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.

Advertisements

Thoughts on the urban deconstruction industry and restoration economy in Vancouver

Over the recent years many thinkers and planners have foreseen the likely transformations of our urban and suburban communities as costs related to resources, building materials and other logistics force us to think on our feet and adjust. I recall one author even wrote a book titled “The End of Suburbia”. Actually it was a documentary now that I come to think of it. As potential challenges such as peak oil, loss of arable land, energy and water scarcity and other logistical (and social) hurdles continue to present themselves on our horizon, authors like James Howard Kunstler, Jeremy Rifkin,  and numerous scholars agree that we may need to rethink our systems and our approaches and reassess much of our infrastructure and planning as we look ahead. Vancouver has been recognized as one of the more progressive and community focused cities in North America but even we may see some major physical transformations should these challenges come to a headwaters in the next 50 years. Though I do write with the focus of BOB in mind, I’m also a geographer, so I’m inspired to look at these issues very much from the perspective of a geographer.

In the case of Vancouver our physical geography and some astute urban planning has already helped to create a clean density that we’re celebrated and noted for now, and if we continue to go dense out of necessity or desire we will likely need to maximize urban spaces. Enter the deconstruction industry and the restoration economy.

A great little video on Treehugger.com about a social enterprise in Bristol UK was sent to me from Brian here at Building Opportunities with Business (who got it from Toby Barazzuol at Eclipse Awards). The Bristol Recycling Project collects donations of unused lumber, and either finds a way to put it back into the market or reconstitutes them into products like shelving and furniture. This is a service that has developed in relationship with the deconstruction industry and the restoration economy. The restoration economy is an idea put forth by author Storm Cunningham in a 2002 book entitled (you guessed it) The Restoration Economy. Along with William McDonough’s book Cradle to Cradle, it was considered a landmark environmental book at the beginning of this decade. In short, or rather to summarize but a brief aspect of it, think of it like this. Instead of blowing up a building into a million fragments and trucking them off to the landfill, we can slowly deconstruct it and utilize as much of the materials as possible in other developments. It’s like my father-in-law (an incredibly accomplished engineer who has worked on numerous high profile projects around the world) always says, “The most sustainable building is the one already built”. Well, the logic of the restorative economy says the next best thing may be recycling all those materials as best as possible into a new format. Plus it creates jobs and stimulates the economy.

Reclaimed wood has been utilized by social enterprises and businesses in BC and specifically in the inner-city Tradeworks Training Society uses reclaimed wood for many of their products. But much of this reclaimed wood is from Pine Beetle infested lumber considered below market standard due to its blueish tint. Conversely, much of the wood used by the Bristol Wood Recycling Project comes from buildings that have been recently deconstructed or found lumber, and as other cities around the world begin to rethink their urban design many structures may need to come down in order for more efficient designs to go up. Buildings will also need improvements, retrofits and other maintenance, like our beautiful heritage buildings here in Vancouver. There’s little doubt that a large market potential for the restorative industry exists in Vancouver. As recent improvements along the Hastings Corridor (a result of the Great Beginnings and Hastings Renaissance Program) attest, we Vancouverites value the historical architecture of the inner-city. Many of these old buildings need a little love and elbow grease as time does take its toll, but they shine up real good.

But where is Vancouver’s inner-city in regards to a similar project like the one in Bristol? Well, it has been discussed, and there are still people in the community who believe a similar deconstruction social enterprise might be successful here. We do have a proud history as an enterprising lumber town after all.

Is it a matter of timing though?

As construction of high density buildings becomes more expensive, eating into the bottom line of those projects, and as space becomes less available in our city perhaps reclaimed materials from deconstruction will present an affordable and accessible option for developers? And that in turn may likely create more demand for deconstruction and restorative work, more space to develop, and perhaps contribute to more affordable housing prices? Someone would probably have to write a thesis as opposed to a blog post to really answer some of those questions. But this is a place for ideas and conversation after all.

It’s some food for thought as we look to the future of this city and our inner-city’s urban design. By looking at the Bristol Wood Recycling Project and other similar enterprises we can perhaps better imagine the choices that may present themselves to us down the road.

-Wes-