My name is Conlan, I'm a settler of Jewish and Gaelic descent born and raised on the territories of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, and Musqueam nations. Thanks to a fairly chance encounter studying martial arts as a teen, I became obsessed with movement & the world of the physical. I was lucky to be able to attend a liberal arts university, and shortly after graduating - following our president's adage that graduates "had to create their own jobs" - I found Groundswell. My university had neither departments or majors, but instead required students to focus their studies around a big "question" that would guide their inquiries. My question was "what is suffering?", and I had always dreamed of creating a community organization to build solidarity, self reliance, and youth leadership. Then I came to Groundswell and they helped me do that :)
I started a business called Feral while I was in the Groundswell programs, and now it's my main source of employment. Feral is all about using self-reliance, strength, and freedom to build community. We offer movement training to condition the body, meditation and breathwork to build concentration and mindfulness, and youth leadership to mentor the next generations in building a more just world. We do so through coaching and workshops, and currently train a variety of teams, athletes, and organizations in our methodology. In Spring/Summer 2018 we'll also be offering classes, after school programming, and a free meditation program among other offerings. For us, it's less about creating a "gym" than trying to create scalable alternative to unjust and ineffective systems, grounded in practical traditions such as physical cultivation.
Groundswell's been one of the single most important factors for our growth so far, but there are a few ways that really stand out:
i. Community & Relationships: Networking often means "I maintain a relationship because of the potential for X to fulfill my aims.", but at Groundswell I truly feel a deep sense of community and connection. It's also demonstrtated that individual & community enrichment aren't mutually exclusive: those beautiful friendships have also brought us a basketball team to train, conferences to speak at, grants & funding and a range of exciting partnerships between grassroots ventures.
ii. Justice: Taking a principled position can lead some folks to become aggressive, exclusive, and as cruel as that which they claim to abhor. Likewise, pretending to be value neutral - or simply inaction - only enriches an oppressive and privileged status quo. I have never felt Groundswell to be either of these. Rather, Groundswell recognizes that organizations are beholden to the same standards of justice and equity as any human ought to be, and to that end support reconciliation & decolonization, gender neutral washrooms & equity, and a range of other measures they've implemented to create a positive and engaging environment.
iii. Mentorship: As a part of this entrepreneurial journey, I've learned to relish the mentorship & validation process. And Groundswell teaches this in two very unique ways. Recognizing that problem solving, personal growth, and perseverance are key, they are both honest and incisive with regard to their mentorship. There is no time for wasting time. Simultaneously, Groundswell also maintains an environment of compassion, professionalism, and an extremely supportive community. Together, that makes the ideal environment to grow a business.
While I believe that Groundswell is of utility for many, many folks, I feel like it would really benefit someone who:
i. Has both a deep passion + skilled in that area, ideally something they already do or have experience in: cooking, coaching, woodworking, you name it.
ii. Believes in building community while building their business - i.e. less Milton Friedman, more Paolo Freire.
iii. Recognizes the value in mentorship & community for business development.