According to Sonia Edworthy who is the Administrative Coordinator and Co-Director of CommunityWise, “collaborating with people gives you the ability to amplify any knowledge or skills you may have…ideas from collaboration are often more inspiring, relevant and compelling because they have roots in reality and people.”
CommunityWise maintains what was formerly known as the Old Y Center, a hundred year old building with a long history in social justice. The basic premise to their social enterprise is to provide low rent office and common space for non-profit and grass-root organizations to pursue their initiatives under one cooperative roof. The income supplied by the rental fees is then used to generate the building’s operating budget.
But the members take it one step further.
Edworthy comments, “there is this inspiration to really animate the building and make it a collaborative space…there is a huge need for spontaneous discussion and face to face interaction, which is really important for the evolution of ideas.” CommunityWise’s goal is to link these diverse organizations and facilitate or enhance their collective social impact. “What CommunityWise is doing is very strategic,” says Edworthy, “it is about equity and wellbeing through collaborative work.”
Although CommunityWise’s business model has proven to be a sustainable one, they still struggle with having enough money to cover costs, “finances are always a struggle for us, diversifying our revenue is always really good,” says Edworthy.
Because most of the members of CommunityWise are non-profit and grassroots organizations, they rely mostly on grants, donations and membership fees. Some of these organizations include the Arusha Center, Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers (CSIF) and Alberta Community and Cooperative Association (ACCA)
When speaking to each of these organizations, they all agreed that working in a collaborative space that is non-hierarchal and values collective thinking and participation gives them a resiliency to whatever downfalls they may face.
CommunityWise is simply the destination whereas the The Arusha Center, CSIF and ACCA along with the many other organizations within the building are the main feature. They are essentially the “community” in CommunityWise, many of whom have had a long history within the former Old Y Building.
Take for instance the Arusha Center, a society of activists since the late 1970’s. Their focus has always been about establishing community development projects that are timely and relevant to Calgary. Two of their current projects include Calgary Dollars and Open Streets. Calgary Dollars is a complimentary currency system which was introduced back in 1995 as a means to strengthen the local economy by supporting and bringing together local business and talent within the Calgary community. The Open Streets project re-imagines how public spaces and streets can be used by temporarily closing streets to automobile traffic, and literally “opening the streets” to the public to use for cycling, dancing and socializing.
CSIF is a member and arts-based society comprised of many of Calgary’s local filmmakers. They offer equipment rentals, a film library, workshops and program film festivals, in order to provide local film enthusiasts with opportunity and to encourage film as an art form.
The ACCA provides co-operative resources, support and education for co-operatives, credit unions and agricultural services. Their aim is to foster a flourishing co-operative sector by creating a network of co-operatives and promoting the co-op model.
On October 2nd, CommunityWise will be having an open house to showcase their newly restored historic balcony. They invite you to come meet all the brilliant organizations and social enterprises who are housed under the CommunityWise roof.
Case Study Jasmine Retzer, Student, Mount Royal University