funding from local socially progressive enterprises such as VanCity;
- strong leadership from within the community;
- ability to access diverse types of social capital;
- progressive provincial and municipal policy development;
- government regulatory changes to the bottle deposit system at critical junctures;
- the project had the time and space to self-develop and evolve within its own timeframe and was not driven by externally imposed deadlines or accountabilities;
- the presence of other non-government organizations in the same field, such as Encorp Pacific Canada;
- access to critical seed funding to build capacity.
Community Contact Information
Executive Director and Manager
39 East Hastings Street
Vancouver, BC V6A 1M9
Tel: 604. 681-0001
Encorp Pacific (Canada)
Tel: 604. 473-2406
- existing community experience with the activities and a deep understanding of community challenges (this was not a new activity introduced from outside the community);
- community-led and driven;
- a strong belief and vision in the “possibility of change”;
- visionary leadership by its founder;
- progressive municipal policy development;
- immediate tangible benefits and services directly to the community;
- prudent internal financial management;
- building of strategic alliances external to the community;
- external communications.
What Didn’t Work?
United We Can is now at another critical juncture in its evolution, very typical of small businesses as they seek to diversify both their leadership and increase skill sets and training, and as they try to expand the scale of their operations. Its very existence, in spite of its success, is critically dependent upon decisions now being considered by the City of Vancouver. The City of Vancouver is now locking some of the garbage bins in the alleyways, and the two largest commercial waste collectors who own the large bins (Waste Management and BPI) are complying with the directive from the city. Ostensibly, they are being locked to prevent fires or people sleeping in them and then getting caught when they are emptied in the morning. There is anecdotal evidence that some Vancouver residents object to the binners scavenging through the garbage in what is essentially their urban backyard. It is hoped that the initiative undertaken by another group of binners, the creation of a Binners Association, where each binner is given an identity card, a variant on a union in some ways, so that police and residents will know they are ‘employees’ of United We Can will alleviate some of these concerns.
Financial Costs (A) and Funding Sources (B)
Since 1995, United We Can is now self-sustaining and runs as a traditional business enterprise.
First United Church (Dendorff-Morris Trust Fund) $150.00 Victoria Park Square
VanCity Community Loan of $12,500
Anonymous benefactor donation of $12,500
Prior government funding for rent and wages to build internal capacity
Detailed Background Case Description
A binner is a street person who takes recyclable material from the big blue garbage bins hidden in the back alleys of downtown Vancouver and returns them to retailers for money. Prior to the establishment of United We Can, binners were dependent upon the largesse of store owners, who were often adverse to having street people seen in their stores, and resented taking back recoverables that they had not sold, and often convinced the binners to accept goods in lieu of cash, in some cases, items such as chewing gum.
United We Can was founded by Ken Lyotier, himself a ‘dumpster diver’ or ‘binner’. In five years, it grew from a loose ad-hoc network of binners to a social business enterprise providing an essential infrastructure service to the broader community, recovering over 20 million cans and bottles a year, that would otherwise have been landfilled. They recycle 50,000 bottles a day, which averages out to 100 bottles sorted each minute at their depot. They average 700-750 street people a day, with 300 core binners every day.
In 1992, Ken Lyotier and a friend organized a one-day bottle depot in Victoria Square, a local park, to pay street people to bring in empty cans and bottles, which at that time were not covered by the current bottle deposit system. The event was a big success in terms of the media coverage of the ‘mountain of garbage’ collected and of the social capital subsequently built between the binners, normally a very solitary occupation, as they waited to be paid for their shopping carts of non-refundable bottles and cans.
The Human Resources Ministery of the British Columbia government approached the organizers to learn what had happened, and suggested that consultants be hired to organize further community workshops. The organizers of the original one-day depot convinced the Ministry that workshops should be organized from within and by the community, and that the participants should be paid as consultants for their time. Again, street people lined up for the workshops at local community centres, and had a lot of expertise to share with the government officials.
From these workshops, the binners, again building collective social capital through simply connecting with one another, realized they could run their own bottle return system, although it took about another four years for the core group to make their vision operational. It took about three years for the group to incorporate as a non-profit organization. Following this incorporation, a line of credit was secured with VanCity, and with a loan of $12,500 from their Community Loan Fund and $12,500 from a benefactor, United We Can was established as a formal bottle deposit. In its first year of operation, 4.7 million containers were recycled putting $360,000 back into the community through handling fees. At this time, the provincial government paid for the rent and the initial wages for the men and women working on the project.
The operating principle behind the organization was that it would hire people who would not be hired by anyone else, and there would be no exclusions because of active addiction or health. Ken Lyotier became its Executive Director and Manager. There were several operational difficulties in the first years, specifically convincing many of the binner community to become involved. Because the project’s wages and rent were provided by the government, the group was able to initially bank all revenues. As the project grew, a major problem developed when handling fees did not cover costs. However, in 1998 the provincial government brought in new regulations to include containers not earlier covered (juice and water) and, in 1999 when polycoated containers were added, United We Can began to make money, still continuing to bank as much as it could. The organization achieved charitable status in 1996.
Following on this success, there are currently four other business streams in development. These are: The Collection Services, which through truck and tricycle hauling, is now offering container collection directly from larger volume commercial and residential consumers in the downtown area; The Bike Works which offers qualified instruction, sales and repair tools for low-income residents and depot users who need to maintain their bicycles and, as well, maintains a fleet of bicycles for small-scale local pickups; The Bintek Computer Lab, using the recycled computer equipment acquired from dumpsters by binners and received by donation, rebuilds consumer-ready systems, which are then sold at affordable prices to low-income residents; and Happy Plants, which ‘recycles’ plant cuttings taken from the garbage and grown into larger plants for sale to the wider public. In addition, The Crossroads & Lanes Community Clean Up campaign is a public space environmental clean up campaign designed to reclaim city lanes and make them vital links in the urban landscape.
Will the City of Vancouver and the Greater Vancouver Regional District working together with Encorp Pacific (Canada) develop a strategic partnership with United We Can, which integrates social and environmental policies to produce more efficacious results than isolated planning? Or on the other hand, will they lock down the dumpsters and effectively reverse the successes already achieved?
Will the service agencies working in the Downtown Eastside be able/willing to change their perspective to one based on social capital and how would this approach apply to United We Can?
Can United We Can successfully diversify its leadership and train others to take on more leadership roles?
Can United We Can develop a leading-edge and innovative waste management plan for the future that integrates environmental, social, and economic policies allowing it to become a showcase for sustainable community development or allowing it to become sustainable in the long term?
Will municipal and provincial governments commit to investment strategies that institutionalize projects like United We Can into their waste management systems?
Will it be possible to have unprecedented cooperation between government departments and levels of government, and to develop successful strategic partnerships between the private sector bin owners and the product manufacturers to make the United We Can type of project sustainable in the long term?
I'm posting to make sure I've figured out how to do this (I joined the space over a year ago but it's been a while since I posted). Clearly, I’ll want to consider the case study in more detail and plan to do so on the weekend.
In 2000, I was in Manchester taking the AA1000 Course (a sustainability assurance standard) from the Institute for Social and Ethical Accountability http://www.accountability.org.uk. As part of our program, we went on a tour of a social enterprise which is now known as FRC Group http://www.frcgroup.co.uk/, a furnishings and removals business which was founded in 1988 in Liverpool.
I just did a quick surf of the internet to see what was happening with FRC now and found a case study about it on the Social Enterprise Coalition website http://www.socialenterprise.org.uk/Page.aspx?SP=1733. Like any enterprise (social or traditional), FRC has its challenges. What I found interesting reading the FRC case study was that the City of Liverpool’s council has a Social Economy Team.
One of the questions for our case study on United We Can relates to whether governments would commit to investment strategies to institutionalize social enterprises such as United We Can. I was curious about the governance structure for the City of Vancouver and whether it is even set up to do so. While I didn’t do an exhaustive review, I did find the list of Standing Committees. The only one which seemed might be appropriate for this question is the Planning and Environment Committee. According to the City of Vancouver website,
“the objectives of the Committee are to deal with neighbourhood planning and protection; environmental issues; community issues; and cultural and ethnocultural issues. Its current topics include local area planning programs, zoning issues, housing initiatives, social policy development, children's policy, Vancouver Arts initiatives, continuing public health care initiatives, heritage matters, noise complaints and environmental issues.”
While some of the objectives and topics of Vancouver's Planning and Environment Committee touch on the periphery of United We Can’s concerns, it doesn’t appear that any encompass all three imperatives of sustainable community development. I suspect that the Liverpool Social Economy Team is more intentional about the three imperatives in its deliberations particularly given its support of and business transactions with FRC.
As alluded to earlier, I only poked around a little bit on the Vancouver and Liverpool websites so I don’t have the full picture. Having said that, perhaps one of the ways in which all social enterprises could thrive in Vancouver (including United We Can) would be to refresh the objectives of the Planning and Environment Committee to take an integrated approach to sustainable community development. Of course, this may already be the case but Vancouver’s external communication on its website depicts the Committee’s approach in silos.
As we’ve discussed already, our government structures are sometimes slow to keep pace with emerging realities despite the good intentions of members of the public service. But that shouldn’t stop the pursuit of positive changes particularly in a way that engages in dialogue with those affected by the decisions being considered which, in this case would include United We Can, local businesses, local communities and residents.
Laura de Jonge
In Vancouver's East End, the residents are considered a social issue (a politically-nice way to say a problem). United We Can demonstrates a successful application of an unconventional approach. It also demonstrates that the approach to the East End can be successful with focused, incremental steps.
With the challenges that United We Can currently faces, it's interesting that it's external forces that are threatening to undermine its success.
This is a pretty fascinating story about what one/more individual(s) from within a community can accomplish. What strikes me as particularly innovative is the following:
The organizers of the original one-day depot convinced the Ministry that workshops should be organized from within the community, and that the participants should be paid as consultants for their time.
We so often turn to "experts" who are from outside a situation, but who have educational/other credentials, and silence the voices of the critical group of interest in doing so. Had the control of the situation been lost at this critical point, in handing over the project to consultants, I am sure that the project would not have gotten as far as it did (engagement would have been lost and it may have foundered there). I guess some credit is due to the city of Vancouver for pursuing this somewhat unorthodox approach, in paying the community participants, although certainly the individuals who acted as spokespersons for the community did an outstanding job in selling this alternative way of following up on the initial success.
After I posted the above comment, I thought a bit more about the benefits of having the community itself organize the structure of their enterprise. Does this mean, in Pille's terms, that there would be better structural coupling than had a consultant developed the project? By that I mean that the organizers were very familiar with both the niche/environment that existed in Vancouver and the structural elements (i.e. the street people)who would be part of the organization interacting with the environment/niche, and the organization was thus perfectly tailored to the environment due to this self-organization. (Sorry if this is confusing, I am trying to think and write in Pille terms and am finding it somewhat awkward). In other terms, this is simply that governance based on in-house expertise/local wisdom about the surroundings/circumstances will result in more appropriate design.
I think you hit the nail on the head Claire. In community development consultants are often brought in to assess and evaluate the 'situation' and offer 'recommendations'. In international development this is known as a Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA). Keep in mind the 'rural' aspect is a bit derogatory as the methods are not very different to those used in urban community consultation they are just applied to a rural context. RRA methods do work in the right context, but not when your dealing with an issue that is rooted in social capital and social trust. The alternative method, which is what Ken and the other organizers used, is known as Participatory Rural Appraisal. These initiatives are initiated by the community who may ask facilitators (acting as a coaches) to guide the process. This is community empowerment, and can act as a catalyst for increased social capital and social trust.
This is where structural coupling comes in. Community members often know what works best in their context and can tailor solutions that take into account the local condition. If the City of Vancouver (CoV) had brought in a consultant to organize a meeting and evaluate the possible solutions the process most likely would have never begun because the process would not be tailored to reflect even the simplest things like when and where is the best place to conduct the meeting. If you picture Pille's bubble figure she used to describe structural coupling the community is one bubble with lots of intricacies. The initial meeting and what came to be United We Can is a blank bubble. When this blank bubble is handed over to the community to mold and shape to reflect their unique set of circumstances (ones that only they are really aware of) and their beliefs/values, the potential is awesome. People can have relationships with process and policy just as they can with a person. Having a consultant set up a process and implement a policy with little involvement of the community is similar to having a blind date setup up by a friend...if that friend knows you very well it may work, if they don't it will probably fall apart.
Subsidiarity: governance (design and implementation) at the level of society closets to the activity being considered. As you noted Claire, this works because the dialogues and decision-making that occurs is informed by local beliefs and values regarding local 'societal conditions' (a term I coined for my thesis which refers to such things as
• Societal interactions (e.g. how decisions are made, resource distribution, etc.);
• The types of institutions that are present (government, private industry, economy, religion, civil
• Reliance on the environment and its quality;
• The relationships between community members; and
• The history of the conditions in the community. )
The outcome is buy-in and trust in the process and policy, things that are essential to success.
I think this is can be extended to how many businesses conduct their work (hence corporate social responsibility) because businesses, like governing, often forget that their business (or policies) cannot succeed without the buy in of their consumers (or citizens).
sorry for the rant :)
I'm not sure about the willingness of the service agencies in the DTES to change to a social capital perspective as I see that this is a matter of interpretation. From the quick research I did, it seems that they are dealing with a social aspect... i.e. the services they render are mostly related to health care, addictions, housing etc. but not necessarily all components of social capital.
From the list of services and their descriptions I had a thought that perhaps in dire situations, one overlooks the environment and sustainable development for more immediate needs such as food, clothing, shelter, safety etc. and that perhaps this is what the service agencies see as all that's required for social capital.
As for how the social capital approach could work for United We Can (UWC), I think the hiring criteria for UWC was one of the keys to their success. Exclusion of certain members of society due to addictions etc. could result in loss of potential human resources. I can see though why the service agencies may screen certain people out due to restrictions or stipulations on their funding (e.g. only helping recovered addicts), and/or their own personal mandates. Redefining their concept of social capital and acting on it, could result in the introduction of all those services to people who may not have willingly taken such services.
Wasn't Louise Comeau fantastic today? She has such passion, understanding and presense.
She reminded us about the importance of political leadership. She was glowing about your B.C. Premier. "He gets it." And because he gets it, he makes things happen, such as the carbon tax.
She reflected differently on the failed prime ministership of Paul Martin. Such a wasted opportunity. (I won't get into the irony of the Cretienites, figuratively from the grave, being able to poison Martin's potential Camelot.)
So very often, we work within bureaucratic structures to try to effect change, and sometimes we are able to achieve some significant advances. Sometime, we're not.
Louise reminded us today what can be achieved with real leadership from the top. For United We Can, the leadership may have to come from the municipal level. Does Vancouver have another Gordon Campbell? How about a Louise Comeau?
What struck me most about Louise Comeau was her courage. Although it's taken me a few days to post, that's allowed me to ponder after I wrote down “courage” during her presentation. I found this lovely write up about the word “courage”:
• “Courage comes from an Indo-European root that gives us heart, cardiac, cordial, core and record among many other "heartful" words. Courage, at root, is cour (heart) plus - age (process or realm). So courage grows out of a sense of the how and where of the heart. Courage is heart-work. Deepening our sense of courage we might ask how does the heart work ... not in a medical sense but an experiential sense? The answer is obvious to all who have listened to or felt their pulse ... the heart works one beat at a time. It is the mortal tempo that frames the mystery of our lives. Imagine it as a stone drop spindle rising and falling to spin our story's thread. Heart work, courage, is a continuum; the thin strong thread twisted between eternity and our mortality. Courageous virtues are not recklessness, bravado or ferocity but steady careful attention to the detail of daily mystery. Courage's deepest intuition and wisdom is to drum eternity into time so it is seen, felt, remembered and given away. All living beings share this rhythmic ringing of the death tempered edge of eternity, the faithful witness of the everyday wonder we conspire to inspire and pass on.” http://www.thelateralline.com/tom_jay/on_courage
I think that Louise embodies these words. Whether or not you agreed with her positions at the time, the activist path that she chose for herself is not an easy one and I’m sure she was very lonely at times.
I thought of my own work within a corporation which is, of course, very different but at times requires courage. We all need to have it. I then thought of the word “encourage” or to give heart. I thought about some of our conversations and Rick Kool’s talk a couple of years ago about how the environmental movement sometimes comes across with despair which can repel people. I’ve been thinking a lot about this and have caught myself not always being encouraging (“reckless, bravado or ferocity” as noted above).
One of Ann Dale’s messages is that we need to bring more kindness and compassion to our movement (and our lives generally). I take that to mean, in part, to encourage or give heart to others. Our voices are so very important and I want to use mine to "encourage" rather than "discourage". When I think back to our World Café with the MAL program and talking about great leaders that I’ve known, I would have to say that the common thread among them was their ability to encourage others.
I’m looking forward to hearing Ken Lyotier’s story of courage this week.
rkustra states that: Vancouver's East End, the residents are considered a social issue (a politically-nice way to say a problem).
The United We Can approach, rather than pursuing only social issues such as drugs, crime, housing etc. tackles all the imperatives - environmental (recycling), social (acting as a focus for social networking and support) and economic (providing and income for marginalised people normally excluded from the economy).
This approach is having significant positive benefits in the community.
The question is, is this because all three imperatives are being addressed? Or is this link to sustainable community development largely irrelevant to understand the project.
Perhaps I am misunderstanding Chris' comment, but I don't know if we can apply causality here...in that I don't think it is possible to say that the approach was successful/the outcomes beneficial because all three imperatives were addressed (i.e. the end was determined by the process).
I imagine that the project was not designed to tackle all three imperatives - it may have been more of a coincidence of factors in time. I remember once hearing an author speak about a book he had written while his marriage was breaking up. He related that a reviewer had written that there were strong themes about relationships in his novel - which surprised him greatly. He hadn't designed the book to have specific themes, they were just inherent in the writing as it emerged. It seems like the three imperatives coincided in this project without any intent to design it as such. The social and economic aspects are perhaps necessarily there in any project dealing with a marginalized community, but the fact that the enterprise the project was built around was recycling was not by design to include an ecological component in the project.
That the inclusion of this third (environmental) dimension of sustainability may have influenced its success is undoubtedly true, however, in that the enterprise was acceptable to many people because it was ecologically beneficial- and thus beneficial to all. However, maybe people value the thriftiness of making money from the waste stream as much as they value the ecological component of recycling.
On the other hand, maybe the social capital produced through this project/program is amplified because of the three imperatives being addressed - in that the project can resonate with, and generate support from more groups/networks because it is integrated.
I agree with Claire that perhaps this was a combination of actions that occurred as coincedences. Perhaps the aim of the group was not environmental at all and their pursuit of economic and social capital resulted in an inderect benefit for the environment.
I think this is why there is difficulty in expansion of the services by united we can. The same economic and social capital emperitives are not seen as prioities elsewhere (outside of their organization or community). Success for them has bred notriaty and attention from the rest of society who are not necessarily seeing the economic and environmental benefits, but noticing only potential (perceived) social issues from united we can's activities.
Claire's right. The bottles are something of financial value that the addicts can recover and sell to the depot.
I wonder why United We Can has not expanded its operation to other revenue streams. My supposition is that there is nothing else that is condusive to the capacity of the addicts. When it comes to the recycles, they can collect and drop off the items whenever they are able. There is very little in our structure economic system that allows that degree of individual freedom.
Too bad they couldn't grow a community garden on asphalt.
The challenge now being faced by United We Can made me reflect on one of the lectures last week. Among the greatest threats to social capital are vested interests, alienation, distrust, disconnection and anomie. But United We Can has demonstrated an ability to rise about those challenges in the past, and will have to draw on all the strengths of its leadership and its supporting network once again.
I apologize for the typos -- the program is not allowing me to edit this before posting.
I started thinking this potential GVRD policy through, thinking of the potential outcomes. While it could be an all out poor policy for the UNited We Can community, maybe there is an opportunity for the community to team with industrial, commercial and residential building owners (or who ever is responsible for arranging waste management) to cooperate in an advanced recycling program. This might involve a Vancouver wide program to increase the use of recycling bins by residents and businesses. If increased waste seperation could be achieved, the result would be a more efficient process for binners to obtain the recyclables and a safer working environment so that they are not dumbster diving. If this initiative was begun in advance of a lockup policy, its possible the impact of the policy could be limited. In essence UNited We Can would be expanding its building pickup program, but instead of using trucks to do pickup, members of the community would be doing the collection as per usual.
This would be a great opportunity for companies and bulding stratas to improve their community and meet their social and environmental sustainability goals
(I apoligize if my ideas are a bit scattered or not complete, I was a bit tired when I wrote this. I would be happy to clarify if need be)
It's likely time in our discussion group to re-visit the basics: The City is requiring the bins to be locked, ostensibly "to prevent fires or people sleeping in them and then getting caught when they are emptied in the morning. There is anecdotal evidence that some Vancouver residents object to the binners scavenging through the garbage in what is essentially their urban backyard."
What are the options for United We Can? Here are three (you might suggest more):
1. We're told that another group of binners is giving identity card to binners so that police and residents will know they are ‘employees’ of United We Can.
2. United We Can could challenge the validity of the rational for locking the bins.
3. United We Can could try to dialogue with other stakeholders to see if there are alternative solutions that meet the needs of the other stakeholders and United We Can.
I'm not sure what the first option will produce. Since the binners and United We Can carry little political power, option 2 sounds pretty risky. The third option seems a better approach. It could also build more long-term social capital within the total community.
Whatever course of action United We Can chooses, it may have to look for support from its broader constituency. This sounds like a live-or-die situation in which United We Can will need all the allies it can muster.
Carlos and Ryan, what you are talking about in terms of finding solutions is what I’ve heard coined as “moral imagination” which has been described by Johnson (1993 as cited in Tuana and Lau, n.d.) as:
“an ability to imaginatively discern various possibilities for acting in a given situation and to envision the potential help and harm that are likely to result from a given action.”
In Calgary, we had a recent example of applying moral imagination to a problem. As many know, homelessness is a huge challenge in many urban centres. The severity is amplified during periods of extreme weather where people can literally freeze to death. As it is, our local shelters are packed to the rims.
(Just as an aside, until a few years ago the system was also set up in a way that was a huge barrier to families since there wasn’t any accommodations for them. Genders are segregated and children aren’t allowed resulting in the splitting up of families with the father staying in a homeless shelter and the mother and children staying in a women’s shelter which has a scarcity of beds as well.)
Sometimes in addressing larger issues, we focus on long term sustainable solutions and forget about meeting immediate needs and vice versa. I say this because one of the immediate solutions that Calgary found to the burgeoning homeless problem was to establish an emergency shelter in an industrial area which can house 400 people a night. It sounds so cold to me especially having visited shelters and seeing the sleeping conditions. Plus, of course, finding somewhere to establish more “beds” is a challenge because of NIMBY (not in my backyard). So, while not ideal, setting up this shelter in an industrial area meets an immediate need but doesn’t provide a long term sustainable solution.
The good news part of this story was that this allowed some people to exercise moral imagination. In 2004, Street Level Consulting reported that 45% of shelter users have jobs. That leaves a large percentage of users without jobs. Calgary has also been experiencing a labour shortage to the extent that some businesses have had to reduce hours of operations, sometimes closing early or one day a week (maybe not such a bad thing).
Anyway, someone came up with the brilliant idea of having a job fair at the emergency shelter which, as I noted, was in the industrial area where the jobs are located. Some of the people applying for jobs had 20-30 years of experience. While people living in the shelter are likely shuttled to and from downtown each day, this was also a good solution because the jobs were in close proximity to the shelter. Often because of commuting, homeless people with jobs arrive at the centrally located shelter so late that there aren’t beds left resulting in them not performing well at work the next day. Also, those organizations that showed up for the job fair knew that the applicants were living at the shelter so wouldn’t have qualms about hiring someone whose address was a homeless shelter (sometimes a barrier to employment).
This was a very positive outcome but, as noted earlier, homelessness is an issue that needs long term solutions. The Calgary Committee to End Homelessness estimates that, at the current rate, homelessness in Calgary would increase from the current 3,400 to 15,000 by 2018. It has an ambitious ten year plan to address the issue which I haven’t reviewed. However, a cursory word search of the 10 year plan didn’t indicate that social enterprise or entrepreneurism was considered. Maybe I’m out of touch about what’s happening in practice but I hear very little about social enterprises like United We Can in Calgary. Social Enterprises, particularly those that encompass all three imperatives of sustainability afford a tremendous opportunity, especially if they take into account lessons learned from other social enterprises like United We Can. They are an important and effective component to both meet immediate needs and support long term solutions.
Calgary Committee to End Homelessness (2008). Committee unveils Calgary’s 10 year plan to end homelessness. Retrieved March 2, 2008 from http://www.endinghomelessness.ca/
Street Level Consulting (2004). The streets of Calgary Part 1. Retrieved March 2, 2008 from http://www.streetlevelconsulting.ca/newsArticlesStats/STREETSCALGARY.htm
As I've been reviewing Prof. Dale's "at the edge," I've come across a few quotes that mesh with my previous suggestion that a broader dialogue is required to attend to United We Can's current dilemma.
Page 147: “The dialogue framework that I am proposing integrates some features of matrix management by prioritizing policy domains across government and shortening feedback loops through multistakeholder processes.”
Page 148: “These collaborations, however, must transcend dualism (Dillon 1998) and avoid the temptation to assert the superiority of the opposite in order the prove the worth of the alternative….Any framework for governance, therefore, must tie policy development to illuminating deeply rooted values and beliefs about how the world works. This is because…human activities can no longer be sustained according to current biases and imbalances. Respect for diversity and nurturance, and a potential for oneness mediated by reciprocity, should be regarded as integral to our human condition (ibid.). Indeed, the strength of civil society in the twenty-first century can be expected to become increasing dependent upon interconnected webs of relationships and reciprocal influences.”
Page 149: “Thus, the policy development process is opened up to an enlarged decision-making context that is able to incorporate the diversity of public values and paradigms of which government must be cognizant. Debates about competing perspectives, and about preferred states, are replaced by discussions about policy alternatives…Most important, however, this modified model opens up the process to feedback and evaluation from outside government. In this way, governments will become sensitive to negative as well as positive feedback loops. The detection of feedback and the evaluation of processes and outcomes should be conducted by those directly affected by the policies; that is, by stakeholders closest to the problem (i.e. multiple scales).”
It is fine to say that more dialogue is necessary, but I think that is an oversimplification of a very complex problem. The binners have their own network and internal social capital, and the residents and store-owners have their own. Maybe the first step is to develop or identify the nodes and try to build social capital between those networks - at this stage, with everyone so positional and conflicting values present, is a positive dialogue possible? I think getting to the point of dialogue is likely a long and tentative process. I do agree that dialogue is necessary, but when and how is it appropriate? Is the how it is managed more important than when - i.e. can you always have a productive dialogue if the process is managed well, or do you have to find those moments when you have a configuration of elements that makes dialogue possible....or do you have to build that configuration in order to make dialogue possible?
Then we also have Pille's note that you can't manage for process and for outcome. It seems that Ann's dialogue approach is not outcome-oriented - no specific result is envisioned. But maybe some stakeholders come into dialogues with their minds set on a specific outcome. They want their way, or the highway. This can be a huge source of conflict - so the expectations of the dialogue process and potential outcomes must be explicit.
Wow, you guys have been doing some good thinking and reading. I am a bit bleary-eyed and worn out from the weekend, but it has also occurred to me in reading your postings that the backlash to the binners that seems to be happening may be related to a lack of bridging/vertical social capital. I posted earlier that the project seems to have good structural coupling - in that it was developed by the community of homeless people and thus worked for them. However, did this result in backlash because although this process ensured that the outcome would work for the binners, it might not suit the others? I don't know how the process to develop the enterprise took place, but if there was no cross-networking - i.e. representatives of store owners and residents involved, then they may have some fears, or a simple grudge that they weren't involved - they may resent being voiceless. As a result, there is this backlash.
In terms of vertical capital, from my understanding that would be capital up to people of authority - i.e. the city. Has the City staff turned over since the enterprise began, and they lost some support along the way? Or are the residents who may have been voiceless pressuring their municipal representatives to shut down the project? I am wondering if a homeless person can vote - or is the way our voting system set up (i.e. you have to show ID and have an address) exclude homeless people, and in this sense they are disenfranchised and have less power than residents who can exert pressure on their elected officials?
In terms of solutions to these setbacks, is some form of non-confrontational dialogue possible so that the root causes of the issues can be engaged, and mutually acceptable solutions negotiated?
I think as Ken said today, only by living as a binner was he actually able to see the entirity of the situation and its complexity. Unfortunately, the majority of people do as he said, they refuse to acknowledge the existance of street people. I think its sad and sick for people who have never had any bad confrontations with homeless people (e.g. North Van youth) to be so scared of them. Eventhough we have our own homeless in North Vancouver, they blend in so your seldom can identify them. How can we possible hoep to gain a greater understanding as people and policy makers if we can't learn to except the situation and the people?! Only once we approach the situation in 'love' can we truly see past those issues which are obvious, and truly begin to understand the way things are and how to create the greatest impact.
It's interesting hearing your experiences. I'll share one of mine, not with street people, but with another systemically disadvantage group: First Nations.
The highlight of my career has been coordinatoring my company's creation of a partnership with a Cree Nation to joinlty build, own and operate a billion dollar generating station. My senior contact with Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation was a former Chief. Through the seven or eight years that it took to bring the project to fruition, he and I became quite close. He's invited me to stay at his home, and even though our professional interaction concluded a couple of years ago we still talked by phone this year on New Year's Eve.
Norman lives on the northern reserve in a house owned by the band, as is all housing on the reserve. The house needed painting a couple of years ago, but Norman did not see that as his responsibility. After all, he said, the band owned the house. In due course, the band hired someone and bought the paint, and the house was painted.
I share that little anecdote with the following comment (which might stimulate a response from you): Our federal policy that restricts private property ownership on reserves is one of, if not THE, most socially-disfunctional policy in the history of our country.
Norman is a hard working member of the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation who is committed to the betterment of his community. It is, as Ken said yesterday of his sense of belonging to the East Side, a place where Norman feels connected, where he belongs.
I feel very privileged to have heard Ken's talk yesterday. He demonstrated how humility is on of the main requirements of a leader and I agree that his Xi is well directed and that may explain how things come his way.
I found his saying that united we can is important to not just cash flow, but a connection to the community comforting. This dispelled my belief that the main intent for starting the program was economics and that environment was a side benefit. It was refreshing to hear him indicate that their mission is three-fold (economic, environmental and social sustainability) at UWC. He indicated that they create place, meaning and value to people in the community who may otherwise not have access to the mainstream resources.
Now that you have had the distinct advantage of hearing about this project from one of the main proponents, how does this effect your interpretation of the case study?
I was amazed by Ken, he had such integrity and strength to remain true to his convictions of what is right for the community. I am most impressed by how systemic his understanding of the issues is - and how eventhough he is providing a voice for people in such a hard place, he doesn't resort to protests or other confrontational means to make his frustrations known - he just continues to try and work with people. So, it seems that the structural coupling - being built from within - was definitely part of the success, as he evidently has a very strong understanding of the community needs and the required approaches. I think he also spoke to this more eloquently than I can - my notes say something of the lines that it has to come from where the community is at, the people are at. That gets at something a little beyond the niche/entity congruence of structural coupling, but I don't know how to state it otherwise.
I also thought his comments about how the program - providing people with a wage - enables them to get back into our culture, which is a culture of consumption, were really telling. These people were indeed working - and to many people's benefit, through the environmental gains of their binning - but instead of being accorded respect, people were ashamed to look them in the eye or tried to make them go away. However, a person who is a garbage man for the municipality, or a septic trunk pumper, doesn't get treated with disrespect....yet how different are the trades they ply? Equally "dirty" in some respects, yet they are within are system, not outside it.
I have to admit that I often don't know how to handle homeless people. I am most relieved when I can interact with them by giving them some food, but this usually only works out if I am approached after I have gone grocery shopping. I take the approach he mentioned, often enough, of pretending I don't see them. Yet at the same time, I often think - how many steps away from this am I, really?...had I not had the head start of having the parents I did, not being plagued by any mental illness, and had I not made the good choices and interacted with the right people as I did in highschool, it could be me on the street. I had a set of happy circumstances to my favour - parents of middle income, school in a good neighbourhood, etc. But how much of where I am at now is luck, rather than anything else? Homeless people make me count my blessings, quite literally.
Interesting point, Claire, about blessings. One of the thoughts that I had during Ken's talk was, "I wonder how many paycheques away from the street even people that we know are, maybe even people in our cohort". As a former single mom, I used to worry about that even though I had good support. Yet, I knew that if I needed it I would be able to count on my family although it would have been hard to ask. I can’t imagine not knowing that’s there.
The Tyee (2007) reported that, in Vancouver, roughly one in 17 residents are at risk of homelessness. According to the Calgary Committee to End Homelessness, more than 70% of Calgary’s homeless have mental health issues (we experienced major cuts to mental health funding in Alberta when our health care system was regionalized in the mid-90s, an example of what Chris talked about when there is a disconnect between scales of government and community and a lack of integration – the mentally ill basically fell through the cracks and it is still a problem over a decade later).
Our family was witness to this vulnerability several years ago when my daughter’s boyfriend (now husband) turned 18. On his 18th birthday, his father and step-mother told him that he needed to move out of the house right away since they could no longer accommodate him when their fifth child (blended family) was born that same day. No support (emotional or financial), nothing – just go! I’m not sure what would have happened if we hadn’t been there to provide a safety net (and you wonder why people call me Mama).
It’s also been interesting how often people have reacted in a manner which suggests that we shouldn’t have helped him in the way we did – that it wasn’t our job and why can’t young people just learn to look after themselves. Well, it’s kind of hard when your father is a former biker, your mother has been in jail and you’ve more or less raised yourself. Amazingly, while this young man is still trying to find his way at 23 (and who of us had that figured out at that age), he has a solid value system.
My point is there seems to be such a lack of compassion sometimes, something that Ken really showed us today. He doesn’t go to people’s negative space (he mentioned the yelling, swearing, etc.). Rather, he was able to share with us the reality of life in that sub-culture of society and be quite matter of fact about the reality of it yet show such depth of feeling about his sense of community.
For those of us who have been brought up with the blessings that Claire shared and with which I’ve been privileged as well, it’s almost outside of our frame of reference to imagine the lack of support. Yet, it’s interesting how insulated we can become from some of these impacts.
I know that we had some discussion in class where some thought that diversifying neighbourhoods is a good idea and some didn’t. I’m not sure where I stand on that and, to some extent, I think a more important thing is what we choose to see. Claire mentioned being uncomfortable being around homeless people and I think that is different from them being invisible. I’ve been out with colleagues walking to lunch and they just walk right by people on the street, oblivious. I think, for some, it hurts and so they just shut off. Others have strong judgments for whatever reason. I’m simply curious about people’s lives. As I alluded to above, any of them could have been me.
I remember one time on a very cold day coming upon a very young couple on the street huddled up under a blanket. I squatted down and talked to them about their situation and expressed curiosity that they weren’t taking advantage of some of the services that were available to them. They told me (and I made reference to this problem in another post) that there wasn’t anywhere that they could go where they could stay together as a couple because men and women are segregated in shelters.
In pondering all of this right now, it makes me wonder to what extent shelters enter into dialogue with clients when it comes to designing their programs and services and to what extent they harness the social capital that's potentially available. This was precisely one of Ken’s points about how the government or social agencies have an agenda and they don’t necessarily align with what’s truly needed. Back to Pille’s point that Claire mentioned. Perhaps they’re set on the result and they don’t necessarily have the process that will best serve the users.
Calgary Committee to End Homelessness (2008). Committee unveils Calgary’s 10 year plan to end homelessness. Retrieved March 3, 2008 from http://www.endinghomelessness.ca/
The Tyee (2007). Vancouver’s SROs: “Zero Vacancy”. Retrieved March 3, 2008 from http://thetyee.ca/News/2007/05/29/SROHistory/
Both of you (Laura and Claire) speak about how you wonder how close from the streets some people actually are. In North Vancouver the working middle class are the new group for homeless. With and average of 70% of household income needed to pay for housing in North Vancouver its a wonder more people are not homeless. Its amazing to think that someone who puts on a suit to go to work everyday can't afford a home. There use to be a great report about North Vancouver's middle-class homeless online but I can't find it. Instead check out this link for other resources. http://www.cnv.org/server.aspx?c=3&i=228
I've been lucky to hear many stories like Ken's, but these other individuals were victims of runaway hosuing costs not substance abuse or personal hardships. Furthermore, these people are not unskilled or lack the prevailing culture like many in the east side; these individuals are trained professionals with post-secondary educations. My fiancee and I live somewhat scared that if we were invicted we would have no where to go but to live with my parents since there is no rental (new or old) units available in North Vancouver. Sure we could move, but why should 2 working professionals not be able to live in their hometown.
I too found it interesting how the opportunities that put Ken on his path all seemed to just happened. GOes to show that the world works in mysterious ways.
I also found his response to Peter's question interesting ( with regards to socially responsible investments). At first I was taken aback, but then I got to thinking....United We Can is the most socially responsible investment anyone could ever make! Some shares in a socially responsible trust or company will mean nothing to people in the east end. Investing that money in good growth funds that generate profit for reinvestment into the community through United We Can is an excellent policy, while also being a place based solution (in context, one based on local beliefs and values).
I had the opposite reaction to Ken's response to Peter's question - I thought he had a very respectful way of pointing out that Peter's question was really a question from the world of privilege. Socially responsible investment is in some ways a means for the wealthy to divest some guilt (I am being a bit deliberately provocative) or try to mitigate the impacts of their wealth, and is really something that resides in the world of those who have, not those who have not.
One of the interesting threads through Ken's conversation with us today was how many times he talked about someone else just calling him up because they had heard about what he was doing and they offered to help. What fascinated me about this was that I think he must have a strong belief or faith in good things happening to him. Do you know people who are living really good lives yet complain that nothing good ever happens to them?
I was also impressed by his great humility, something that I think is a core characteristic of a good leader. He acknowledged that he sometimes behaves in ways that aren't entirely kind (I think he used the word cruel). Honestly, I don't think that we can ever truly realize our greatness and contribute in the highest and best way possible unless we can acknowledge our own shortcomings.
He was so genuine.
Okay, I think this is my last post for tonight especially since I need to spend some time prepping for our presentation tomorrow.
When I was training to be a personal development facilitator twenty years ago, one of the things that we had to experience was what it would be like to, as Pille would say, "live in conversation" in a way in which we hadn't previously for 24 hours.
Our assignment would depend on what we were working on personally in our lives. So, for example, someone who had an attitude of being afraid of homeless people or who didn't quite understand how one unlucky even can alter a life resulting in a dire situation would be tasked with living on the street for a day. This was eye opening for all of us.
My own assignment related to a belief that I had at that young age that people judged based on physical appearance. I went to a make up artist who made me look grossly repulsive. I then went out and lived that experience, making it as real as possible. I challenged myself to go to that place of love that Pille talks about and I was amazed at how loved back I was by so many strangers. Yes, there were people that were uncomfortable and looked away but, for the most part, people were so warm. It completely challenged me to let go of an idea which I had been "conserving".
My point is not that we all need to go out and do something like this. Rather, that at the heart of it we're all looking for what Ken shared with us so eloquently today - a sense of community in whatever form that takes for each of us as individuals. Pretty simple.
He's probably the last guy on the planet to think that he's extra-ordinary but it will be interesting at our MEM ten year reunion to hear how our time with him today may have altered our lives. He's truly a great NODE.
A few final thoughts before I pack it in:
I thought there were a lot of interesting points regarding governance issues raised through Ken's comments. All the rules about how many and what kind of cans and bottles you can take back, etc., seemed to suggest a governance structure that was a little unwieldy. Power dynamics, Ken mentioned....is it possible to avoid them?
Secondly, I thought that Ken beautifully expressed something that I never recognized about the homeless - that it is a community. Ottawa doesn't have a district of homeless and disadvantaged people like Vancouver does, but there is certainly an area downtown, near the soup kitchen and shelters, where there is a higher density. I always thought of them as individuals with their own stories, but never really as a collective. Yet Ken described the great gift of United We Can - even in its early, informal stages of one-day events - as the opportunity to bring people together and make connections. I don't know why soup kitchens or shelters might not have functioned to do that, yet the United We Can process did - it raises some interesting questions again about structures set up by outsiders and whether they can function to fulfill their aims.
Part of what Ken said that United We Can events gave people was that they were "part of something". Shouldn't we all have the opportunity to be part of something? To have meaning? Somehow this captures the sadness of homelessness best for me - that these people are not part of something. Someone spoke in class that the people who survived concentration camps all had some kernel of something meaningful that they could hold onto in the face of all the horror. Yet, from Ken I would suggest that we can't create these kernels of meanings for the homeless, as outsiders, but maybe have to help them somehow do it themselves. Ryan, perhaps this is what your First Nations work has managed to do. We describe it in terms of capacity building and bringing income sources into communities, but is it fundamentally something more basic that community development does?
Finally, in terms of the legacy that Ken will leave me with, I think Laura is right - he is one of the take-homes from the MEM program that I will be talking about for years to come. I am appalled at how close-minded we become, as middle-class or privileged people. At a recent gathering of Chelsea mothers, I was disgusted to hear one woman complaining that a senior's residence might be built in a field adjacent to her home. I guess she would prefer to have the field than the seniors. How do we knock ourselves at of our selfishness and learn to "love" in the Pille sense - accepting others'legitimacy, holding a place for others in our lives, and in so doing build and become communities again? I think this is what sustainability is all about - it seems as though if you start with this sort of intention, the rest should follow! I don't know if any of you have read Alistair McLeod's book No Great Mischief - there is a line in it somewhere - "all of us are better when we are loved". I think what I have learned over the course of the residency is an addendum - "all of us are better when we love".....
Take care all,
About three years ago while taking my Uncle home to Richmond, we saw a homeless person with a shopping cart full of his wares. I was slightly taken aback by my Uncle's reaction as he was touced by seeing this gentleman and he begun questioning what could be going on in the man's life that he'd be homeless. Living in Coquitlam at the time (and working in New Westminster) this was not a new sight to me but it was the first time I had seen a homeless person in Richmond. My frequent encounter with the homeless at work and where I lived made me take seeing them and their plight for granted. My Uncle's questions of concern and thoughts of possible reasons for a person to become homeless brought me back to relity to examine the why and not take people for granted. I realised that instead of taking people and their plight for granted, I should see myself as part of the community. As ken indicated, the people in the comunity need each other and they motivate eachother.
I was reading Pille's papers on emotion and something in it reminded me to post my earlier thougt and the following... In the transcribed presentation of The Matter of Emotions, Candace Pert says "...the biggest challenge to remaining human is the isolation that we are facing more and more" (2001). I'm sure there are many reasons why poeple become homeless, from being released at the age of majority after foster care, to drug and alcohol abuses, but I think our society can also be blamed for ostracizing individuals when they need our help the most.
I think the operating principle of UWC in hiring people who would not normally be hired by others is noble and links to the requirement of inclusivity in governance. A small gesture of that type can go a long way in giving people a sense of pride and ensuring cooperation among the workers which in turn feeds governance from the workshop up.
Nana, your post prompted me to pull out one of my favourite books by the great Canadian, Jean Vanier called Becoming Human (1998). I spent a lot of time going through this book again for Pille’s pre-residency assignment. Jean Vanier is the founder of L'Arche, an international network of communities for people with intellectual disabilities, another group of people that is often excluded and on the margins of society.
One of the chapters in the book is called “Belonging”. Vanier writes, “What is the need to belong? Is it only a way of dealing with personal insecurity, sharing in the sense of identity that a group provides? Or is this sense of belonging an important part of everyone’s journey to freedom? Is the sense of belonging akin to the earth itself, a nurturing medium that allows plants and trees to grow and share their flowers and fruits with all?” As I wrote this, I thought that this might come in useful for my part of our presentation on Thursday.
This lovely little book which is rich in spirituality was given to me ten years ago as a gift by my company’s Chief Legal Officer, not someone you would typically expect such sentiments from especially given in the workplace. He gave it to me on the occasion of me having spoken to our CEO and executive team about my secondment to United Way. It was the first time the company had done a secondment and I had been asked to speak to them about the program and whether they should continue doing it. Some of you have heard me talk about using the “L” word in the board room and that was the time that I did. Ten years later, the program endures at my company.
That book is one of the most valued and treasured gifts that I have ever received and I’ve referred to it often. The gentleman who gave it to me retired last June and I had the privilege of honouring him publicly. He was surprised when I pulled the book out, described how important it had been to me over the years and then read what I thought really embodied his leadership:
“. . . to become fully human is not a question of following what everyone else does, of conforming to social norms, or of being admired and honoured in a hierarchical society; it is to become free to be more fully oneself, to follow one’s deepest conscience, to seek truth, and to love people as they are. The point of inclusion is the belief that each of us is important, unique, sacred, in fact. We can only relate to others and begin to include them in our lives and society if we have this primary belief.”
Wouldn’t that describe Ken as well? Again, some of this came up for me when I did Pille’s assignment but having the benefit of the last two and a half weeks just takes all of this so much deeper. Nana wrote about her uncle asking what could be going on in someone’s life for them to be homeless. This is a question that I ask frequently about people in many circumstances, “What must be going on in that person’s life for them to be arrogant or fearful or depressed or consumeristic or fill in the blank?” Can I see beyond their behaviour to that important, unique and sacred being that they are? Of course, this is easier with some than others and it can be fleeting but I have yet to find someone with whom I can’t do this. Here’s a final message from Vanier’s book:
“We human beings are all fundamentally the same. We all belong to a common, broken humanity. We all have wounded, vulnerable hearts. Each one of us needs to feel appreciated and understood; we all need help.”
I commend the book to you.
I expect many of us with a penchant for environmental sustainability have a small 'l' philosophy to life. Whether you share this philosophy or not, let me ask you:
Should we question the value of a binner?
Should we question the value of an addict?
What do they contribute to social capital?
What do we contribute to social capital?
Be honest: How would you feel if there was a proposal to open a hostel for homeless people a couple of doors down from where you live?
I don't know what the answer is to the East Side. That's okay: nobody has "the answer."
I do believe in community/social responsibility. That doesn't mean that my social commitment is unconditional. It comes with boundaries, responsibilities and accountabilities.
From this course, this discussion forum, and particularly Ken's discussions, I have a greater appreciation that our greatest contribution can to be to empower people -- when they are ready to be empowered, in this own manner and pace. For the East Side, that's social capital.
Okay, so maybe I'm making up a word. I'm not sure. Ryan, your challenge to be honest is provoking. I have another one of my little books with me that I referenced in my thesis. This is how it starts, "One of the salient features of our culture is that there is so much bulls**t. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share."
Today, Anita Burke talked about transparency and showed us a continuum with "top secret" at one end and "rigorous honesty" at the other. Telling my truth is something I strive for. I think I've come a long way over the past two decades. I don't directly lie but there are times when I may not be as forthcoming as I could be. As I aim to do this though it becomes increasingly difficult to not use my "voice", something that took me a long time to claim. I remember the precise moment when I lost my voice when I was six years old and I don't mind talking about it although it seems irrelevant at the moment. So, as we chatted about in our team deliberations after class, voice, legitimacy and story are all important parts of good governance - again, Ken, modelled all of this to us.
So, should we question the value of a binner or an addict? I don't think so. I don't think any life can be quantified. Would I want a homeless shelter in my neighbourhood? Likely not but that also makes me think about the home for unwed mothers that I stayed in as a teenager. It was almost thirty years ago but my "emotional" memory tells me that it "felt" like I was in a community that felt home like. It would be interesting to go back there now that I live a different lifestyle and see what kind of neighbourhood it actually is. (Ryan, we should talk about this since you mentioned you were aware of this agency.) And, yes, we had a sense of community or belonging as described in my earlier message.
PS you may have to read the following several times as it is a bit of verbal yoga:)
The interaction of these ideas is the cornerstones of this residency for me. How they interact in there own configuration of consensual coordinations (don't be afraid...its just language). We remove just one of these components the whole thing falls apart. I think each is a part of this set of interactions that must occur in order for each of them to be optimized and realize the paradigm shift we need to remain relevant in the centuries to come. ( I know I'm going very high level and abstract with this but we are talking about a system of relationships which worked perfectly during the birth of United we can.) Sustainability is a cog in the wheel...part of our process as a culture to realize a means of surviving. We use sustainability in community development and busines to guide progress (the good kind); really sustainability boils down to being another grouping of consensual coordinations. Once we understand them and have accpeted sustainability as a legitimate view of the future, like so many other distinctions that inform our language and culture, sustainability will be absorbed and regarded as the way of the world (much like a hunter-gatherer society was the norm)and we will forget the consensual coordinations that got us there (the endless number fo life-cycle analyses and GRI reports)
To reach the point where making sustainable decisions is second nature will rely heavliy on the other terms I listed at the top. Only by communicating the stories of place and space (values and beliefs) through our networks and into governance and having them accepted as legitimate can we achieve sustainability. United We Can worked because it created this lineage. We must never forget the power of local action and community engagement to achieve a better tommorow.
Sustainability through communication and integrity...that in a nut shell is my key takeaway from the past 2yrs...and I will make sure to live this learning
As you know, each day I've been bringing in the Globe and Mail that was being delivered to me and I wasn't reading. I usually walk in and give it to Rosanno first and never get back to it.
Today was different. The provincial election was held in Alberta yesterday. Chris, who lives in Alberta as well, was sitting behind me and he talked about how disappointing the landslide victory of the conservatives was (all of the other parties lost seats). I was shocked when I checked online last night. As I was talking to Chris and Stephanie (also from Alberta), I found myself tearing up, profoundly sad not because of the politics of it (which are irrelevant to my point here).
Rather, I was sad by the increased lack of diversity in our government, having a much greater realization from the work with this team of what good governance is. We're moving in the wrong direction.