Collaborative spaces: Where to look for co-work space in Edmonton

Edmonton co-work space

The Mosaic Centre provides a welcoming environment to its co-work renters. Photo by David Dodge for Green Energy Futures.

This is a city where creativity and community go hand in hand. In this series, I’m exploring the local businesses and spaces whose collaborative natures make them more than the sum of their parts.

 So far in this series, I’ve explored spaces all over the city that emphasize collaboration and community. Most involve a variety of industries and influencers coming together under one roof, and nothing embodies this concept more than co-work spaces.

Geared towards freelancers, entrepreneurs and anyone else without a designated office space, co-work spaces have become a fixture in Edmonton since Startup Edmonton paved the way in 2009. Tenants love the flexibility, the connections with other workers and having a good reason to get out of the house. I asked the folks behind two popular co-work spaces about the unique value that they bring to the city. Read more »

Second Edmonton Resilience Festival strengthens community

When we talk about resilience, we are referring to the ability to adapt to change in a healthy and collective way. The second annual Edmonton Resilience Festival (April 29  – May 1, 2016) was a success, thanks to the Edmontonians who generously contributed a wealth of knowledge and skill sharing at Boyle Street Plaza.

The response we received to the skill-sharing workshops, conversation cafes, film screenings and a Community Connections Fair was overwhelmingly positive, and we increased both attendance numbers and ticket sales over 2015.

The goals of the Edmonton Resilience Festival are to foster a more resilient community, to inspire participants with creative ideas for relocalizing our economy and building self-sufficiency, and to share skills needed to transition to a more sustainable lifestyle. We don’t know what the future will bring, but we do know we have a strong community of people who care deeply for others, for our city and for a healthy future.

If you attended Edmonton Resilience Festival, please complete this short questionnaire before June 15th to help organizers learn from this year’s event and identify any issues we need to work on:

If you missed the festival or want to revisit it, check out our archived blog posts featuring some of the workshops, and our Storify:

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Collector at heart contributes to artistic festival

We’ve all got one — that collection of something we love. Whether it’s books or baseball cards, caps or comic books, it seems to be part of human nature to find and gather things that make us happy. Local artist Marlena Wyman is exploring the relationship of people to their collections in her latest exhibit, “The Effect of Collected Memory on the Adorned Body,” on display in association with the Heart of the City Festival, at Mile Zero Dance studio from June 4 until July 31.

The work consists of two Styrofoam human torsos, one male and one female, adorned with hundreds of collected items such as pins, buttons and costume jewelry. Most of the items, which cover every inch of the figures, have been donated by others. Many of the donors have inherited costume jewelry from loved ones, and haven’t known exactly what to do with it. These are items which are low in monetary value, but high in emotional content, the collected items that were dear to those who were dear to us. Read more »

Kombucha and water kefir — cultures that create community

Gillian Kerr has been keen on natural medicine and healthy eating for a long time. However, kombucha and water kefir (the non-dairy version of milk kefir) have become a big part of her life over the last couple of years. Gillian’s introduction to fermentation and canning was through her good friend Angie Evans, who trained Gillian and a handful of others when she moved from Regina to Edmonton a few years ago.

Mature kombucha

Mature kombucha. Photo courtesy Michael Garten

Kombucha, when purchased in-store, can be quite expensive. On average, one bottle costs around five dollars, so for those who really enjoy fermented drinks, there is a huge cost savings to making batches at home. 

Over the course of a morning, Angie taught Gillian and her friends how to can, and into the afternoon, they tackled fermentation. Although they left armed with the knowledge to make a variety of items, Gillian has specifically continued to make kombucha and water kefir. Of the 10 people who participated in that day’s workshop, Gillian is the only one who continues to make the beverages on a regular basis. It’s not due to difficulty, or for a lack of trying or want on the others’ part — the fermentation process requires a bit of babying. Lengthy periods away from home can get in the way of the process, and if not cared for, the cultures used to make the drinks die off, so they have to be nurtured like a pet.

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ERF workshop to co-create a Happy City

Hosting the Happy City Edmonton Resilience Festival

The space for the “Happy City” discussion in October 2015. Photo courtesy Wesley Andreas

The hosts of a Resilience Festival workshop on April 30 about Edmonton as a “Happy City” are counting on participants’ ideas to make it a great event.

Two Edmontonians, Wesley Andreas and Jill Robertson, will be showcasing a facilitation technique called the “Art of Hosting” around the topic of building social connections in the community.  

“That’s where the term hosting comes in. There’s a reason it’s called ‘Hosting’ the Happy City as opposed to ‘Facilitating’ the Happy City,” explains Andreas, an urban planner.

The pair is expanding on a project they partnered on last fall as the content for the discussion, however format is as important as substance for this conversation. It’s “talking about how we talk about things,” as Andreas puts it.

“It’s hard to teach this kind of work, in an authentic and meaningful way without doing,” he says. “You can stand up with a poster board and say, ‘This is what you do’ … but it’s much more useful to actually do it.”

For Robertson, a landscape architect, that authenticity is the most important outcome for participants to learn over the morning.   Read more »

Meet thy neighbour: the Abundant Communities Initiative

Highlands Abundant Communities Initiative

The Highlands: neighbours coming together with a shared vision of what they want for their community. as part of the Abundant Communities Initiative. Photo: Erin Wallace

Two neighbours, coming home from work, stop to chat before they head into their homes. A group of mystery lovers meets for a potluck and book club meeting. Several people who live in the same apartment building meet at one resident’s home to learn the art of traditional Indian cooking. These are things you don’t expect to see in city neighbourhoods today, as people become more and more isolated in this era of smartphones, earbuds and home theatres. But there is a growing initiative to reconnect and revitalize our neighbourhoods, and Howard Lawrence wants to talk about it at the upcoming Edmonton Resilience Festival, April 29  – May 1, 2016.

The Abundant Communities initiative aims to bring neighbours together, by focusing on their shared skills and interests. Based on The Abundant Community by John McKnight and Peter Block, the initiative mobilizes members of the community who are excited about neighbourhood engagement to find out what interests and activities could bring neighbours together. Howard Lawrence, a community-minded ordained minister who spearheaded the initiative in the Highlands neighbourhood in Edmonton, says he believes that just as families are moving away from TV dinners and back to meals together, neighbours should get to know and connect with each other for the benefit of the whole community. Partnered with the Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) Institute, the initiative focuses on the assets of an individual community, in order to best serve its needs. Read more »

Jana Sacco teaches the art and science of fermentation

fabulous fermentation

A few of Jana Sacco’s fermented foods and drinks. Photo courtesy Jana Sacco

For Jana Sacco, learning about fermentation was part of a larger journey of changing the way she experienced food and nourishment. After spending most of her life dieting and thinking about food from a simplistic calories-in-vs-calories-out perspective, Sacco says she found herself suffering from pain, inflammation, fatigue and depression.

She says she realized that there had to be a better way to take care of her body and over the last nine years she has immersed herself in the world of whole foods, nutrients, fermentation and other traditional practices, as well as permaculture and wildcrafting. “It opened me up to the holistic aspect of food, and questioning what really nourishes me on a body, mind and spirit level,” Sacco says.

She received her certified holistic nutritionist designation from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition, studied permaculture and became a community herbalist, and is currently working on becoming a clinical master herbalist. 

The more she learned, the more of a difference it made in her quality of life and she started sharing what she learned with others by teaching workshops on fermentation, explaining the health benefits and walking people through the process — something that came naturally with her background in teaching and social work.  Read more »

Wild Green Consulting enhances gardens with permaculture

Wild Green Garden Consulting is a locally owned business, committed to creating environmentally sustainable garden spaces based on the principles of permaculture.

Since the early 2000s, the permaculture scene in Edmonton has continued to expand and flourish, thanks to the effort and support of groups like the non-profit Edmonton Permaculture Guild. The burgeoning interest has also created opportunities for local permaculture businesses to pop up in the city, like Claudia Bolli’s Wild Green Garden Consulting.

Permaculture is a “win win” approach to landscape design, benefiting both humans and the natural environment. It is a system of land use which focuses on caring for the earth and its ecosystems, providing humans with the provisions needed to live, and returning surpluses back to the environment to further promote productivity. It seeks to minimize waste, labor and energy while maximizing natural productivity.  Read more »

Green Drinks: Local Resilience recap

Resilience was the word of the day at the Yellowhead Brewery on April 6 as 100+ people packed the place for the latest Green Drinks Edmonton. We asked our guests and speakers, what does local resilience mean to you?
Green Drinks Coordinators Kerstyn and Leila speak to a packed house of environmentally-minded Edmontonians at the Yellowhead Brewery. Photo: Jason Halbauer

Green Drinks coordinators Kerstyn and Leila speak to a packed house of environmentally minded Edmontonians at the Yellowhead Brewery. Photo: Jason Halbauer

For Rachael Putt, policy advisor & community liaison at the City of Edmonton, it’s about engaging Edmontonians in areas that can inhibit personal resilience, such as mental health and urban isolation. Howard Lawrence, who co-founded Edmonton’s Abundant Communities Initiative, shared a perspective that focuses on creating connections among neighbours. That in turn can lead to an increased sense of self and encourage people to work towards a common good.  (By the way: you can take part in free workshops and conversations cafes with Howard during the 2016 Edmonton Resilience Festival.)
No demeanour is quite as resilient as Allison Maclean of Carbon Environmental Boutique. Her goal in life is to spread joy and happiness to the entire city while offering up unique, planet-friendly products. Michael Moore’s focus is on the sustainability of our food production. As the president of the Edmonton Permaculture Guild and works hard to bring people together around the common thread of permaculture and sustainable living. 

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Edmonton Resilience Festival 2016 tickets now available

The second annual Edmonton Resilience Festival is less than a month away! This year, our festival will take place from April 29 to May 1. The hub of programming will return to the Boyle Street Plaza with a handful of events happening at other venues citywide. Read on for a sneak peek at this year’s lineup of skill-sharing workshops and conversation cafes. A full description of each workshop is available at, and tickets for this year’s paid workshops (plus any free workshops requiring preregistration) are now on sale on Eventbrite.

Participants in Johwanna Alleyne's Canning workshop at Edmonton Resilience Festival 2015. Photo: Paula Gerein Photography

Participants enjoying Johwanna Alleyne’s canning workshop at Edmonton Resilience Festival 2015. Photo: Paula Gerein Photography

However, what do we mean by resilience? There are many different types of resilience. Personal resilience, often referred to in sports headlines and self-help articles, includes the emotional, physical, mental and social resilience of individuals. Organizational resilience is usually used as a business buzzword. The resilience of ecosystems and communities is referred to when discussing emergency management planning, disaster recovery or adaptation to environmental challenges.

Essentially, resilience is the quality that makes a community or ecosystem strong, healthy and able to bounce back from unexpected changes. Communities that are resilient can cope well with the effects of possible challenges posed by climate change, energy scarcity, economic volatility, social inequality, environmental degradation, and other unforeseen risks and hazards.

The Edmonton Resilience Festival includes community-submitted workshops, conversations and events that contribute to personal, group and global resilience. It’s our belief that community resilience requires us not only to care for ourselves and help our neighbours, but to build trust and co-operation between community members. By coming together to celebrate and share skills and ideas through the festival, we will create a stronger, happier community which will increase our capacity to work together and to adapt to coming changes.

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