Q: What is "alternative-to-business"?

 Not a one word answer, that's for sure.  The complexity of the answer is dealt with on a regular basis at Groundswell.   In fact, it's mostly answered with more questions, for example:  How is what we're doing -  alternatives-to-business -  different from what other social entrepreneurs are doing? How does social innovation fit in - and what does that really mean?  Is there such a thing as too alternative or not alternative enough? How much impact do I have to - or can I - make?Another answer we give is not in the form of words, it's our projects, spanning scales and sectors, our personal gifts to the world.   
We also answer with a lot more feeling than "business" is used to:   Just that word puts me off.  It makes me feel _______ , or even *%@#*&!$!!!  Tears, laughter, spontaneous beat boxing and dance moves, inspired and supported by the community we do this in.  If Groundswell can do anything, it can create a safe place where all questions and feelings are given space and attention.


But one thing we acknowledge here is that change happens - needs to happen - at all scales, and in many different ways.  Inside, and outside, yourself.  That how you do something matters more than what you do.

Here is a crowdsourced blog post from the Groundswell cohort and team answering the question: what do think alternatives-to-business is?  

What is it?
Business to me is the exchange of goods or services. alternatives to business would be just giving. Burning Man comes to mind when I think of alternatives to business. Giving to give. 
What do you think it means?
I think more so think of alternative "approaches" to businesses. What I WANT it to mean is "compassionate businesses". Honest exchanges.
Currency can be other products and services. Historically, money was anything from salt to labour. Money is a human societal construct. It's not bad nor good. It's just part of the current system. Why hate it? It's us, the people, behind our held currency that dictates how it is used. So if we don't like something, let's change the root of the problem - us. 
What do you think it is?
What do you feel it should be?
I feel that business should be honest, beneficial to the everyone including the environment, caring and fulfilling of needs for the world as a whole. I also believe everyone has the right and space for their own interpretation. Business should feel good and not icky like oil spills.  
What you are doing to build it?
Hopefully helping others build more honest, compassionate businesses (compassionate to themselves and others). Building my own businesses to be honest and compassionate. 
What does it look like?
A long luminescent string of spaghetti. 
- Tiffany S.

Fearlessly self-reflective, Recklessly compassionate,

Celebrations of our ability to create joy, abundance, and love.

Endlessly in process, yet

Certain of our capacity to organize for equality, inclusivity, diversity, regenerative ecologies, healing and vitality.

They are Hope.
~ Stuart H.
Creatively negotiating the maelstrom of boredom, uniformity and staleness that is Capitalism.
~ Kim D.V.G.
Mutual aid and community care.
~ Kelsey C.
The Surrey Youth Space borrowing from the Vancouver Tool Library with a Modo car?
-Spencer R.
Taking time for our individual selves to heal from what it is we find ourselves in.
Meeting people where they are at....providing a safe, welcoming space for people to come and create meaningful work.
~ Jocelynn R.
Hopefully this isn't too academic sounding, but when I think of alternatives to business I think of the opening of space, both physical and literal, for a different kind of energy to flow--into our economy, our daily relations, our literal spaces and places where alternatives themselves are lived, rather than only imagined. An alternative path is not one where we see the end, or have control over the finished product. It's driven by an ethos that acknowledges we need to begin where we are, and hope that our contribution allows for ourselves and others to live better.

Or something like that, anyway.

~ Chris N.
Radically shifting how we think about profit - what constitutes it, how we create it, who benefits from it
Working together to minimize our blind spots
Being prepared to be wrong… learning to shift and grow from this
Bringing joy and love to all that we create and do!
 - Emily H.
Reimagining what is possible, going there, pulling others with us by showing the way, calling them in.  Putting humanity back into flows of exchange by incorporating design principles from nature: resilience, self-regulation, strong healthy networks, resource sharing, creativity, cycles, adaptive flow, just distribution of resources...

Increasing other types of capital besides financial: social, living, material, cultural, spiritual, natural, intellectual, experiential and place capital. 
- Paola Q.
What do you think? #alt2biz @groundswellYVR

Mind Over Mattress: Pondering about Groundswell Living

It has been almost 6 months since my last blog post and I find it difficult to put into coherent words what this time has been like. Much of it has not been coherent, but rather emotion or energy. Inspired by our last couple of weeks of creative expression I will save the sentences for a later date and instead share some musings. Feel free to call it a poem.

If I were to gaze at the reflection of these past months what would peer back? All the things we have shared? All the things we have lost? All the tears shed and the fears held? The meals, talks, hugs, creations, oh the jokes, the PUNS!

The faces have changed. Those that have been here since the beginning are familiar to me now; like they are a part of me somehow. I hold them inside myself and cherish them dearly.  

But what about the new? Those we picked up along the way, absorbing them as an amoeba does its sustenance through a strange combination of osmosis and the hunt.

They add a pleasant disturbance in the familiar background that attracts my attention and makes me look again; soaking up their new faces as I would the intense Spring sun. They begin to settle beside the old. Will they take the empty spots on the sweet mail? Or is it too late?

But what about the old? Those that birthed this beast we see around us. Where the hell are they? Why aren't they here?

The space has changed. The chairs left behind, hurt my behind. The centrepiece made of cedar and holly and joy and companionship and fun, tossed in the garbage. We are practising zero waste after all!

We are asked for trust. Trust? What the fuck does that mean? Is that something I am able to do anymore? Instead I sit in the uncomfortable space next to fear. I am starting to feel comfortable here, like my worn out mattress; I sleep in that deep groove that makes my back ache the next morning. How can we upcycle that?

But there is beauty too. Back to those faces, both old and new. They are beautiful, wondrous beings that make the world worth living. From them I learn about making the world as we make a living, as we do the impossible.

Impossible. It is impossible, so instead we find the compromise. There is no winning innovation when not everyone can win, so WE get to decide who wins. It's the folks from Railtown, who win this round. Fuck them, they always win. I am so sick of them winning!

Then I ponder their prize... And I realize I prefer to be on the losing team. So here I am on the losing team, surrounded by a bunch of losers that I love so much. Maybe next time we will get team jerseys and that will make all the difference. What would those look like?

By Groundswellian, Kim De Valle Garcia

mind over mattress Kim DVG

Cafe opening, financial sheets and the ocean horizon

Congratulations to Groundswell Café! Huge news! Groundswell Café is now open for business! Over the week the last few touches were made to get everything in order before opening. The Wood Shop Co-op made really slick looking boards and a few cohorts from the Groundswell Program filled in the menu. Plants and banners and comfortable seats were brought in. The space has been transformed into a warm and welcoming café and it’s exciting to see all the hard work come to a glorious beginning. Congratulations to all those who put the time and sweat into it.



How do we measure value?

This week in the Groundswell Program we have been working on our financials again with Jeremy Stone. We’ve been given template spreadsheets in order to begin projecting how much we need to make in in order to survive and thrive in this crazy world. Taxes and grant projections yo. The subject of money is always a sensitive subject for me and it seems like a lot of other Groundswell crew. At this stage we have to focus on monetary value of our services as it functions in the real world. How much is our skill set worth when its being purchased by someone else? Where will the money come from to pay our bills? This is a hard question it seems.

Learning from the mentors this week we break away from self doubt and into asking for what we need in order to become the strongest organization we can become. With a strong organization we can do more and reach more.

I see great value in soaking up all the intricate details of running the finances of a business. This stage is all about projecting forward into the avenues that will allow us the resource to run with our ideas. Projecting where money will come from in the future has always been something I avoided but I see great power in being financially ready for what’s to come. It just takes one stress off my mind and lets me do the work I want to do for the people I want to work with. Not money security necessarily but fulfilment! Paying rent and eating should be automatic. You cannot stretch yourself so thin as to affect and maybe stop your work. I’m soaking up all that I can in the 3 weeks we have with Jeremy and getting excited about Spring and Summer portion of the class where we start seeing everyone's ideas come to the surface.

Just to lighten up the financial talk: ART!

I’ve found more interesting and vocal photographs of Vancouver from The Vancouver Flea Market and wanted to share them. Records of our past. Documented sentiments from another time. I have hundreds more if you want a look sometime just ask!




Here are a couple from a series I’m collecting called ‘the ocean horizon’.



These are photographs collected from flea markets and garage sales of the ocean horizon.

The line of the horizon is slightly off in each photo. That error is evidence of a presence behind the camera. The hand is temporary the ocean is eternal.

Theres something about coming to the edge of land and standing in front of an endless outreach of water. When this happens some of us want to capture this event and photograph it. We stand at the edge of land, raise our camera in a moment to remember. Over generations from the 1920’s to present day. The effect of seeing them together is surreal and jarring and reminds me of the similarities we all share, over time and space.

What do we hold common?

Thanks for your time and care!

Billy Koruna




By Groundswell participant Kelsey Corbett The new year has brought on a totally different change and energy at Groundswell. I’ve spent a lot of time this past month thinking about it and trying to figure out how i feel about it. The year has also set a totally different pace since we started jumping into creating a project, which I am super stoked about. So i guess this blog will be written in two parts: 1) the Groundswell project and 2) the project i’m working on.



Dang. What a cool project with so much potential. But damn. Why does it feel so hard? I guess being on the more radical side of the spectrum, I’m feeling a lot of things come up and have been processing them hard (sorry to my partner and friends!). But i think it’s good, and i think something really tangible and constructive has come out of it, for me, and hopefully for Groundswell and the Cafe too (maybe).

First, after a lot of conversations with folks in the class who also participated in Session 1, we met with Gilad and Andrea to talk about Session 2 structure changes and how they have been affecting us and our class dynamic. The result of the conversation was awesome. Gilad and Andrea listened to us, and decided to alter the curriculum to bring in designated time for facilitated introspective and emotional work not revolved around our projects. I’m very happy about this because i think a lot of the reason i’ve felt very connected to the GS community this year is largely due to how open and vulnerable we have been to each other during the “Greenhouse” (formerly Personal Development) class. A safer and supportive space to be vulnerable in brings more depth to our interactions and strengthens our class community. So, i’m stoked on that.


GScafeWednesday we had some folks come to speak on a panel about the “Shared Economy”. It brought some clarity around some of the discomfort i've been feeling, which is really good. During the presentation, and often at Groundswell, people use the term “the community” liberally and without specifying who the community is. “We welcome in the community!” “The community will create the space,” etc, etc. But who is the community that is being referred to? In my observation, the community being spoken of seems to be a reflection of the community (organizers, facilitators and participants) that speak about it. The greater Groundswell community is made up primarily by a very specific demographic of mostly white, young, “up-and-coming” (soon-to-be-middle-class), progressive, and predominantly straight social entrepreneurs and enthusiasts. I have been uncomfortable with the term “community” being used in this way, mainly because it doesn’t reflect myself or my communities, as i am a mixed race, genderqueer and trans, anti-colonial activist/nanny. I recognize that there is a  specific demographic of people that Groundswell is currently serving and appealing to, but I think this needs to be clearly and consistently talked about. When trying to be inclusive, we should recognize that certain communities overshadow others, and acknowledging that is one good step towards accountability to and recognition of those who are not in the space.

THE CAFEGScommunity

Set to open its doors as a community cafe Feb 10th (so soon!), I’m really excited for the folks running the project, and I also have some concerns.

First, I have to acknowledge the effort, passion and love Amanda and Brian (among others) are putting into creating the menu, putting the word out and making such incredible food. I am really proud of and happy for them.

Secondly, I have concerns that the cafe is going to submit to the same fate as Fat Dragon, our predecessors who only lasted 8 months at 566 Powell. I wish for the cafe to thrive, and i don’t want anyone to shit on our doors either (which is what happened to Fat Dragon). I think it is essential to the survival of Groundswell Cafe that the space be a resource to the community (the DTES neighborhood) for a couple reasons.

  1. As Fat Dragon (and Gorrilla Foods) have proven, people with a higher economic standing aren’t buying food at Powell and Princess, even though it is only about 6 blocks from gastown. And it doesn’t seem like people in the neighborhood ate at either restaurant, since both only lasted for about 8 months.
  2. To be welcomed into the DTES/Oppenheimer community, I think Groundswell Cafe will have to prove that they are there for the existing neighborhood, and will not be an entity that pushes neighborhood folk out.
  3. Given that Groundswell values social justice, I think it only makes sense that there is intentionality in how Groundswell Cafe can share their resources with this community.

So here are 5 suggestions I have:

  1. Provide 3 computers for free access to the internet (I’m sure Free Geek has some for next to nothing)
  2. Allow free bathroom access and put needleboxes in them
  3. Put a Free Phone outside (the people’s phone)
  4. 3$ Sandwich and Tea (gramma style, super simple and yummy: cucumber, cheese and mayo; eggsalad sammies; cut into triangle quarters, that kind of thing)
  5. By donation soup and/or curry

Implementing these things would be super easy and not very resource-intensive. I believe these services would be welcomed and used, and it would allow space to simultaneously serve beautiful, quality food at a deserved price to a different demographic. It would be a way to reach folks from different communities while still following shared economy values, and be a starting point for a less gentrifying space.

Just my suggestions…



So much has happened in the last week, and I really appreciate the community that has been fostered at Groundswell. The friendships that are coming out of GS are solid and I believe they will be long-lasting. I am grateful for that. I feel so much love for my co-creators, and though we have only been organizing together for a month, we have made so much headway, and our personalities seem to click really well.

So far we have incorporated as a non-profit, called Youth and Arts Society of Surrey, created a tumblr blog, started pulling together a zine about people’s experiences in high school, and built a website. Last week after quite a lot of effort, we figured out the traditional territories that our project will most likely be residing on, being of the Katzie, Kwantlen, Semiahmoo and Tsawwassen peoples. Thanks to Shawnee, we also met with an lgbt*q youth group in Surrey who was really stoked on the idea of having an inclusive, non-judgemental arts-based youth drop-in space in their hometown. With the feedback they gave, the meeting felt very validating to what we are doing. It also just felt really good to meet and chat with youth in Surrey to see what they’re into and what their experiences have been like. We are looking forward to doing more of that!

Our project is moving fast, and it’s intense, and also feeling good. Thanks Wes for the website feedback. We got!


In all, I’m feeling pretty grateful to be part of this experience, especially with this year’s cohort which is filled with amazing and supportive people. I am really appreciative of the openness to feedback and flexibility that all of the facilitators and organizers of Groundswell have been consistently demonstrating, and also for their feedback and mentorship. So thank you Paola, Emily, Tiffany, Andrea, Wes, Gilad, Amanda and Jim! And Reilly, we miss you!



The Rise and Implications of Social Enterprise in the DTES


A talk and discussion about social enterprise in the DTES with Wes Regan 5:15 - 7 pm, Tuesday, January 6th

566 Powell St.

wes reganWes Regan has worked in community economic development in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside since 2009, with a particular focus on social innovation and inclusion, social enterprise and community programming. As a current graduate student in the SFU Urban Studies program Wes was the 2014 Rosenbluth Intern with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, where he conducted research into the social economy space, social enterprise and gentrification along with Jeremy Stone, PhD candidate at UBC SCARP, also a Rosenbluth Internship winner. Wes is the Executive Director for the Hastings Crossing Business Improvement Association, current Chair of LOCO BC and is a Partner in the BC Partners for Social Impact, examining the impact and potential of social innovation throughout British Columbia. Currently he was Business and Communications Associate at Building Opportunities with Business. This presentation focuses on the rise of social enterprise in the DTES, considerations in this emerging industry and community space, typologies of social ventures and forms of community impact. 


Clothing Swap! Sunday, November 30 @ 2PM

clothingSunday November 30, you are invited to Groundswell for an afternoon clothing swap that will blow open your fashion possibilities while also serving a very good cause. 
Bring down a bag of clothes that no longer serve you, and sift through mountains of pre-loved things, drink tea, have a glass of wine, and walk out looking and feeling fabulous

This is an all-genders inclusive event. We have private changing areas in place and welcome everyone.
Come On Down Darling, You Are Beautiful.

A few guidelines on what to bring....
There is a need for donated warm things, like coats, gloves, hats, scarves, sweaters, shoes, socks, etc.
Please no "projects" (ie; half finished sewing projects)
A $2 donation is requested, all of which will go directly to WISH.
Clothing should be clean and free of stains, holes, bugs.
Formal Attire (dresses, suits)
Kids clothing
Jewellery & accessories

Join on Facebook!

metaphors, mushrooms and movement

Hello!mushroom-58487_640 I feel really grateful and challenged to be writing this update in what our cohort has described as a space where we are shifting in energy towards more movement and creativity in our thinking.  We all acknowledged and were grateful that we waded through some months of heavy contemplation, unpacking, critiquing, and acknowledging a greater harsh reality that involves and affects us all in different ways.  I personally want to thank everyone who has been on this journey - even guest speakers - because every week I feel I am entering a most magical and loving place and also one in which I attempt to critically question being a settler on stolen land. What we have been now challenged to do as I understand it is more collaborative dreaming - needing to creatively imagine and act on ideas though projects that address deep and intersectional issues in our communities.  We expressed uplifting feelings, moving into this new cycle, yet are not discarding our heavy roots that keep us grounded. It seems we are entering a lucid state where we need to be awake and dreaming at the same time. Speaking of roots, we like metaphors!.. and I realized they really help me learn.  Related to that (bare with me) is a subtheme of our groups, our projects and ourselves mimicking nature - permaculture - and using nature as metaphor for understanding.  So here goes.. We have so many interconnecting skills in our group and one of those is a knowledge and respect for fungi; I've heard a lot about mushrooms specifically.  I only knew a little bit about fungus and mushrooms before I came to groundswell but wow - are they ever more amazing and such helpful teachers.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This week when starting Reilly's class on networks and technology, we were discussing communities of practice and what defines them and what makes them healthy or unhealthy. One healthy community of practice tenant is if someone leaves, the work still continues.  This really resonated with me in my own journey into groundswell and now in the creation of a project.  I feel this idea means that we would set up projects in teams and groups in a way that everyone understands the overall meaning, messages, goals and how each voice matters.  Information, love and resources could be shared and organized in a way that if one person needs to do something else, the connection and movement outward (and inward) to others still remains strong.  The metaphor linking this idea in class was mycelium. After a little research (somehow I never took biology in school) I really began to understand it as a metaphor for the creative work we are attempting to do.  I learned that mycelium is a part of fungus that spreads out in different ecosystems and processes and distributes nutrients.  So it's not quite a mushroom but if combined it can fruit mushrooms.  It is even capable of existing in large mat-like structures under the roots of trees and is actually capable of killing whole forests and supporting new ones to grow.  I also learned that mycelium can be very tiny groups or enormous organisms that link across thousands of acres.  I also learned of a specific process called mycofiltration which is essentially the network filtering out certain elements/chemicals or parts, separating things and moving them along. In conclusion I am offering that using poetic elements and nature as metaphor is a creative way that we can dream up healthy groups and ideas as we move forward.  Like the mycelium, I see our role in groundswell is to digest information and then share it where we best think it could be used.  We could do this is tiny ways or in huge ways - both are necessary and needed.  We could take down entire ways of thinking or we could support one person in our community.  Fundamentally however, we are learning how we could all consider our work interconnected in groundswell.  Perhaps storytelling about how our projects interweave at the end will be a helpful process I will also go dream about :) -Kim mushroom snail

IMPACT Vancouver - November 19th

IMPACT banner

IMPACT logo blueDiscover what it means to create impact in business: a full day of startup workshops, inspiring keynotes, and networking.

Click here for event website

#VanIMPACT14 will be a collision of purpose and profit, giving impact entrepreneurs and NPOs access to important startup advice and resources, while conversely helping more tech-centric entrepreneurs discover their own impact potential.

The full-day event will feature the following:

  • Startup workshops, including 'How to Make Your Startup Financially Viable', 'Capital Raising for Entrepreneurs', & 'Choosing the Best Structure for Your Social Venture'(see workshop schedule here)
  • Keynote speakers, including Katherine Woo (Chief Product Officer, Kiva) & Joel Solomon (Chairman, Renewal Funds)
  • 'Ones to Watch' Showcase (invite-only)
  • Service & Technology Partners Marketplace
  • Evening reception
  • After-party with musical performance by SOHN

IMPACT will be inspiring, educational, and motivating for anyone looking to make a positive impact on the world. Join the conversation #VanIMPACT14.

What's included in your ticket?

Daytime Pass (8am - 6pm):

  • Your choice of 5 workshops (from a possible 15)
  • Keynote by Joel Solomon, Renewal Funds
  • Keynote Panel, including Ilana Labow (Fresh Roots Urban Farm Society), Tim Crosby (Slow Money Northwest), and Ryan Spong (Foodee & Tacofino)
  • Service & Technology Partners Marketplace
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch

Evening Pass (4:30 - 9pm + after-party):

  • Service & Technology Partners Marketplace
  • Keynote by Katherine Woo, Kiva
  • Networking reception
  • Canapés
  • 2 drink tickets
  • Access to after-party


All-Day Pass (8:30am - 9pm + after-party):

  • All the goodies listed above!

Terms & Conditions

The venue is a liquor-primary establishment, therefore government-issued ID will be checked upon entry.

Sponsored By

Vancouver Economic Commission
Lundin Foundation
Smythe Ratcliffe
Miller Titerle + Company LLP
Granted Consulting

Rooted in the garden is belonging to community

I like to multitask. I seem to get the most done when I’m working on many tasks at once. When I was asked to write a blog post for the art hives site, and also write about my experiences at a recent art therapy conference, and make a blog post for Groundswell, I sensed a multitasking opportunity. I was in the garden, preparing our community garden plot for the winter. As I was digging around, I encountered a lot of roots, some shallow and fine, and others spindly and deep. But nothing compared to what I discovered when trying to pull up the lemon balm. This plant was by far our most successful crop, and is HUGE. So, I couldn’t stand the thought of potentially leaving it behind. I started pulling, and digging, and pulling some more. It took a lot of sweating and a good 15 minutes to get this thing out of the ground. It had some deep roots!

Sarah blog photo

Did I mention I’m a weaver? I’m planning to weave all these stories together, just you wait.

I started thinking about all the communities I’m a part of, and my longtime search for community in general. I’ve been reluctant to put down roots, or fully commit to a community, and have always been someone who has a diverse group of friends, jobs and interests. There’s something about committing and focusing that enables you to actually be a part of the group in a real way, and finally be brave enough to enter the community you want to be a part of. I felt this when I decided to study art therapy. For the first time in my working life, I was on the path to pursuing something that really resonated. Then, last summer I studied community art at Concordia, and felt like I’d found another niche. Now, stepping into Groundswell, I’m going deeper with the work I want to be doing in the world and finding this amazing community in the process. Having the courage to step toward these spaces has made a big difference in my life.

So, roots...groundswell. Grounding. Going back to the roots. There’s something very important here for a bird like myself. Finding a place to ground the learning I’ve had so far feels very important. I was wondering if I’ve been moving away from art therapy, but I think what’s happening is that I’m finding a way to integrate parts of myself and my experience into a meaningful professional practice and fulfilling life. Working with our SWOT this week (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, all identified by your nearest and dearest) brought a lot of these seemingly diverse points and personality traits together in new ways.

In class this week, Gerry talked about chameleons not making good radicals. I’ve been trying to figure out a balance between fitting in with many different people, but also standing for what is important to me. Balancing the nurturing qualities of a therapist, and also advocating for creative rights in community feels like my life’s work. Our new classes, How Money Works and Ethics and Contemporary Capitalism, are definitely challenging for me to get my head around, but I’m excited about going into the experience with a beginners mind, remaining open to not knowing the answers and taking it all in.

That lemon balm in our garden developed strong roots in a short period of time. I feel that’s happened for me with Groundswell. Being part of a group of people who are committed to making change is very grounding and roots a lot of the ideas in my birdbrain. A lot of these ideas have gone very deep in a short period of time. I just need to find a way to embrace the chameleon, while keeping my true colours strong.

~ Sarah

Brain food digestion in process


It’s 11:00am on Thanksgiving Monday. I’m sprawled across my couch, semi-comatose, digesting ferociously. The morning’s low clouds have excused any serious activity so I’m cozying up with a mug of ginger tea and getting down to business. Tracy Chapman is turned down low in the kitchen. I’m wearing my thickest wool socks. Everything is in place for that post-feast marathon. Odds are, you can relate.

What might be surprising is the fact that I didn’t carve into an enormous dinner during the weekend. This year I’m bracketing my Thanksgiving with a trip to Seattle last weekend and one to Salt Spring Island next Friday. This weekend is a quiet interlude for me. What has me couch-bound is not a Thanksgiving meal but the enormous task of churning through Groundswell’s intellectual feast. The lectures and workshops in week five once again packed my mind and body with ideas to tease apart, mull over, integrate and absorb. I’m stuffed!

A single blog post can’t possibly give full justice to the depth and breadth of the material we covered last week. Each day filled pages of my notebook and hours of my thoughts. Monday’s full day anti-oppression workshop with Kalamity Hildebrant left me inspired and exhausted. I have such gratitude for their deft facilitation and the willingness of my fellow Groundswellians to compassionately hold each other accountable as we navigate and deconstruct systems of social oppression. Tuesday’s presentation by Itai Bavlion on growing up as a Kibbutznic enlivened my ability to imagine alternative modes of community social organization—‘juicy’ and otherwise. Again, I left feeling shaken out of my default understanding of what is possible and all the richer for it. Liz Lougheed Green’s practical advice that afternoon served as a perfect compliment to the morning’s conversation. Her wise suggestions regarding financing and organizational branding grounded my lofty ideas with pragmatic insight into the functioning of alternative-businesses in Vancouver. I’m continually amazed by the generosity of guests such as Liz to speak frankly about their rich personal experiences as social entrepreneurs. Wednesday evening’s presentation by Christina Ladhe and Violet Rose Pharaoh from East Van Roaster’s seamlessly continued these conversations. Their willingness to engage with the complex and muddy process of creating socially just business alternatives revealed an admirable bravery. It wasn’t just the delicious potluck spread that left me feeling warm and content as I biked home that night.

Although summarizing this week’s lessons and anecdotes is impossible, two themes appear to weave through my experience of the week’s conversations. First is a feeling of fullness that comes from hearing about the diverse work occurring in our communities. Second is a feeling of gratitude for the trusting willingness my fellow students and the wider Groundswell community to engage with challenging ideas, narratives, identities and social systems. A perfect Thanksgiving combination. I’ll be making sandwiches from these leftovers for weeks. But for now, please excuse me while I pull up this blanket and dim the lights. I think I need to sleep this one off. The Groundswell feast starts again tomorrow.

Giving thanks,

Groundswell on!

Deconstructing Oppression: One Turkey (or Tofurkey) Dinner at a Time

family dinnerFor many of us the dreaded family dinner is a battle. Like holding your breathe under water you suppress the beliefs and opinions that we have endlessly pondered over, that we have researched, and that we have discussed. Pushing them down into a deep crevasse, we sandwich these notions that we hold so highly somewhere between our large intestine and our right kidney; never to be digested and left to wither like a preserved bog man and maybe excavated during your daughter's wedding 25 to 30 years down the road. In my experience family dinners, especially those celebrating colonial holidays such as Thanksgiving, follow a fairly reliable performance that goes something like this:

Opening Scene - Said family is sitting around a table heaped with food (including a number of items that I cannot consume). Around the table we go expressing those things we are thankful for, which generally has to do with the stuffing (I heard it was delicious). The gratitude train reaches me and I'm still stumped, but respond with:

Me: (almost awkwardly long pause and an attempt to stumble through something that resembles gratitude about friends and family, which I am grateful for, and perhaps even the stuffing, which smells good...) “I seem to have an emotional blockage about this word gratitude, I don't know if I can answer this.”

One member of family: “Wait, you can do that?”

Me: “But I would like to acknowledge the land that we are on...”

Another member of the family: (Cutting me off in what was certainly was an attempt to change the subject before I got to something “touchy”) “Yes, we live in a beautiful country, Canada, and a have a wonderful house and I am so thankful for that.”

Me: “Actually, I was hoping to acknowledge that we are on the traditional unceeded lands of the Coast Salish Peoples. Land that was stolen and no treaties have been signed. I think that it is especially important to acknowledge this on Thanksgiving due to the colonial history of this holiday.”

All Family: (silently staring)

Me: (talking a bit faster and starting to sweat) “I participated in this anti-oppression workshop on Monday in class and happen to have a handout on the Coast Salish People and their traditional territories. It even has a map. Would you like to see?”

All Family: (silently staring)

Me: (talking even faster and dabbing my forehead with a napkin) “We also mapped out our privilege. That might be a fun thing to do after dinner. You know, some families play board games, we can deconstruct systems of oppression, hahaha ha haaa h...”

speak truthThis is generally the point where shit hits the fan (sometimes literally) and my entire family spends the next 2 to 4 hours yelling, interrupting, debating, coercing, questioning, and denying while my 4 year old niece, having been at the ready with her wooden spoon, facilitates the conversation, by trying to pass around a talking stick (bless her heart). In the end our stomachs ache from cramming too much food too quickly, our heads hurt from the general volume at the table, and our brains are fried from thinking around and around in circles of sexism, racism, prison systems, the rights of the disabled, gender roles, and finally, exhausted, finishing right back where we started with the genocide of the First Nations in Canada. The table is a mess, since I have been ripping my napkin into tiny bits and my sisters have polished off 3 bottles of wine and are now cracking open the tequila. We are sweaty, drunk, angry, exhausted, and currently don't really like each other, but we made it through.

I take a breathe and a sip of water. After a few seconds of stillness it hits me; I have an answer for the big G question. I am grateful that my family went through this process with me. Deconstructing oppression is exhausting and leaves everyone feeling uncomfortable. My family could have ignored me, patronized me or denied me the right to express myself (I realize that they also could have listened intently, seen my point of view and changed the way they interact with the world, but who are we kidding). Instead, my family engaged in the conversation and they did this for me.

As I become more aware of systematic oppression I find myself becoming incredibly sensitive to it. The slightest hint of sexism and I'm crying; classism makes me want to tear my hair out and don't even get me started on heterosexism. I realize more and more how vital emotional safety is to me how important it is to it is to be surrounded by loving, caring individuals. Individuals that are critical of the society and systems we find ourselves part of. Individuals that realize how their judgements of me not shaving my armpits or eating out of a dumpster effect me.

Fostering these relationships takes time and oh so much work. Unfortunately my family, like many,  does not get together in a healing circle and share their feelings, so is seems the only available venue is the dinner table. So next time you wreck Thanksgiving dinner by addressing the migrant workers that are enslaved to grow the peach cobbler your eating or the horrendous conditions that your turkey had to live in before being brutally slaughtered, scrap the anger and the guilt. Instead remind yourself to be grateful that you can have these discussions. That your family is taking the baby steps towards deconstructing oppression whether they realize it or not.

This is me jumping out of my comfort zone

I have half an hour to write this blog.  I work best with a deadline so lets see how this goes. comfort zone

Just read Kim’s post (first of the year) and that may have been a mistake.  Now I feel like my random ramblings are not going to measure up.  I can’t write like that.  Why did I volunteer to write the second week blog?  Oh yeah, cause I DID NOT WANT TO.

This class has a greater purpose for me, for all of us I am sure.  I am here to better mine and my daughter’s life while simultaneously changing the world (or at least my small corner with my unique set of talents and passions).  Accomplishing this in 8 short months is going to require me leaving my comfort zone repeatedly.  So when there was a blank spot on week 2 blog sign up and I DID NOT WANT TO WRITE I jumped out of my comfort zone.

It’s Monday night of week three and I promised Paola that I would get the blog to her tonight so now I don't have time to write the post... then obsess over it...and change it for the next few weeks before feeling confident; and that is not comfortable.

Looking back at the last week; I remember driving to Groundswell Monday morning and I was struck with this overwhelming sense of gratitude.  That my MONDAY consisted of getting to go to this amazing space with this group of amazing people and I get to create an amazing business to do amazing things.  (No time to thesaurus amazing synonyms)

We started half hour early that day and more rush of gratitude as Spencer brought the promised french press for coffee. Then Gilad shared his timeline.  I don't think it is possible to watch someone be vulnerable telling their authentic story and not fall in love with the beauty in them.  And so I felt myself fall in love with each member of my small group as they shared their own timelines.  I saw a piece of myself in them.  But maybe even more important I saw a piece of my daughter in them.  That spark of beauty and uniqueness that we all posses and alter along our life path.  It is a truth that I found with the birth of my daughter.  We are all worthy of love simply for existing.

The was a lot of great things covered the second week.  Theory of change, Gilad’s interpretation of “Little house on the periphery” and how our education system works. We ended Tuesday with a spiral of learning.  After that lesson, I gave myself permission to get stuck and feel uncomfortable with my project, with new and old material and even in relationships and so I took myself up on that offer.  I spent the rest of the week feeling kinda bad for no reason I have yet to pinpoint. I think I just wanted to get to the deeper learning and first I must pass through all the “seasons” of learning.  So I moved on to fall and winter knowing that monday morning would bring a new spring.  And since I am writing this on Monday...spoiler alert….it did.



written by Jubilee, Groundswell participant

Every Revolution Starts in a Cafe

It was Monday, 9am and day one of Groundswell. After frantically juggling my morning chores (which consist of a number of feedings: feeding the cat, feeding the dog, feeding the chickens, feeding the worm compost and maybe even getting around to feeding myself), I hopped on my bike and headed North. It seems like there is never enough time to get ready for these things, even if you are one of the keeners, like myself, who after applying way back in March, then had 6 months to “prepare.” 6 months to wait. 6 months to sit with my worries, doubts and far too much excitement to handle.powell green light I made it as far as 1st Ave before hitting a red light, both literally and figuratively: “What the hell am I doing?” Eventually the light turned green and the pack of cyclists that had formed behind me pressed me forward. It felt good heading to the Downtown Eastside first thing in the morning; just like old times at the Neighbourhood House. Arriving late, I stumbled into an already well-formed, however oblong, circle. Class had started and I had made it. Only time will tell if I made a huge mistake.

I found a seat near the front of the room, which was open to interpretation seeing as it was a circle. I had been in the Groundswell space before and felt uncomfortable with the fancy aesthetics in this part of town: a sure sign of gentrification. But then a cockroach crawled across my shoe and I felt a bit more comfortable. “Hi little guy, or girl or no preferred gender,” I thought to the little creature. This just as we made our way around the circle introducing ourselves by telling a story about our name, how we were feeling and our preferred pronoun.

It was nice to be in an educational space which dealt with our emotions first thing and where the majority of participants either identified as she/her or they/them. Patriarchy in institutional education...not in this space. It was relieving to see how many of my Groundswell comrades shared my simultaneous feelings of anxiety and excitement, doubt mixed with trust. They seemed like a rad bunch.

Most of the morning blew by in a flurry of housekeeping and mingling until our first guest speaker, Lauralei (Raven-Wing), arrived. A First Nations elder from the Cree nation and a medicine woman, she bravely faced the group; and, in a refreshingly frank and open way, she answered any questions we had. She touched on topics ranging from colonization to the gender spectrum. The latter she termed “genderful.” Already I was starting to feel a bit more settled. Phew...

Forming groups, we discussed questions we had about the neighbourhood in which we would be spending so much of our time for the next 8 months. My group, neglecting our assigned task, spent our time brainstorming the ways in which this space, our space, could become a hub for the community. Popcorn style:

cafe feet

People's Phone Community                         Potlucks          Bathrooms               Harm Reduction                            Free/Cheap Coffee     Tent City Support               Free School              Clothing Rack             Office Space      Inclusivity            Library   Free Store

I was starting to get excited. But it wasn't until the day had ended and I was chatting with Gilad that I heard the sentence that settled my troubled mind: “every revolution starts in a cafe,” he said.  Now I was seeing all the possibilities of the space, the Groundswell team and our community at large. Not too shabby for my first day. Finishing up this post, I saved it to a new folder I created on my computer entitled “Groundswell.” Shit's real now.

written by Groundswell participant Kim Del Valle Garcia


Sweet Summer Swell! Now it's back to school, and work (but not as usual, of course)

Fall Session starts next week, but first let's see what the summer had in store for Groundswell and the alternatives-to-business seeking community.  Kevin Elliot, a participant from Groundswell's first year and editor of the Agorian, a soon-to-be launched online magazine, has been in touch with the team at Groundswell over the summer and sums up the excitement and swell we've been creating.  Are you part of the groundswell yet?  Kevin Elliot

“Not business as usual” never before sounded so counter-intuitively promising. The excitement Groundswell fosters in the community through its summer events is in anticipation of contributing to a new way of thinking about doing business and what it means to live together.

Groundswell is making a splash in the city’s burgeoning “new economy” movement after wrapping up our inaugural year last spring and since growing in unexpected ways.

A summer of buzz has helped us refine the program and spread its message, and people are coming out and noticing.

“We hosted a community discussion forum at Café Deux Soleils and an inadvertent scheduling conflict pushed it to a Saturday night,” explains Groundswell’s operations coordinator, Paola Qualizza. “But the fact that every table was occupied and people stayed after hours – on a Saturday night in summer – speaks directly to the fervour for social and economic change around which Groundswell is mobilizing.”

As we emerge from the infancy of our launch year, Groundswell is ballooning into a continually growing community itself.

“It is exciting to see new projects emerge, but what is most interesting about Groundswell is to see what happens when we start putting them together, creating a supportive network and community,” says co-founder Matt Hern.

We are excited about continuing to promote the core idea in the program, which remains our commitment to building towards a sustainable society that functions outside of strictly for-profit mentalities.

The feedback on this core idea has been overwhelmingly positive. “The variety of people we have reached through our open houses all summer is indicative of the desire for changing the status quo,” says Qualizza. “It is not just about doing something innovative, but about finding the right people for our program to make meaningful change in their lives and ours.

“That is why the quality of participants is so important to us – it is about people willing to take a different path in life to stay true to themselves.”

Emma ClaireThis is the momentum that Groundswell is seizing upon to enter our second year, in the hopes of building a sustained community as our alumni grows. “I am mostly excited to see how the community we have developed here will change into something new while staying strong and vital,” remarks first-year participant, Claire Gendron. “Not only are our projects just starting, but the mutual support we will provide for each other is also just beginning.”

Kevin Elliot

Ice Cream Social

What's next?  Check out Groundswell's Ice Cream Social on Wednesday, September 3rd to meet the new Fall cohort and enjoy some final sweet summer scoops with the Groundswell Community.

This Saturday Night: It's Not Business As Usual

This is an invitation to action. Join us at Cafe Deux Soleils on Saturday, July 26th at 8:00 pm for an evening of great ideas about transforming the economy, and a path forward to make those ideas a reality.

july 26 logo

We all feel it: that wellspring of energy for major change to the current economic system. It's welling up between us, and the tidal waves of development rushing towards our neighbourhoods. Right now, as tides are shifting around us, we need to come together and define that change as we see it and need it to be.  Then we need a plan for action. That's what Groundswell is all about.

We're figuring out what real change - change that is substantial, not superficial - to the economic system looks like, and then working with young people to make it happen. We know the current economy is the product of all our collective actions, and we're working on ways to shift those actions in favour of greater justice, love and solidarity.

Adding fuel to the conversation:

Geoff Mann is an SFU professor & author of Disassembly Required: A Field Guide to Actually Existing Capitalism.  He will refer to the final chapter of this book and start a conversation on demonetizing our personal relationships and practicing an practical anti-capitalist ethic in our daily life.

Gilad Babchuk is a Groundswell facilitator and co-founder.  Drawing on his experiences establishing alternative schools in Israel and working with social innovation internationally, Gilad will provide inspiring examples of alternative social innovation initiatives happening world wide.

Reilly Yeo is a Groundswell facilitator with a decade of non-profit experience including Managing Director at Open Media.  She will start the discussion on media democracy and it's growing relevance in our changing economy - for better or worst.

Click here to RSVP!

Groundswell´s Local Food Evening Forum

Are you a DIY foodie?

  • Do you have an idea for a project that encompasses sustainability and local/artisan1621765_531237636994860_859365289_nal foods?
  • Do you need to gain some skills on producing, marketing and selling your product?
  • Do you want to use an alternative business model to achieve this?
  • Do you want to join the greater community of local food purveyors and growers to enhance your presence?


Come to our space on July 24th  @ 7 PM (566 Powell street)

Groundswell is offering a foodie community forum to understand the needs and wants of small scale local artisanal food producers and the like, in order to deliver the specific programming you want.

Join us at Groundswell for an opportunity to enjoy delicious snacks and a chance to share your thoughts or questions related to launching your food business idea!

Please RSVP through Eventbrite and follow this event on Facebook

We're hiring - Community Coordinator

Groundswell is hiring two roles for fall - a Business Mentor (position description here) and a Community Coordinator (below). If you're interested, send us a quick note with your CV and a short statement about what the new economy means to you to by *MONDAY JULY 21st.* We will then contact you if we'd like to meet for an interview.


  • Coordinate the introductory week to our program beginning in September - arrange a welcome to the territory, guest talks from people with deep roots in the DTES, and general “getting to know you” activities.

  • Support outreach to potential Groundswell participants - get the word out about our program to diverse audiences, and help us find the right folks to make our program awesome.

  • Coordinate our community time on Wednesday evenings, coordinate guest speakers who are running alternatives to business, bring our community together to have fun.

  • Negotiate community agreements - ensure everyone is on the same page about ground rules and expectations.

  • Bring in external facilitators for anti-oppression workshops and other conversations that can help our community grow with integrity, as needed.

  • Put together panels, talks etc. on issues related to ethics and social innovation, with particular attention and sensitivity to the current concerns with predatory development in the Downtown Eastside.

  • Help co-organize a month-long class on Community Mapping.


  • Top priority is the attitude you bring to your work: you are principled, but not dogmatic. You want to bring more people into the conversation around anti-oppression without watering down the values. For you, it’s less about ego and more about making justice happen in the world.

  • You have experience doing facilitation, with particular expertise in anti-oppression work, and lived experience of marginalization within the rapidly changing economy of Vancouver.

  • You’re detail-oriented, and can plan and run an event with no necessary boxes left unchecked.

  • You’ve got great connections to folks throughout the community who can help us have a challenging and productive conversation about the economy in Vancouver.

  • Your desire to critique is balanced with a strong desire to create something better. You’re eager to be part of an ongoing dialogue about what “better” looks like.

8-month contract with strong possibility of extension, $20.10 per hour, 16-24 hours per week.

Check out our Business Mentor role as well! (position description here)

We're hiring - Start-up Mentor

Groundswell is hiring for fall - a Start-up Mentor. If you're interested, send us a quick note with your CV and a short statement about what the new economy means to you to

Start-up Mentor


  • Using currently existing course resources and a syllabus, modify and teach a class on Alternative Business methodology, with a focus on human-centered design, lean start-up methodology and the business model canvas (November to December, 12 hours class time)

  • Lead sessions 2 and 3 of the Groundswell curriculum: Validation and Alternative-to-Business Planning, and Marketing and Pitching Your Enterprise (January - May).

  • Mentor participants on an ad hoc basis, as requested.

  • Develop workshops aimed at the alternative-to-business community in Vancouver, to be run in our 3,000 square foot classroom space at Powell and Princess streets.


  • You’re very familiar with lean start-up methodology and the business model canvas, or you have alternative methodologies that you can teach (and convince us we should use!)

  • You’re familiar with human-centered design, or at least have a keen interest in it.

  • You have some experience with one-on-one mentorship, and you love helping people who are discovering their unique passions and skillsets.

  • You’re sensitive to the realities of economic marginalization in the Downtown Eastside, on unceded Coast Salish territories, and you want to be part of community economic development without displacement.

  • You want social innovation that addresses the real and profound problems with our current economic system, and you value the special expertise of those who are most impacted by these problems.

  • You’re interested in a wide variety of perspectives on what constitutes real system change, and you approach these conversations with an open mind and heart.

7-month contract with strong possibility of extension, 16-24 hours per week.

Our Graduating Gala

[slideshow_deploy id='578'] On May 15th, Groundswell marked a serious milestone - the graduation of our first amazing cohort. While Groundswell can't be defined by a list of projects – what's distinct about Groundswell is the community that is greater than the sum of its parts – we invite you to check out the many diverse enterprises of our inaugural group:

The Agorian: a Vancouver-based online magazine about ideas for a livable world.

Andrea Woodhouse: an intuitive healing practice to identify and overcome challenges in your life.

An Invitation to Move: a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing creative programming to youth.

The Plant Collective: a workers co-op whose focus is on providing the resources needed for the cultivation, maintenance + preservation of plants + fungi for food, medicine making, bioremediation + art.

ReThread: a production company that facilitates and coordinates arts & local environment based activities to foster dialogue, build community, and increase connection to people and place.

Rise: a non-profit dedicated to empowering young women to take control of their own well-being, through summer camps and after school programs.

Sira Food & Health: a East Vancouver-based company specializing in ecologically friendly cosmetic and cleaning products.

SuperModels: is a podcast that shares stories of empowered young people who are building innovative and radical projects and livelihoods that dare to push for personal and social change.

Surrey Youth Space: A youth-driven, cost-free, arts-based centre for youth empowerment and engagement in Surrey.

Tessa Yoga: a yoga practice focusing on non-judgmental teaching, and bringing yoga into new places and aspects of life.

Witches Union* Hall: a project that uses mutual aid to create media and space(s) dedicated to education, skill sharing, cultural events, critical dialogue and organizing within a community based on similar values and spiritual practices.

The Wood Shop: a workers' cooperative that makes quality products out of upcycled wood at a reasonable price.

We're now welcoming young people to apply for next year's cohort – find out how.

~Thank you so much to Zack Embree once again for the amazing photos <3


Hypothesizing, interviewing, networking, listening, researching and ... starting over

by Groundswell participant Andrea So far we have been hypothesizing, interviewing, networking, listening, researching and taking all of that back into our business canvas and starting over. Many of the projects – my own included – have morphed into a cousin of the original idea. Hopefully not unlike the many drafts that uncover when we place an oil canvas under the x-rays.

We opened up the space with our weekly presentations. I never fail to be impressed how much people are managing to achieve in such short time. Contacts are made, direction is steered and corrected and you can see each of us growing through-out it all.

Image: Judy Merell

This last Monday we all showed up ready to be pointed into a new landmark. Yet Gilad and Alice stopped us in our tracks and began story time again. Alice shared a vision framework and her own visioning process. Gilad went mythical on us as he shared the story of Moses guiding the newly-made-freeman into the desert that came before the Promised Land. As he illustrated the importance of choosing the right path… not the fastest (40 years wandering around?) but the one that actually gets you where you want to be. For those who just gained freedom it was to imagine how one would behave other than as a slave. A question that probably hadn´t been pondered in generations. It was this question and not really the search for the Promised Land that took them so long to figure out. More likely once they did figure it out they stopped right where they were, realizing they had already arrived to promised land.

Hence, for each of our projects that original vision must prevail. However far we wonder, however much we change, that should be our north star. And so the landmark for the week was revealed, not pointed as it must come from within us, but beckoned on. Knowing that, like Moses himself, many of our projects might never come to see the vision fully realized… how can we make sure we remain explorers and not wanderers?

The answer is to come next Monday as we all unveil our visions and probably measure how far we may have morphed from them!

Image: Hachette

Tuesday morning cradled our vision process as we brainstormed how our projects could look in the bigger picture as a group. Poking and probing on and on as we usually do. Then Tuesday evening was the meeting of the Groundswell Book club as we finished our exploration of The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin. Although it wasn’t planned we could not have chosen a more appropriate topic. A fascinating book on its own and stubbornly intriguing if one reads between the lines. We walked and talk along the vision of an egalitarian non proprietarian world, its counterpart and their inescapable imperfection.

Wednesday was Groundswell Thanksgiving day of shorts. As myself and Irina had been planning a dinner to thank our guest-speakers and other contributors for all of their efforts. It is in times like this that Groundswell flourishes. As some people showed up early to help out and others started arriving with mouth-watering food also our guest started to arrive and the evening thrived. I overheard talk about graduation themes and had a chance to see Melanie S. one of the participant´s of the pilot project. To close the evening with a golden buckle (as we say in Spanish) Russell opened an interview to our new facilitator Alice that morphed into a group sharing process peeling one more layer away in the heart of our GS group.