Share your ideas on the creation of a green community economic development commission

BOB Business and Social Enterprise Developer, Brian Smith,  has been asked to participate in the City of Vancouver’s Greenest City Working Group on the Green Economy.   The Group is being convened by the Vancouver Economic Development Commission (VEDC).

At the first meeting of the group, there were six identified priority areas for which the group agreed to establish sub-committees.  Each sub-committee’s first objective was to prepare a short document on the priority area for the next meeting on July 14th. This draft document is to outline the main opportunity in the specific area, along with 3-5 actions that could lead to green job growth. The Working Group will then research these recommendations and incorporate them into a draft implementation plan for the Greenest City initiative, which will be open for further comment by the entire External Advisory Committee.

The sub-committee that Brian has proposed and is interested in helping to steer concerns Community Economic Development.  This applies directly to the inner-city and people who have barriers to employment, but has positive implications in other neighbourhoods too.

In Brian’s words:

…CED is applicable across the City and, in turn, could benefit a variety of neighbourhoods, small businesses, social enterprises, co-ops and people. Given the City’s apparent commitment to the Greenest City initiative, I feel there is a good opportunity to advance some CED in Vancouver.  BUT, I need your help! So, please reply to BOB with your respective interest and time availability in helping to shape a CED strategy that can be included in the Greenest City Implementation Plan.

Cheers,

Brian

Please read Brian’s overview of the CED Sub-committee below:

Community Economic Development (CED) for the Greenest City

CED is a holistic approach to economic development involving the mobilization of resources from various economic and non-economic sectors in the community with the intention of building local capacity and local solutions.  It is particularly relevant to the world’s greenest city as it uses local resources, which generally are lower in carbon intensity, to find local and more sustainable solutions to local problems.  Integrating CED into the green economy strategies for Vancouver’s Greenest City ambitions compliments the more traditional macro-economic development strategies by integrating localized approaches with broader global outreach strategies. The benefits of a CED approach include:  local employment, local investment, increased local capacity and commitment, local spending in the local economy, and appropriate sustainable solutions to local challenges.

Goal: Foster green business development and associated job creation for Vancouver’s marginalized inner-city residents

Action 1: Apply a CED Lens to all programs and policies of the City, where each department, program, grant, expenditure from parks and social development to legal services and planning would eventually be able to articulate the social, economic and environmental impact of their work/business/purchasing.

Action 1a: Establish a City of Vancouver funded Community Economic Development Commission that would:

  • work internally applying the CED Lens and externally facilitating CED on the ground;
  • develop and implement procurement policy that directly benefits co-operatives, social enterprises and small businesses that are committed to hiring people with barriers to employment; and,
  • educate community (NGOs, workers, and businesses) about realistic opportunities for green job and green business development

Action 1b: Institutionalize – as part of any development permit process, require  a Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs) as a necessary component of all new developments (for local jobs, procurement, and/or training).

Action 2: Establish a green zone (may need an incentive attached) in the DTES for piloting green enterprise development projects.

Action 2a: Develop employment agreements with incentives for medium to large size green businesses to hire people with barriers to employment.

Action 2b: Establish and administer a green CED fund to facilitate green employment or business development projects in the inner-city;

Action 2c: By way of an immediate pilot project, establish, through the allocation of City-owned land, an Urban Farm Network that trains and hires people with barriers to employment

Action 3: Develop and direct education and training in green collar vocations to people with barriers to employment.

Please comment below or contact Brian directly at brian.smith@bobics.org to share your thoughts and ideas.

Why Vancouver’s inner-city crystalizes the green paradigm shift

It’s often these days that we find the word problem replaced by the words challenge or opportunity. Sometimes this is appropriate and useful, but Van Jones in his book The Green Collar Economy, clearly demonstrates why the word problem should not be dropped from our lexicon. His book seems to be increasingly more relevant to Vancouver’s inner-city.

The increasing divide between rich and poor is more than a challenge or opportunity, it is a problem. Perhaps for those on the more comfortable side of the equation it’s a challenge or opportunity, but for the growing bottom percentage? Access to clean potable water in developing nations is more than a challenge, and for those struggling to find it it’s a problem far more than an opportunity. The myriad environmental, social and economic disruptions we’ve created from years of exponential production and consumption are more than just an opportunity or challenge, collectively they have become a problem of global scale.

The reason why it’s important to acknowledge that there are problems is because it creates the urgency to recognize problem solvers. Without problems how can we even have problem solvers? Challenges and opportunities are indicative of competitive language, the kind born out of free market ideologies. They denote opportunism, and that’s fine. We need opportunists to capitalize on the wealth of opportunities in the fast emerging green economy, but to Jones it goes deeper than this.  In the Green Collar Economy the challenges and opportunities that will help to create equitable wealth come from solving these environmental and social problems. It’s more than opportunities within an emerging economy, it’s about the health of human society and the living planet we depend on. Because of this, the people who are most in need of problem solving  naturally become crucial problem solvers themselves:

“We cannot afford that kind of moral shortfall. To solve our global problems, we need to engage and unleash the genius of all people, at all levels of society. Some of the minds that can solve our toughest problems are undoubtedly trapped behind prison bars, stuck behind desks in schools without decent books, or isolated in rural communities. A green economy that is designed to pull them in—as skilled laborers, innovators, inventors, and owners—will be more dynamic, more robust, and better able to save the Earth.”

Van’s book and his theories on job creation and environmentalism ring particularly true right here in Vancouver, which is simultaneously facing the challenges of rejuvenating the ‘poorest postal code in Canada‘ and  becoming the greenest city in the world.

One of the crucial points Van makes is that this Green economy should not just be embodied by the health conscientious crowd who drive hybrids, eat organic specialty foods or buy fair trade coffee.  It’s a paradigm shift where members of society at all levels have an important role to play as laborers, planners, community leaders, investors and innovators. This perceived eco-elitism can be replaced with what he terms eco-populism, whereby those who would otherwise view being green as expensive and detached from their lives can find green options more accessible. I would say the same for those who view the green economy predominantly as emerging technologies, renewable energy and other higher-order activities. This is also part of it yes, but let’s not let the large venture capital numbers eclipse the large transformative power of communities in action.

Environmentalism here in Vancouver has demonstrated elitism as it has everywhere. Looking at it as technologies and capital investment is only a fraction of this paradigm shift. Focusing on eco-chic products, organic free range specialty foods, and other consumer goods is also only a fraction, and some argue it is the more shallow fraction at that. A rethink of how we interact within and create society, including a fundamental rethink of the shapes, sizes and flow of cities is another fraction. The deconstruction and reconstruction of urban space, repurposing of materials, waste diversion, on-site energy creation, increasing of urban agriculture and a complete re-adjustment from the old industrial paradigm to a far more equitable and community-centric paradigm will take more than Soy Lattes and Hybrid cars, no slight to either. And it will take more than investment in higher order R&D as important as this is. This change is already happening here in Vancouver, along with groundbreaking technological R&D and delicious organic fair trade Lattes we’ve become renowned for.

Referring back to the list of recipients from BOB’s Consultant Fees Program we can see Jones’ paradigm shift taking form here in Vancouver’s inner-city. Two visions, one of a rejuvenated inner-city that historically has struggled with many social and environmental challenges, and one of Vancouver becoming the Greenest city in the world seem to be coalescing; where an experience of community economic development in which grassroots innovation and sweat equity are translating into problem solving is unfolding. This kind of problem solving creates opportunities and builds community capacity through and for an increasingly engaged population. If we can continue to do this here and continue to do this collectively, in other cities and towns around the planet, then we’ve created the global shift that Jones envisions. Like that old saying, “death by a thousand cuts”, the old paradigm is cast away from our disparate but collective movement. But how can we recognize and actualize a movement that is inclusive and simultaneously comprehensive? Societal relationships are complex and tense; particularly the relationships between those with seemingly little power and those with seemingly unimaginable power. Jones proposes that we recognize collective ideals that are clear and simple, yet able to bridge the complexities between diverse stakeholders, and appeal broadly.

Movements need principles. History teaches us that it is impossible to guide a complex series of deep changes without grounding efforts in unchanging ideals. Strategies can be complex, but goals and ideas should be clear. Bearing this in mind Jones puts forth 3 principles:

1. Equal Protection for All.

2. Equal Opportunity for All.

3. Reverence for All Creation.

These principles can appeal to free market enthusiasts eager for opportunistic reward, to problem solvers in inner-cities or rural areas, and to those who feel strong about either the social aspects of environmentalism or the ecological.

The challenges we face moving forward will require bottom-up as well as top-down solutions. The middle ground in this continuum is where the policy makers mix with the problem solvers and where the innovators mix with the investors. Here in Vancouver the inner-city/DTES is one of those places, and I hope that these principles will continue to become the pillars that support that middle ground here and elsewhere.

I recommend Van Jones’ Green Collar Economy to anyone interested in Vancouver’s development on the whole, and in its inner-city in particular.

Gaining Ground Summit 2.0 Eco-Logical

BOB and members of the Green Inner-City Cluster are excited to participate once again in the Gaining Ground Summit taking place this October 4th to 7th here in Vancouver. The summit will explore the green economy, sustainability, building capacity, emerging theories of governance and industry collaboration, greentech/cleantech and other fascinating issues.

This year’s speakers include Mayor of Vancouver, Gregor Robertson, Deputy City Manager for the City of Vancouver, Sadhu Johnston (who has contributed to leading sustainability policies in Chicago, Portland and now here) and Carol Sanford, an acclaimed speaker considered a leader of leaders. Her consulting clients include Fortune 500 businesses and emerging ventures such as Seventh Generation.

The Keynote speaker will be Jared Blumenfeld, currently the Director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 9.

About Jared Blumenfeld:

Jared Blumenfeld is the Director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 9—which includes California, much of the U.S. Southwest and Hawaii. With a background in international environmental law and an active career with the Natural Resources Defense Council, Jared was appointed in 2002 by San Francisco to build and lead its Department of Environment.

Under his leadership, San Francisco initiated landmark policy and laws, starting with precautionary principles and reaching into every area of urban practice. He believes that international and other broad-based frameworks are well-intentioned but produce limited on-the-ground results. During his tenure, San Francisco convened World Environment Day that brought 80 of the world’s largest cities together to define urban
sustainability and map strategies.

EPA Region 9 includes 47 million people, 4 of the 10 largest cities in the U.S., and 24 of the hundred largest.

Blumenfeld comes to Gaining Ground on Tuesday, October 4th to speak about the adoption of new technologies, measuring what’s happening, and the sweet spot where policy and stakeholder engagement merge. He will also lead a policy salon during the afternoon workshop portion of the program.

To register and for more information please visit: www.gaininggroundsummit.com

Speaking and thinking a greener world into being

I had a conversation with a person whom I respect very much just this past weekend, regarding the Gulf cleanup from BP’s catastrophic well failure and the implications it might have for the near future. This friend  has worked on some impressive international projects and is a LEED AP project manager with a great company doing work that directly helps save the environment.

I,  however idealistically, hoped out loud that the BP disaster might serve as a wake up call to investors that we can (and should) contact the firms we hold shares in and ask them to not cut corners, to do things right, and to consider the very real cost of environmental catastrophes the likes of which we’re seeing off the coast of Louisiana. To be better corporate citizens. I was shot down for being naive.  I was perplexed. This person was employed in a save-the-world type industry after all.

I then alternately suggested that if we couldn’t rely on the hope that somewhere deep inside every investor, no matter how faint, there is a moral imperative, then perhaps this event would serve as a wake up call and signal the beginning of the pendulum swinging back from years of deregulation and privatization? Perhaps this could stand as the moment when government reasserted itself as a force that convenes, regulates, and intervenes in the best interests of the people and environment we depend on? Once again I was shot down for being idealistic, if not immature in my thinking.

I was hurt. Not because I was told I was naive and idealistic, but because this discourse crystallized the biggest challenge to transitioning to a sustainable and equitable economy. Our thinking.

What we think is important, and what we say even more so because it affects what our friends, neighbors and people we’ll never even meet think in response. The more we doubt out loud that government will do what’s right for the environment the less likely that reality becomes. The more we doubt out loud that investors will realize we have an obligation to demand best practices the less likely it is to happen too. And the more we think and say out loud that these challenges are insurmountable, that the human race is doomed, that governments and corporations will never change and the fate of this world is out of our hands then the more we breathe that reality into existence. I refuse to waste my breath lending legitimacy to the current model, like so many of us who claim to be realists. If you’re still reading this blog, it’s unlikely that you’re one of these people and I hope you find these encouragements fortifying. A realist can recognize major obstacles and respect challenges while remaining positive that they can be overcome.

Building better communities and a better world begins with our thinking and spreads through our words actions. So stay positive and never be afraid to be called naive or idealistic for your socially and environmentally hopeful views. It probably means you’re in the right kind of headspace, where you believe a better world is possible. And frankly, just to show that my comments weren’t that naive here are two examples of recent and proposed changes in the best interest of environment and people. One from investors and one from government.

Socially responsible investing is booming. This is also known as ethical investing or ethical funds.  Once the realm of “tree huggers and hippies” these ethical funds have finally arrived in the mainstream of markets in Europe, Asia and North America and have become one of the biggest investment megatrends in half a century. How did it start? With a change in thinking.

President Obama announced just this spring that new and more stringent regulations for the banking and financial sector are essential. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, has proposed the biggest Wall Street regulatory overhaul since the 1930s as a response to the 2008 financial crisis which was caused by greed and deregulation run amok. If it can be proposed for the financial sector, it can also be proposed for the energy sector.

For far too long people have doubted the power of our governments, whether on the provincial, state or federal level.  They’ve viewed them as inaccessible and when accessible, innaffective. On the heels of this tragedy it’s not a long shot to believe that an outraged public and a progressive government can’t push the pendulum back the other way and demand more accountability and responsibility from corporations like BP. Where does it start? With a change in thinking. What comes next? A change in our dialogue, followed by actions.  Where does it begin? In our communities, and with individuals like you and I.

So I encourage us all to be mindful of how we think and speak. Because at times our thoughts and words can shape the world we live in more than our hands.  Don’t be too insulted when a friend says you’re naive and idealistic, it should be an affirmation if anything.

Come be a part of TheChange

The push for more sustainable and socially responsible practices on the part of both business, government and other institutions has been explosive over the past decade. It’s great that so many of us are working hard to improve our lifestyles, inform our purchasing choices, produce more environmentally friendly products and develop clean technologies but at times it seems a very fragmented and frenetic effort.  Nevertheless, it’s a sea change in the way we view ourselves and our society, and now one website is slowly becoming the shell that we can put to our ear and hear the sound of that conversation.

TheChange is an incredible concept and a very user friendly online platform that bridges non-profit organizations, companies and individuals, universities and technical schools and social enterprises who are contributing to positive change in their communities and world.

Aggregating Twitter, Facebook and RSS feeds it helps to integrate efforts and make connections by creating a more accessible dialogue between those of us racing to that better future. It’s an online community and an incredible place to find connections to all things sustainable, green, socially-responsible, including education, job opportunities, products and services or just cool updates and news. Here is the list of participating organizations so far.

Check it out and be a part of TheChange with us.

Green, Green, Green

This blog is overdue for an update.  I’ve been monitoring my Google alerts and RSS feeds but their hasn’t been much big news since Will Allen had to cancel and the roof top farm went South at the last minute.  I don’t have terribly much to add to those tales of woe, but here is some recent ‘green’ news.

Apparently the powers that be in Western Canada are meeting in Victoria to discuss clean energy and the green economy.  BC’s Liberals, Alberta’s Conservatives, as well as the Premiers of both Saskatchewan and for the first time Manitoba are meeting to discuss challenges and opportunities for Western Canadians and knowing politicians, how to get more money out of Ottawa.

The Gaining Ground Summit is coming around again, this time it is entitled Eco-Logical.  Invited speakers include:

  • Gregor Robson
  • Carol Sandford
  • Jared Blumenfeld
  • Mark Holland
  • Richard Branson

No word if the Greening the Inner-city Blog will get a press pass again.  The conference is October 4th through 7th.

Apparently UBC is going to help Vancouver become the world’s greenest city.  You’d think this wouldn’t be news, as UBC is the largest university in the City, in the entire Province, so it seems rather obvious they’d contribute in some way to the effort.  However if want the few details, the Vancouver Sun had a story a while back.  The Straight also covered the announcementGregor’s blog also covered the story, wonder what he’ll do with MayorOfVancouver.ca if he ever loses an election or otherwise moves on?

Well that’s all the news that is green enough to print, err type.

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