Building Sustainable and Resilient Communities Workshop Forum + Workshop

IdeasXChange’s first 2016 workshop was constructed upon the words “resilient”, “sustainable” and “community”, presenting the importance of knowledge translation through collaborative learning and productive conversations.

The ‘Building Sustainable and Resilient Communities’ workshop on February 11th was facilitated by three graduate students from the UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning: Maria Trujillo, Aaron Lau and Emmy Ann Lee. It initiated an innovative and engaging conversation with the panelists and knowledge experts of the night: Ross Moster, Ericka Stephens-Rennie and Elvy del Bianco.

The main discussions of the night surrounded the questions of how “healthy communities promoting a sense of belonging, collaboration and happiness” can be created. The workshop provided a chance for students, alumni and Vancouverites to picture and plan out their perfect community, as well as the opportunity to learn from the panelists about the different community consolidating resources around Vancouver.

Constructing “connected and sociable communities” was discussed as the core step to building a better world, and the panelists of the night kindly shared their knowledge and passion in their respective community building efforts at the workshop.

The panelists and knowledge experts shared their achievements and passion for sustainable community building, consolidation and engagement with the workshop participants.

Founder and President of ‘Village Vancouver’ Ross Moster, is a committed member of ‘Car-free Vancouver’ and Vancouver’s food policy council – he had accumulated extensive efforts in areas such as food security, as well as collaborative neighbourhood villages and food growing networks.

Moster highlighted the importance of “connecting neighbours and community” to allow the exposure and exchanging of resources – generating a more sustainable and connected community at the local level.

Ericka Stephens-Rennie, spokesperson and resident with ‘Vancouver Co-housing,’ the first co-housing project in Vancouver scheduled to be unveiled in 2016, is passionate about inclusive “community-driven housing solutions,” which allows an effective perspective in sustainable, green multi-cohousing.

The multigenerational ‘Co-housing Vancouver’ project holds 31 units and fosters the physical environment for “meaningful connection and relationships”, as well as “authentic expression” and “a sense of safety and belonging” that can be generated through increased interactions between the residents.

Elvy del Bianco, program manager for cooperative partnerships at Vancouver City Savings Credit Union, discussed the technicality and mechanics of resilient community building. His experience as a policy analyst for various government projects provided a look into the local community development. Del Bianco’s efforts place focus upon cooperatives and networks that can effectively share expertise and forge powerful connections based on purpose-oriented cooperative models.

As the workshop and discussion began, participants were divided into the respective regions of the city: UBC, West Vancouver area and East Vancouver area. A printed map of each region was distributed at the beginning of the workshop, as well as pieces of coloured cards with various keywords to initiate group dialogue.

Participants residing in the same region then discussed among each other about the common facilities and infrastructures that they would like to build in their region, and then mapped them out on the printed map. This activity emphasized change and community building that can be done at the local level – it encourages the sharing and inputting of innovative ideas that can improve the respective regions and communities.

All participants were able to share and express creative ideas on improving the respective regions. They discussed extensively on sustainable or eco-friendly methods to engage local residents to better utilize communal spaces, as well as the resources and spaces where members of these local communities can engage and interact with one another.

An evening with Peter Klein – Emmy-award journalist and former producer of CBS 60 Minutes


Watch IdeasXChange present the 2016 Meet & Greet evening with guest speaker Peter Klein.

An Emmy-Award Winning Journalist and Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of British Columbia, Klein discusses his experience as an investigative journalist and talks about the importance of dialogue between people of different backgrounds and disciplines.

He is also a former producer of CBS News 60 Minutes and in 2009, alongside his colleagues he started the International Reporting Program (IRP) – a UBC project that reports on under-covered global issues around the world.

He is currently turning the IRP into the Global Reporting Centre (GRC), a non-profit organization that follows a similar vision – highlighting important and neglected stories worldwide. The GRC partners with leading reporters and media organizations to produce solutions-oriented journalism.

The IRP’s first project resulted in the Frontline and WORLD documentary investigation, which looked into the international electronic waste trade, earning Klein and his class an Emmy for the Best Investigative Newsmagazine.

Corporate Social Responsibility Panel + Workshop

Note: From January until June 2015, our events were promoted under “Values in Perspective”. We have since changed our name to IdeasXChange.

Is it possible for a company to add value to society and still make profits without harming the environment?

Is it enough to let governments and NGOs take care of the environmental and social issues prevalent in the world today and let businesses escape corporate responsibility?

And if it isn’t, to what extent should businesses and people be held responsible for the damage they cause?

On March 24, 2015, IdeasXChange engaged 30 UBC students and faculty, practitioners and community members in a panel and discussion on corporate social responsibility.

Western Canadian Anchor at Purpose Capital Christie Stephenson; and Robert Crawford, UBC professor and chair of Multinational Corporations course, were both panelists at the workshop. Participants gathered for case studies and a discussion after the panel.

Attendees working together to solve a case study involving a socially responsible firm.

What is Corporate Social Responsibility?

Milton Friedman, an American economist famously stated, “there is one and only one social responsibility of business — to increase its profits so long as it engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.” However, the business landscape is changing, and more and more people are considering the social responsibility of business to incorporate far more than responsibility to shareholders and maximising profits.

At the very heart of Corporate Social Responsibility is the triple bottom line- the notion that businesses should consider all three economic, environmental and social impacts of their actions. These three pillars are often abbreviated as the 3 Ps- People, Planet, and Profit, and a firm with a strong CSR mission would incorporate all these into their values, culture, decision making, strategy and operations. These increases businesses’ responsibilities to consider other community stakeholders, like the responsibility to provide clean air for residents and hence to reduce carbon emissions.

There are many components of CSR, and improving social and environmental conditions could range from addressing the supply chain (looking at more ethical ways of sourcing materials, finding better ways to dispose waste) to human resources (improving the company culture, providing health benefits that increase wellbeing for employees and their families).

Stephenson, talked about her experience with social impact from a financial perspective, and described the components of Impact Investing– investments made to generate social or environmental impact while not compromising the financial return. She also talked about metrics and ways to measure these impacts. One of the better known metrics are called ESG-Environmental, Social and Governance metrics.

Although CSR does have its credits, it also has its shortcomings. Professor Crawford, was able to touch on some of the bigger picture issues surrounding CSR, such as the potential for Greenwashing– when a firm advertises itself as an advocate for CSR but does so purely for profit purposes and doesn’t attempt to incorporate it into its operations and firm mission, and the lack of incentives for Multinational Corporations to monitor its behaviour.

Panel Members:

Christie Stephenson: Western Canada, Purpose Capital. She has spent the past 15 years involved in impact investing and social enterprise as an investor, board member, mentor, and through her work in the socially responsible investing field. She spent 14 years at Canada’s leading socially responsible investing firms Sustainalytics and NEI Investments, where she managed the environmental, social and governance evaluations program. She has also served on the boards of numerous social enterprises.

Robert Crawford: UBC Professor and Arts One Program Chair. Professor at UBC since 1995, focusing on international relations, political philosophy, and international political economy. His Multinational Corporations (MNCs) and States in the Modern Era course evaluates the perceived benefits and costs of foreign direct investment in select countries, regions, and industries, while analyzing the effectiveness or desirability of various attempts to control, limit, and regulate MNC behaviour. He has taught at SFU, UVIC, published two books on international relations, and is the UBC Arts One Program Chair.

[contact-form to=’’ subject=’IdeasXChange Blog’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

International Aid Panel + Interaction Workshop

Note: From January until June 2015, our events were promoted under “Values in Perspective”. We have since changed our name to IdeasXChange.

March 31, 2015: IdeasXChange hosted an interactive workshop on the changing face of international development – one that focuses on encouraging local talent to find solutions to poverty  instead of traditional aid-giving models established by Western countries.

Over 40 participants ranging from UBC students and faculty, practitioners, and community members joined pioneers and practitioners in the field of international development. The discussion focused on moving towards more sustainable models to tackle poverty by supporting local entrepreneurship and talent.

Attendees interacting with pioneer of the UBC Arc Initiative, Aklilu Mulat.

Attendees interacting with pioneer of the UBC Arc Initiative, Aklilu Mulat.

What is the problem with international aid?

Some argue there are problems with Western aid programs for the developing world. They argue that aid may have worsened poverty and encouraged corruption. Meanwhile, others have taken a different approach to alleviate poverty by supporting local talent through entrepreneurship. This is a model that supports programs such as social enterprises and microfinance, instead of seeing individuals in the developing world as incapable of finding local solutions to local problems.

Legacy of colonization and dependence on primary commodities (raw materials)

Poverty and economic stagnation – a prolonged and slow period of economic growth – in the developing world is complex.  It is the result of historical events, external factors, and dysfunctional economies and government institutions. All of these factors put developing countries in a position of disadvantage which doesn’t allow them to compete fairly at the international scale with higher-income countries.

The legacy of colonization affects development. European colonization led to the reorganization of:

Human capital – skills, knowledge and experience possessed by an individual or group of people, viewed in terms of economic value.

Financial capital – economic resources measured in terms of money used by businesses to buy what is needed to make their product or provide their services.

Natural resources – substances or materials such as minerals, water, forest and last that occur in nature and are used for economic gain.

Once many of these former colonies gained independence in the 20th century, many of them became reliant on a few resources, generally raw materials without an added value.

Added value is the money gained at every step of a production of a good – for instance, people profit when trees are cut, when they are processed into planks, when the wood is ultimately turned into furniture and when it is sold in a store. Generally-speaking, those that profit the most are closer to the finished products, which are often times in higher-income countries.

As a result, poorer countries become dependent on the flow of money from these higher-income countries to sustain their economies since they don’t have finished products themselves to sell.

Aid can worsen poverty and lead to corruption if not administered responsibly

Some argue the legacy of dependence from the higher-incomes has continued into the 20th century through international aid. Aid has not always taken into account the local needs of the communities they are working in. According to economist Dambisa Moyo, nearly a trillion dollars in international aid to Sub-Saharan Africa in the 20th century has in fact, worsened living conditions in the continent and encouraged corruption.

This is because aid is often times not monitored and because governments are not compelled to provide essential services for their people. Instead, NGOs and other Western organizations take care of that, which perpetuates a vicious cycle of poverty and doesn’t lift developing countries out of poverty.

Supporting local entrepreneurs and local talent to alleviate poverty

As a result of these policies, some have taken a different approach to international development. An approach that takes into account the needs of local communities by working in partnership with locals by supporting social enterprises and microfinance.

Panelist Aklilu Mulat, a native Ethiopian gave an example during the IdeasXChange workshop. Mangos for instance grow in such abundance in Ethopia that they are sold at below-market prices to countries like Saudia Arabia since many in the country lack the facilities to store or process such fruits. Three months later, the same mangoes come back to Ethiopia and other eastern African countries as juice.

Through the Arc Initiative, a UBC project sponsored by the Sauder School of Business which Mulat helped to pioneer – juice-making businesses have been set up throughout Ethiopia by working side-by-side with local entrepreneurs who can run these businesses. Mulat argues that this model can help local economies and in turn, lift people out of poverty.

Panel discussion on supporting local talent and working with communities

The following three panelists provided their field expertise on how to achieve sustainable development by supporting local talent through business, entrepreneurship and innovation.

    • Jeff Kroeker: Head of the Arc Initiative by the Sauder School of Business, an initiative seeks to build a bridge, to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and business skills. BA (Trinity Western), MBA (Queen ’s), CMA, FCMA.
    • Aklilu Mulat: Born in Ethiopia, he came to Canada in 1979. Over 20 years serving with various not-for-profit organizations, experience conducting internal audits of field operations in Canada and overseas. Aklilu was also part of a group which developed the evaluation criteria for not-for-profit organizations funded by CIDA. B.Sc. (Natural Science), BA (Business Administration), CMA.
  • Barry Thorsness: Project Founder/Coordinator of TAFA, an NGO providing education for children in Malawi, helping to finance business school for a number of its pupils and a believer in fostering local entrepreneurship and local talent. TAFA’s directors are based in Malawi and are involved in supporting an array of projects from rice/maize plots to a sausage making business.
    A discussion on the theme of encouraging

After panel introductions and a question and answer period, participants worked together through breakout sessions on how to move towards more sustainable development aid models.

Ecological Economics Panel Discussion + Workshop

Note: From January until June 2015, our events were promoted under “Values in Perspective”. We have since changed our name to IdeasXChange.

March 17, 2015: Over 50 participants – ranging from UBC students and faculty, practitioners and community members joined some of Vancouver’s most known ecological economists for a discussion on how to move towards more sustainable models to drive the economy.

As the discussion around the environment increases, some economists and scholars are challenging the very foundations of economic models created to distribute resources. They are doing this through a new discipline called ecological economics.

After the panel discussion, a participant shares how to move towards a more sustainable economic model

What is Ecological Economics?

Ecological economics aims to improve and expand economic theory – the distribution of resources in an efficient way – to include the earth’s natural systems, human values and human well-being. These are factors that some say are often times excluded from traditional economic models. Most economists refer to these costs as “externalities.” Ecological economists want to change that model.

The concept of ecological economics encompasses topics including, but not limited to:

Interdisciplinary thinking – the environment (e.g. earth, biosphere), social issues (e.g. poverty, inequality), time (e.g. long term impact of human activities) and sustainable development all form part of ecological economics. It is a model that challenges the focus on human-made capital (money).

Planetary boundaries – economies should respect biophysical limits. Economic growth is not sustainable because the Earth and its resources has limits.

Sustainability – ecological economists generally reject that all natural capital (e.g. water, arable land, species) can be substituted or purchased by human-made capital. There is a focus to preserve and protect resources instead of depleting them.

Environmental economics is not the same as ecological economics.

Environmental economics is the mainstream model that essentially puts a price on natural capital (e.g. resources). Ecological economics instead has a strong emphasis on sustainability and sees the economy as a subsystem of the environment.

Panel discussion: Moving towards a more sustainable economic model

Three of Vancouver’s most known ecological economists joined a diverse audience to address how society, individuals and policy makers can move towards more sustainable and inclusive economic models.

The panelists included:

Tom Green: Vancouver-based ecological economist with a PhD (UBC). Associate Faculty with at Royal Roads University, visiting faculty at SFU, former post doc at Stockholm Resilience Centre.

Michelle Molnar: Economist at the David Suzuki Foundation (DSF), and VP for Programs at the Canadian Society for Ecological Economics (CANSEE). Professor at BCIT, MA (Public Policy), MA (Philosophy); BA (Economics & Philosophy).

Michael Barkusky: BA (Honours) in Economics; MBA, and the CGA designation (since 1985). He is the Secretary-Treasurer of CANSEE. Diverse experience in a wide range of sectors as an employee and entrepreneur.

After panel introductions and a question and answer period, participants worked together through breakout sessions on how to move towards more sustainable economic models – from a local, international, policy and corporate perspective.

Food Security Panel + Workshop

Note: From January until June 2015, our events were promoted under “Values in Perspective”. We have since changed our name to IdeasXChange.

March 3, 2015: Approximately 30 participants from UBC and the community joined four insightful panelists for a workshop on food security hosted by IdeasXChange.

Panelists at IdeasXChange’s Food Security Workshop

What is Food Security?

As the number of hungry and under-nourished grow around the world, concepts of food security have changed and evolved.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, “food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food.”

Panel Discussion: Local and international perspectives on access to proper nutrition

Four panelists discussed ways in which food security can be guaranteed – from a nutritional, local, international and policy perspective.

They each brought their experience on actions society and individuals can make to improve access to nutritious, sustainable and cultural appropriate foodstuffs.

The panelists included:

Karly Pinch: Community organization and Coordinator for the Vancouver Urban Farming Society. Pinch touched on supporting local food systems

Karen Giesbrecht: Registered dietitian with Planted, a community food network. Giesbrecht spoke on the securing access to nutritious foodstuffs, and vulnerable populations.

Stephanie Lim: Coordinator at the Renfrew Collingwood Food Security Institute. Lim noted the importance of local and community food initiatives and the role that policy plays.

Jill Guerra: MA, interdisciplinary background. Guerra shared with the audience her research on the intersection of sustainable agriculture initiatives, food security & poverty reduction, with a focus in Latin America.

After a short question and answer period, participants split into different breakout sessions and got a chance to interact closely with other attendees and panelists.

IdeasXChange Hub: Social Sustainability Workshop (2015)

Note: From January until June 2015, our events were promoted under “Values in Perspective”. We have since changed our name to IdeasXChange.

On February 24, 2015, IdeasXChange launched its sustainability workshop series with over 30 participants and five well-respected community leaders as panelists. The theme of discussion: social sustainability.

About 30 participants including UBC students and community members gathered at the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre to hear about what social sustainability means to some of Vancouver’s community leaders.

Patti Bacchus – Vancouver School Board Trustee. One of the five panelists that joined IdeasXChange’s workshop.

But what is social sustainability?

One of the most well-known definitions includes environmental, economic and social sustainability.

The concept of “social sustainability” encompasses topics such as:

Social equity – a state in which all members of a group or society have the same status in certain areas, including civil rights, freedom of speech and property rights among others.

Community development – a process where members of a community come together to take action and generate solutions to common problems.

Social capital – the expected economic or collective benefits from the preferential treatment and cooperation between people and groups.

Human rights – rights that are believed to belong justifiably to every person.

Labour rights – a group of legal rights relating to labour relations between workers and employers.

Panel Discussion: From addressing poverty to finding solutions

Five panelists addressed social sustainability from different perspectives – from working side-by-side with Vancouver’s poor population, to finding solutions through social enterprises and advocating for greater access to education and legal representation.

The panelists included:

Jeff Baergen – community and engagement director at the UGM – a charity organization in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Tara Taylor – Manager at Potluck Catering and Recipes for success – a social enterprise that provides opportunities for those who face employment barriers

Marcia Nozick – CEO of EMBERS – a social enterprise that offers economic and employment opportunities to individuals and advice for companies

Cherie Payne – a former Vancouver School Board member and advocacy lawyer

Patti Bacchus – an elected Vancouver School Board Trustee and active player in the field of local education

For information on our other workshops follow this link.