Collaboration news update

July 8, 2017

Thanks to Shareable!

Playing for Team Human today, master of human connection and consensus, Loomio co-founder Richard Bartlett.

Bartlett comes all the way from New Zealand, and stopped by Douglas Rushkoff’s home studio while on a community organizing workshop tour of the U.S. On today’s show, Bartlett and Rushkoff discuss the challenges of building consensus in an all too often top-down, winner-takes all society. Together we’ll learn how Loomio, inspired by the general assemblies of Occupy Wall Street, strives to amplify collaborative power and foster more participatory democratic practices. It’s a project that starts with small-scale, human-to-human connection and grows outward from there.

Rushkoff begins today’s episode with a monologue premised on a similar theme. Being human is a “team sport” and the more we cave into the divisive fear of these hostile times, the harder it becomes to “occupy a reality” of mutual care and concern.

To learn more about Barlett’s work with Loomio visit his blog at Loomio is part of the Enspiral Network

Team Human is supported by by listeners like you. Please visit our support page to help keep us going. Music credits: Mike Watt: beak-holding-letter-man, R.U. Sirius: President Mussolini Makes The Planes Run On Time, Fugazi “Foreman’’ Dog

Tackling Food Insecurity

In honor of Canada’s 150th anniversary, we’re taking a closer look at food security in the country. Canadians are cooking up a food revolution, one community kitchen at a time. Although Canada has one of the highest average standards of living in the world, food insecurity does exist — just ask struggling families in the poorer parts of places like Winnipeg, where young people are stretched between low-wage work and crushing debt, and families struggle in isolated Northern communities, struggling to choose between hunting for meat and working for a living. Fortunately, people from coast to coast are working together towards creating a fair and accessible food landscape. Keep cooking, Canadians, for another 150 years.

1. Got Bannock? in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Althea Guiboche knows what it’s like to go hungry. The single mother of seven became homeless after her house was destroyed by flooding in 2010. In 2013, inspired by the Idle No More movement, she began handing out bannock (a dense, yeastless bread popular in First Nations cooking), and homemade chili to the homeless and precariously housed people in Winnipeg’s impoverished North End. Got Bannock? started out as a one-woman operation, but the twice-monthly “days of action” now include dozens of volunteers from every corner of the city, who prepare and distribute hot meals for hundreds of people. “I had no idea where this (effort) would be when I started, and now it’s like these people are all my relatives. I hug them all, I love them all, I’m here for them, the Bannock Army is here for them,” Guiboche told the WinnipegSun as the project celebrated its fourth anniversary. If you’re passing through Winnipeg, think about giving them a hand.

A volunteer at Got Bannock? group. Photo by Ruby Pratka/Shareable

2. Fountain Street Community Cupboard in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Andrea Valle and Kelly Hughes moved to Winnipeg’s Centennial neighborhood, one of the poorest postal codes in the nation, and noticed that many of their neighbors weren’t getting enough to eat. Hughes built a cupboard by hand and planted it on the edge of their yard, and the couple stocked it with food. Now Winnipeggers come to take, leave, and trade food at all hours — and to make new friends. Inspired by Got Bannock?, Hughes and Valle are working with community members to create copycat cubpoards around town.

Hughes and Valle’s community cupboard. Photo courtesy of Andrea Vaile

3. The G-Spot in Ottawa, Ontario

Everyone knows healthy food — be it meat, dairy products, or fresh vegetables — is usually expensive food. For university students, rushing from classes to low-wage jobs with or without family support and grabbing food wherever they can, eating healthy may fall by the wayside, often for financial reasons. The Garden Spot, better known as the G-Spot, is based at Carleton University in Ottawa. It’s one of several student-organized kitchens across Canada that has been founded in response to a rising student cost of living. “Rising tuition and rent in Ottawa meant that average food budget took a nosedive. Many students literally live on rice and ketchup for weeks at a time, their energy and concentration faltering, and increasingly must rely on coffee and other stimulants to stave off hunger and keep them going,” wrote Kelly Fritsch, an early member of the G-Spot collective, nearly a decade ago. The collective has been serving pay-what-you-can, vegan home-cooked meals weekly since 2001.

The Garden Spot volunteers. Photo courtesy of Carleton Food Collective via Facebook

4. Collectif de Minuit in Québec City, Quebec  

The Collectif de Minuit, based at Université Laval in Québec City, operates with a similar ethos to the G-Spot — providing healthy, vegan, home-cooked meals on a pay-what-you-can basis to harassed and cash-strapped students.

The main difference is where the food is sourced — much of it comes from the dumpsters outside Québec City’s Marché du Vieux-Port farmers’ market and the dumpsters of other grocery stores, where vegetables and herbs that are left unsold or that don’t meet quality standards are often thrown. The vegetables are thoroughly washed with vinegar and often boiled into stews before finding their way onto the plates of hungry students every Wednesday morning.

5. Le Frigo Communautaire in Québec City, Quebec 

For more than a century, the vast Catholic church in the heart of Québec City’s St-Roch neighborhood has been a gathering place for the neighborhood’s residents, many of them poor, elderly, or at risk of homelessness. Every summer, a self-service “food fridge” makes its appearance on the church steps, stocked by volunteers and community members who stop by and drop off leftovers. The fridge was established by four university students.

“At first, I wondered what it was doing there,” one local resident told the daily newspaper Le Soleil, in 2016. “It’s great. You find meat, fruit and vegetables.” The man, who began stopping by regularly for food when money was tight, has since become a volunteer with the project. Local restaurant and grocery store owners have also pitched in, dropping off unsold surplus food at the end of the day.

6. Lauberivière Rooftop Garden in Québec City, Québec

A unique food-sharing initiative has sprouted on the roof of the Maison de Lauberivière, Québec City’s largest homeless shelter. Urbainculteurs, a volunteer collective dedicated to the promotion of urban gardening, started the rooftop garden in 2009. The cabbage, carrots, beans, seasonal fruits, and herbs— more than a ton of production each year — find their way downstairs, into the hands of the chefs who cook three meals a day for hundreds of homeless men and women. The garden is maintained by a group of volunteers including shelter residents, college students, retirees and the occasional school group. Excess plants and seeds are sold to local gardeners on occasional “open roof days.”

“They [the Urbainculteurs] saw an empty roof, and our cooks saw a need for fresh vegetables,” says Frédéric Lapointe, clinical services co-ordinator at the shelter. “The garden is something that’s dear to our hearts.” After eight years above the shelter, the garden is currently seeking a new home due to renovations at Lauberivière. Urbainculteurs members also run a free summer garden in front of Quebec’s National Assembly.

Urbainculteurs’ rooftop garden. Photo courtesy of Les Urbainculteurs

7. Hunters’ and Trappers’ Committee in Aklavik, Northwest Territories 

For thousands of years, Inuit communities in far northern Canada lived seminomadically, surviving off of whatever wild game they could hunt. But starting in the mid-20th century, climate change, colonialism, and economic changes had a devastating impact on people in places like Aklavik. Caribou herds shrank and migration patterns changed. The Inuit were forcibly resettled in prefabricated towns and their sled dogs culled by authorities. As demand for seal and fox furs fell and resettlement accelerated, hunters were forced into employment or into nine-to-five jobs, reducing both time and money for hunting.

With fewer hunters, food had to be flown in at exorbitant prices — as much as $38 for a bag of grapes that would cost only a few dollars in the south. As a result, the Aklavik Hunters’ and Trappers’ Committee and several other groups across the Arctic have established community fridges, where hunters or people who have been fishing drop off surplus meat. The hunters are reimbursed for certain fees and the food is distributed to people in need, following a centuries-old Inuit tradition of delivering one’s surplus catch to the elderly and isolated. Canada’s largest Inuit advocacy group, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, has launched a food security mapping project to track similar initiatives across the Arctic.

8. [Insert YOUR Project Here]

This list is far from exhaustive — in fact, it barely scratches the surface of how Canadians are coming together to increase food security. What’s going on where you live? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook, or email: info [at] shareable [dot] net

Header photo courtesy of Les Urbainculteurs

8 Lessons from the Second Annual International Lending Library Symposium

Imagine a world where you have low-cost access to common, infrequently used products needed for business or pleasure — tools, toys, musical instruments, camping gear… the list is infinite. Imagine an economy that prioritizes sharing high-quality durable goods, wasting less, and encouraging cooperation. Imagine a close-knit community co-creating a sustainable future. That’s the world that the pioneers at the Second Annual International Lending Library Symposium are creating.

This month, the Toronto Tool Library and Sharing Depot, with support from the City of Toronto’s Solid Waste Management Services, hosted a conference at Toronto’s Center for Social Innovation where inspiration, passion, and vision were on display. The symposium facilitated a robust exchange of ideas through keynote speakers and multiple workshops. Key topics included: how to start a tool library, makerspaces, variations on libraries of things, volunteer and staff management, the art of repair, collecting and using data, greenhouse gas reporting, social media and communication, accounting, fundraising, and software systems that make sharing easier.

Only five years ago, there were fewer than a dozen active Libraries of Things (LoT) and Tool Libraries around the world. Today, there are more than 150. The LoT movement has continued to gain steam — and after spending three days with these smart, warm visionaries, I can see why. I left wanting to start my own LoT so I could be part of this incredible group of people — and part of the solution to some of the most urgent problems facing our global community.

These thought leaders are co-creating solutions for access to resources, economic development, sustainability, vital community development, and more. Canada, Mexico, Germany, Scotland, and the U.S. all had representatives ranging from veteran LoT librarians to aspiring newbies. While most organizations were focused on tool libraries — toy libraries, kitchen libraries, music libraries, seed libraries, and full-range LoTs all came together to exchange ideas and best practices.

Participants at the Second Annual International Lending Library Symposium. Photo by Cate Homicki/Shareable

First, let me say a bit more about the host, the Toronto Tool Library and Sharing Depot. In just five years, the organization has evolved from a single location tool lending library to four locations that include a maker space, replete with 3D printers, an abundant LoT, and a robust youth program. The group’s youth program alone includes after school programs, summer camps, and STEAM education. It has 4,000 members and has provided more than 50,000 loans to-date.

LoTs build community capital and run on it. The Toronto program has inspired 70 volunteers, and last year’s symposium host, Station North in Baltimore, Maryland, has 40 volunteers who dedicate their free time to the mission. Toronto’s Center for Social Innovation (CSI) turned its social capital into financial capital. Working closely with community and advisors, CSI raised $2.5 million for its building through a community bond, supported by a loan guarantee from the City of Toronto. Today, CSI’s community hub represents more than 2,000 organizations focused on growing the new economy.

1. Starting a Library of Things or Tool Library

The first question to ask if you endeavor to begin your own community LoT is — why? And there are many answers to that question. You may be aiming to provide affordable access to things for low-to-moderate income communities. You may aim to provide homecare resources, entrepreneurial resources, and STEAM education to your community. You may aim to reduce consumption, waste, and greenhouse gases. There are many legitimate reasons to start a LoT. After articulating your mission, you need to identify your stakeholders, develop an organizational structure, and find an appropriate space for your LoT. Do you want to be independent, or a program of an existing library or nonprofit? Is your LoT a charity, a cooperative, or a for-profit entity? How will you develop a sustainable funding model? Who shares the skills to bring your vision to life? Where can you set up your LoT so that is accessible and visible? And finally, how can you create a positive retail experience that helps to build community?

It’s helpful to talk to LoT veterans to learn tips and tricks to actualize your vision… so if you are an aspiring LoTs librarian, start making plans to attend next year’s Third Annual International Lending Library Symposium (location still TBD).

2. Makerspaces

Makerspaces are popular spinoffs of tool libraries. Kevin Morgan from the Toronto Tool Library’s makerspace presented a scope of tools and membership models that help these community spaces thrive. While safety and training are key aspects to consider, so are online venues for asking questions, sharing news, and making connections to others. Some of the biggest challenges makerspaces have had to overcome include: finding affordable space, training, standardization of practices, equipment maintenance, and creating a welcoming experience. A creative solution to storage problems is to give members a shoebox for their on-site storage, and charge them for any excess storage space.

3. Volunteer Retention

Volunteer retention and management had its own session, and was a common thread weaving through many workshops. You can often find qualified volunteers through like-minded organizations, social media, farmers’ markets, and local colleges. The challenges come with onboarding, scheduling, and retaining skilled and enthusiastic volunteers. Free Google products help with scheduling and management. Many LoTs offer free or deeply discounted memberships as a perk. LoTs with some years under their belts have a clear on-boarding process and clear rules and procedures. They also connect volunteers to the mission and offer social gatherings as perks. Volunteers that feel recognized and valued for the contributions are more likely to commit year after year.

4. Repair

Repair is critical not only to the success of your LoT, but also for nurturing an alternative to our throwaway culture. Many tool libraries offer “repair cafés” where fixers and visitors come together to repair durable goods, jewelry, clothes, bikes, and other things. Paul Magder from Toronto’s Repair Café has helped fix 2,000 items over the last four years, representing about 70 percent of the items brought in. An apprenticeship program helps build the culture of repair and reuse. If you endeavor to offer a repair café, have patience. They typically begin with low attendance that snowballs over time. Great venues include schools, libraries, farmers’ markets, community centers, faith institutions, pop-ups, and storefronts.

5. Data: Measure Twice

The symposium held important sessions on data. Now that there are more than 150 LoTs that have facilitated hundreds of thousands of sharing transactions, how do we use that information to inform best practices and demonstrate impact? Najine Ameli (Germany), Devon Fernandes (Canada), Brandon Kidd (Canada), Chris Hellawell (Scotland), and Gene Homicki (U.S.) all helped to share insight into these issues.

Through interviews and surveys, Ameli and Fernandes have found that people are motivated to use LoTs for personal reasons. People say it connects them to their communities and the models are friendlier and build a sense of community compared to conventional tool rental companies. The financial incentive of affordable access was less important to most LoT members than the human element. Interestingly, while LoT provide huge conservation and sustainability impacts, those were the least cited reasons that people chose to become members. These are important considerations when developing pricing structures and marketing materials to build membership.

Still, data on the conservation benefits, greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions, and sustainability impacts of a LoT can be quite valuable, especially when it comes to securing funding. If a LoT wants to secure government or private foundation grants, statistics on the environmental benefits coupled with the community benefits will make a grant application far more compelling. Chris Hellawell from the Edinburgh Tool Library (ETL) is at the helm of LoT GHG reporting, working with Zero Waste Scotland to quantify the climate benefits of reuse. Tracking just cordless drills, last year ETL avoided 2.4 tons of GHG emissions. Chris is developing a spreadsheet to help other libraries calculate their annual GHG emissions reductions.

6. Be Social (Media)

Savvy social media can really elevate a LoT’s mission and impact. Good social media not only builds community, it can also raise your library’s membership and visibility to potential funders, such as local government agencies and private foundations. It can also take a lot of time, so it’s worthwhile to try to attain a grant to pay a social media manager. Some key takeaways from Emily Charles Donelson, from the Toronto Tool Library, were to: keep it authentic, encourage dialogue, highlight people’s stories, attach your message to a bigger movement like zero waste or DIY, and treat your audience like an audience — not a market. Other good ideas included creating a hashtag to collect stories from users, and hosting a contest to gather reviews and recommendations on your Facebook page.

7. Fun with Fundraising

Often, when we think of fundraising, we think of awkwardly begging for money from some otherwise reluctant donor that needs to be wooed. Attendees of the fundraising workshop left with a new understanding. Fundraisers are empowering donors to make the change they want to see in the world and feel happier. While that seemed to be the key takeaway from the session, a few other tips resonated. One was that it’s typically far easier for a LoT to raise money from local government agencies and community-based foundations than larger private foundations. Another was that tool, toy, and musical instrument manufacturers are often happy to donate free durable goods to your project — so don’t feel shy about asking.

8. One Platform to Bind Them (and Manage Them All)

Finally, we heard from the software team at (one of Shareable’s sponsors) that serves a majority of LoTs around the world. Their ever-evolving platform helps LoTs efficiently track and manage their inventories, members, and lets members set up reservations and get reminders to make sure equipment is returned on-time. Now that they have hundreds of locations on their platform, and hundreds of thousands of transactions, there are opportunities for LoTs to attain anonymous reports about usage to better-inform library operations. If you are running a LoT using, the organization’s staff encourage feedback on their platform — so send them your questions and recommendations so the team can continue to optimize the software to make everyone’s experience better.

My final takeaway from the Second Annual International Lending Library Symposium is that this is a global movement with the potential to have huge impact. LoTs help knit together diverse communities. They impart skills and knowledge. They impart values of tolerance, reuse, and sustainability. May these LoTs continue to mushroom around the world and help us achieve the cooperative sustainable future the world demands.

All photos courtesy of Cate Homicki

Sol – Sacramento Nonprofit Creates Links

The Sol Collective Arts and Cultural Center is a 3,200 square-foot space that straddles the border between Land Park and Curtis Park neighborhoods in Sacramento, California. Since the nonprofit was co-founded in 2005 by Estella Sanchez, a former teacher, it has hosted a number of art exhibits, community workshops, youth programs, and other events. The collective recently held an Open Mic, Open Jam hosted by musician, poet, writer, and film editor Andru Defeye and a circle singing event led by Hannah Gladstone, both of which were free and open to the public.

What started as a small project has turned into a local institution — one that not only has provided numerous opportunities to local artists and activists, but has helped develop the local economy. It is one of many burgeoning art co-ops in Northern California, including the La Pena Cultural Center in Berkeley, the Convent Arts Collective in San Francisco, and the Temescal Arts Center in Oakland.

Sol Collective brings both the artist and activist communities together to collaborate on ideas and projects. In the past year, the space has hosted a wide array of concerts, films, poetry readings, open mic events, activism classes, health workshops, art exhibitions, social fundraisers, religious and cultural ceremonies, music performances, showcases, and theater performances. We spoke with Sanchez to learn about what makes Sol Collective so special, and how she plans to continue bringing the artist and activist communities together in Sacramento and beyond for years to come.

Nithin Coca: Can you tell me a bit about your model – what kind of collective is Sol Collective, and how are you officially setup?

Estella Sanchez: It really evolved organically. We’ve been around as a collective for 12 years and have been figuring it out as we go along. But we knew we didn’t want to be an individual business, we didn’t want to be a regular nonprofit organization. It’s a work of progress, and it seems like an ongoing experiment to figure out how to do this kind of work as a collective.

Our legal structure is setup as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. We have a variety of board members. The majority of our executive board members are from an education background — teachers, those affiliated with universities. Our community advisory board is a mix of different people from the community working in the arts, education, social justice, and activism. And then we have a a youth board, with a mix of young people interested in arts, social justice, activism, and community engagement. In a traditional nonprofit, usually only the executive board has voting power, but at our meetings, people sometimes forget what board they’re on because everyone can vote.

What would you say is unique, or special, about Sol Collective? Can you tell me a bit about your members?

New people are always coming in, and it’s a very diverse and intergenerational team that makes make up the collective and the various boards. We have elders in the community who can share their knowledge and experiences, and we have young people who are emergent leaders. Everyone is contributing something different, whether its knowledge, wisdom, social media. They are the “soul” of Sol Collective.

Our model is set to that we have programing that is relevant to the community, led by people coming out of the community who maybe need a team to help construct a program, or a space to do this. A few years ago a student, Ruby Avila, who was very interested in food justice, and had questions why, for example, organic food wasn’t available in her community, came to our space. She… created a garden of organic food — fast forward a few years later — she’s still here, and still working around food justice issues. She created a lot of the food network programming at Sol Collective.

Another one we had an elder in community, Trudy Robles, who was very interested in working around… Mexican Curanderismo, traditional, holistic care, and started these classes for practitioners. That program is now it in its seventh year, and actually has become a regional program, working with traditional practitioners and healers to share knowledge when they traveling through the Southwest or Mexico. She is a now an advisory board member.

Another example, Salvin Chahal came in as a high school student wanted to provide space specifically for South Asian youth who were interested in the arts — create a couple different events, became a part of our advisory board, and now he is working on our team and he is actually running our Sol Life Media platform as a creative director. Just graduated from College — and he’s gotten international support for South Asian arts, from as far as Toronto.

What does Sol Collective bring to the larger community in Sacramento and beyond? How does it benefit local economic development?

We try to create a space to generate local income. We have a local mercado, or store called Global Local Mercado, and one of things that we try to do is we feature art and work from local and global artisans. So we carry a lot of members works — painters, authors, ceramics, artwork — we also… feature work from other collectives. We currently have a project with a 170 indigenous family collective in Oaxaca — artisans that do leather, leatherworks, traditional textiles, wood carvings, jewelry. One of the missions of their collective is to find a way to maintain their traditional way of life and the value of artisans, which they were starting lose after generation.

There is a stigma around being a street vendor in Mexico so they were looking for ways to take the selling off the street, so we work directly with them to carry a lot of their products within Sol, and promote the idea of artisans and the mission of makers as a way of life.

With our local community — we try to help raise awareness of the work that goes into… creating a product. Such as the idea of slow fashion, we try to communicate with our community about where their products are coming from and the benefits of a local and local-global economy and knowing where your things are coming from. Our store embodies the work of global to local artisans focused on sustaining and sharing culture through art, clothing, and accessories.

How do you share your knowledge, model, and learnings with other collectives? Can you tell me a bit about your network as well?

There was no one really doing what we were doing 12 years ago. There was no blueprint for what we were doing. The idea of an arts collective? I didn’t ever hear about that. Now, I feel like everytime I go on social media, I hear about a new collective. It is important to share. We learned a lot while setting up our structure, and when we hit our ten-year mark, we really felt that we needed to start sharing what we had learned. We had been sharing organically throughout the years, but in these last few years we’ve been working on developing some type of written or online model we can share with… other organizations or collectives. What’s worked, what hasn’t worked, the type of programming that we have, etc.

A lot of other collectives have started and used our model, such as one in Sonoma. More and more, groups that saw our work and wanted to something similar in their cities reached out to us. We have a strong relationship with the collective in Oaxaca and have done cultural exchanges with them. We also worked with a collective in Staten Island who wanted to do a event called Global is Local so we gave them seed funding to sponsor that event there. We also did a community mapping project at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas, and it was really a way to find other like minded groups doing similar work.

How have you been able to survive and thrive for 12 years? how do you plan to help ensure Sol Collective is sustainable in the future?

We’ve been around for 12 years, and during that time, we’ve seen a lot of organizations and businesses come and go in our community. So it great for us to not only still be around, but thriving.

Part of the reason that the organization has survived and thrived over the years is that we’ve remained fluid and flexible. Everyone [on our boards] is open to hear and support others who are part of the collective. It may not be something they are 100 percent behind, but if someone else in the collective is passionate about it and believe in that work, they will support it. It’s an open and supportive group of people with different interests that come together and work very well.

I feel like, on our boards, everyone loves each other. There’s really this collective feel between everyone where one feels like we’re all part of this together. We just purchased our building, and that means we, as an organization, will be there long term, even after the founders of the collective are gone.