We are pleased to share some of the exciting work being undertaken by the We Are Cities cross-Canada convenor network! In addition to hosting and supporting We Are Cities roundtables this past spring, several convenors have been working on demonstration projects in their communities that test new approaches to resilient and livable cities. These projects are meant to engage convenors’ networks while forging new connections to strengthen localized city-building efforts. Demonstration projects range from pop-up public citizen spaces to neighborhood fairs to public transit experiments.
In this blog, we adapted the reflections of Calgary convenor Gerald Wheatley, Manager at the Arusha Centre, on their demonstration project: the Re-localization Fair, held at Calgary’s Bridgeland Riverside Community Association on April 18, 2015, as part of the 2015 Down to Earth Week
About the Re-localization Fair
What is Re-localization? Put simply, it is a movement away from global dependences and towards building resilience through strong local economies. It’s about buying local, yes, but also involves capitalizing on each community’s unique capacities to share knowledge and resources to build autonomy. (See here for an explanation of Re-localization from Megan Quinn Bachman). from In that vein, the Fair was an afternoon gathering of workshops, a market, and keynote speech all about the local movement, featuring Re-localization expert and author Michael Shuman. The event featured local music, waste diversion, pedal powered demonstration, and family activities. All this took place in a community association building located in a Transit-oriented Development (TOD) community with a tool lending library, farmers market, grassroots granting program and rooftop garden. The Re-localize Fair attracted 450 attendees and 26 market vendors; many attendees participated in one of the eight workshops on topics central to the Re-localization movement (workshops are described in detail below).
The Fair had several positive impacts on surrounding communities. First of all, it demonstrated that there is popular interest in Re-ocalization, a concept that is emerging and includes important social justice and environmental sustainability principles which have not been widely embraced. The event had a synergistic buzz of excitement between attendees, vendors, and workshops engaged in food, economy, and livability.
Second, the spirit of sharing and learning that characterized the Fair is central to the development of new economies based on knowledge-transfer. The Fair had an atmosphere of popular education with many local resource people sharing with Calgary citizens and businesses. These interactions were linked to networks of community economic development such as THRIVE employment development and the Respect for Earth and All Peoples (REAP) triple bottom line business network.
One of the standout features of the Fair were a series of eight one-hour workshops covering topics from gardening and composting to social engagement and activism. Using social media and word-of-mouth advertising, the sessions each brought crowds from five to 40. Many attendees were vocally supportive of the hosts and the workshop format, as many were hearing of the organizations and topics for the first time. Sessions on SPIN farming and Viegages (a community model that provides affordable financing– the opposite of “mort”gage) provided an opportunity to learn about something new, while the We Are Cities Mobilization (in which roundtable participants discovered the power of funny hats!) and Bike Calgary sessions provided ways to be active in community-building in Calgary. The experience was an empowering one, as people were able to learn, display, and activate a depth of skills and interests in a socially conscious and intimate setting.
The Fair also featured speaker Michael Shuman, who offered insights from his work with the Business Alliance for a Local Living Economy (BALLE). Michael is the author of “Small Mart Revolution” and “Local Dollars, Local Sense” and ensured that attendees understood the social and environmental benefits of localization. Building on the theme of strengthening local economies, the Fair accepted Calgary dollars (Calgary’s complementary currency system, started by the Arusha Centre in 1995), as well as promoting egalitarian business models being used in Calgary and beyond, such as the Canadian Worker Coop and Grain Exchange Worker Owned Bakery.
Finally, on the creative side, Ecoliving Events showcased chairs made from shipping pallets, and renowned local artist Daniel J. Kirk unveiled “Relocalize the Box”, an interactive art piece that allows users to create a three dimensional art piece from wood pieces featuring different themes. The Kidzone offered do-it-yourself buttons, a scavenger hunt, pedal powered lights, and three live music performers.
Given the success of the Re-localize Fair, many participants and vendors expressed interest in a similar event next year. We are excited to continue following the Arusha Centre and other participating organizations’ work, and find out what might be in store for 2016!
You can see more photos of the fair on Arusha’s Facebook page.
About the Arusha Centre
The Arusha Centre is a collectively run, member-supported organisation that provides resources and initiatives on social justice and environmental issues. We help Calgarians through community economic development and community resilience programs and offers varied practical resources, animating activities which educate, inspire and connect with and between people and projects. Click here to learn more about their mission and here to find out what they’re up to and who they’re collaborating with.
About We Are Cities
We Are Cities was launched by a number of organizations that believe that a prosperous future for Canada depends on thriving cities. For cities to succeed, citizens need to take an active role in identifying a path forward to achieve resilience, prosperity and inclusivity. Through community roundtables and an online idea forum, Canadians are helping to build a vision and action plan to make Canadian cities healthy and exciting places to live, work and play. We Are Cities is also connecting existing city-building work in order to strengthen and mobilize our collective efforts to enable the change we need. Stay tuned for details on We Are Cities Day, coming up September 15!