The first ever Wiring the Social Economy event was a huge success!

Images courtesy of AHA MEDIA

Session pitch board, photo courtesy of Kris Krug.

Watch opening remarks by Steve Williams and keynote speakers Carol Madsen, Irwin Oostindie, and Tim Beachy via livestream from W2.

Many topics were covered, and so many of you had great ideas. If you had to miss this event, all notes on the sessions are available on the event wiki.

We closed out the night with a Cinq à Sept cash bar and a birthday cake for Steve: “This was a great way to spend a birthday – I highly recommend it.” It was so exciting to see how many people stuck around and kept talking about all the possibilities born out of this event.

This event would not have been possible without the support of our sponsor Vancity, our venue host W2, our media sponsors Hollyhock, Vancouver Observer, and Open Media, and our friends, SFU: Centre for Sustainable Community Development, and the Canadian Social Entrepreneurship Foundation.

Thank you to the organizers who were the driving forces behind the little idea that became an all-day ideas forum, and to the volunteers who so generously donated their time to support our vision.

Thanks to everyone who attended, in person or online – your participation and enthusiasm means the world to us. We hope to continue the momentum generated at the event, so keep the conversation going!

Note: Please tag your photos, tweets, and blog posts with “wiringSE” and “#wiringSE” so we can find you.


Wiring the Social Economy is tomorrow (Dec. 4, W2 Storyeum, 151 West Cordova) and we couldn’t be more excited. Registration begins at 8:00am (coat check, coffee, and breakfast is provided) and activities begin promptly at 9:00am. There are still tickets available online – for the latecomers out there, tickets will be at the door as well.

Breakfast and lunch is included in your ticket, thanks to our sponsors, and we will also be hosting Cinq à Sept with a cash bar and snacks as soon as the day wraps so we can continue the conversation with high spirits and good cheer.

You are encouraged to come prepared to pitch a session (though this is not mandatory), and all attendees are expected to be participants.

We’ll be using the Twitter hashtag #wiringSE, and for those of you taking photos, please tag them with wiringSE as well.

Some things you might want to bring:

  • Water bottle – water will be provided but we want to keep the waste down.
  • Coffee mug – coffee and tea will be provided as well.
  • Laptop, iPad, or any device you want. Free wifi will be provided, and the network name and password will be found on the back of your nametag.
  • Pen and paper, if that’s your preference.

For those of you who have never attended an “unconference” before, get ready for a fully open space in which to express your opinion and learn from others. Think of this as a freestyle forum where all topics and talks are generated by you and your fellow attendees. One of our planning organizers, Tom, blogged about his first experience at ChangeCamp, a similar ad-hoc event. He was pleasantly surprised by the format, and we hope you will be too.

Keynote presentations will be available through livestreaming as well.

See you tomorrow!

We are proud to announce our keynote line-up for the first ever Wiring the Social Economy event:

Carol Madsen
Carol is the Program Manager at Pathways Information Centre in the Four Corners Community Economic and Business Development Building in the downtown eastside of Vancouver, and an instructor at the  SFU Centre for Sustainable Community Development. Carol is a passionate speaker and a deep believer in CED principles – she is active on several community boards including the Canadian CED Network, Network of East Vancouver Community Organizations and the Network of Innercity Community Services Society.

Tim Beachy
Tim is the CEO of United Community Services Co-op, a co-operative dedicated to supporting community-based organizations in BC to collaborate where there is public good from their joint action. Tim has over 30 years of experience working with community and non-profit organizations, and believes deeply in co-operative action and preserving the “delicate ecology” of a diverse and thriving community. His hope is that the non-profit sector continues to work in increasingly innovative ways by using technology to enhance face-to-face relationships, and that the non-profit sector recognizes the clout it holds.

Irwin Oostindie
Irwin, the Executive Director of W2, is a Dutch/Canadian artist and administrator doing cultural planning, cultural infrastructure development, and support for a media arts cluster in Vancouver’s inner-city. He is well-versed in social enterprise, having contributed to the building of a coffee house in W2 that trains and employs local residents. Irwin is notable for making great use of technology to connect, encourage, and champion local arts and culture.

Click here to see the criteria and selection process.

Tickets for Wiring the Social Economy are available here.

December 4 is drawing nearer, and Wiring the Social Economy is seeking sponsors and volunteers for the day of the event.

Registration fees only cover half of our expenses, and most of the work put into making Wiring the Social Economy happen is time, effort, and money donated by a team of community volunteers. Sponsoring the event is a wonderful way to help out, and it keeps registration affordable and accessible, and allows us to increase arts and culture content as well as provide on-the-day programming (for example, on-site lunch). We have three levels of sponsorship available; please follow the link to learn more.

We are also putting out a call for volunteers for the day of the event. We need volunteers in three areas: event logistics (ex. set up and take down, coat check, A/V), facilitation (helping with event pitching and sessions), and note-taking. Volunteering gets you a free registration to the event – learn more here.

We’ll be announcing our line-up of keynote speakers soon, so stay tuned and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook for to-the-minute updates.

Wiring the Social Economy is an all-day event on December 4, 2010, at W2 Storyeum in Vancouver, BC. Tickets are now available.
We want to bring diverse professional groups together to create shared understanding of goals and challenges and to discover possibilities for collaborations.
We’re inviting all community economic development practitioners, social enterprise operators and supporters, community organizations, and members of the social media and technology communities to join us. Each of these professional groups has organizations, events, and conferences to offer support within their communities. The challenge is the low level of social capital between the groups. The goal of Wiring the Social Economy is to cross-pollinate ideas on challenges, solutions, and best practices between these communities.

We hope to see you on December 4.

This project is a conference being planned for October/November 20010 tentatively December 4th, 2010 titled “Wiring the Social Economy”. The conference will bring together community economic development practitioners, social enterprise operators and supporters and members of the social media and technology communities. The conference will focus on Vancouver and the Lower Mainland but also be open to participation from across the province and the country.


The “progressive” community in Vancouver, BC and across Canada is very active yet also very fragmented. There is a groundswell of CED activities across the country through organizations such as CCEDNET, Community Futures and Western Economic Diversification. There is also a growing movement of social enterprises such as Potluck Café, Atira, and The Cleaning Solution supported by groups like Enterprising Non Profits. Finally, there is a vibrant social media community building websites, creating online marketing campaigns and doing web-based fundraising for non-profits.

Each of these communities has supporting organizations, events and conferences such as the National CED Conference, the Social Enterprise Summit and Web of Change. However, there is little, if any, cross-pollination of challenges, solutions and best practices between the groups. That is the goal of the Wiring the Social Economy conference.

The conference continues to explore themes developed during Vancouver ChangeCamp, namely: How can we help government become more open and responsive to citizens? How can we as citizens organize to get better outcomes ourselves?

Community Economic Development Goals

There are two main goals of the conference that support community economic development. The first is to help the social media and technology community understand the challenges, needs and constraints of social change agents along with the issues they face. For example, technologists building web sites for non-profits may not be fully aware of the “on the street” life of housing, HIV or police watchdog groups in the Downtown Eastside. By building awareness, we hope to open the door to new collaborations and possibilities.

The second major goal of the day is to help the social enterprise and community economic development communities understand the possibilities and potentials of using technology in their work. This could range from using information tools to better manage a social enterprise, to using interactive tools to help a band council choose between multiple CED options, to using social media tools like blogs, Twitter and Facebook to raise awareness of issues, generate funding and market events and products.

A unique piece of the day will be an underlying commitment to the core principles of CED including equity, diversity, participation and community building. We want to make this linkage explicit – that to have just and equitable economic development requires justice in dealings between the homeless and police; that to have environmentally viable communities requires the active participation of businesses operating in the community; that to have adequate housing for community residents, housing that feels like homes not shelters, requires engaging the development community along with the various levels of government.

Community Capital Goals

Natural Capital

The quality of natural capital in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland is incredibly variable. From the beauty of Stanley Park to the dark grey concrete and asphalt of East Hastings is only 15 minutes on the #19 bus. This diversity represents an opportunity for community economic development. We are just starting to explore the concepts of “Green Jobs” proposed by Van Jones, and at an even earlier stage in looking at how to include environmental components in inner-city development.

For example, projects like the Community Benefits Agreement between the City of Vancouver, VANOC and Millennium Development Corporation for the creation of the Southeast False Creek development brought over $24 million in spending to inner city businesses. The multiplier effect and job support of this is enormous. However, given that a large proportion of that spending was with Ocean Concrete, a product with a very high carbon footprint, what was the net environmental impact of building a LEED certified community?

At the conference we hope to convene conversations that address this and other issues that pose challenges for community economic development. Going further, there are many opportunities for using technology to drive green business development and to “green” existing businesses. For example, small businesses can use social media tools to engage customers in “green” conversations, develop live monitoring systems and demonstrate their performance online.

Physical Capital

Depending on the region being addressed, there are varying levels of physical capital in place. For example, work is ongoing to provide wireless access to the DTES. Groups such as W2 and Fearless City are creating the infrastructure needed for a growing cluster of technology companies in the area. There are still many infrastructure gaps, however, including transportation, housing, affordable food sources, etc.

The conference can facilitate improvements in these capacity areas by raising awareness of the needs with groups that can implement solutions. For example, highlighting the lack of broadband access in the DTES could spur government, or the private sector, to support physical capital development. In addition, we hope to highlight physical capital resources that already exist but may not be widely known such as shared office space locations, free and cheap computer access and social enterprise incubator space.

In addition the physical location of the event will serve to both inject economic capital into the local community and highlight the need for further infrastructure investment. We plan to host the day the W2 Media Arts Centre in the centre of the DTES

Economic Capital

Fundamentally, the project is designed to maximize the use of economic capital to build community. Even the briefest of mapping exercises serves to show the wide variety of economic capital available through grants, loans and development assistance. Just as quickly, one can see the challenges of making use of this capital – lack of basic financial support and community financial institutions, low economic capacity, low multiplier effect potential and difficulty in navigating “the system”

The project will convene conversations to address these issues while providing some immediate practical benefits. These include helping existing businesses to maximize their investments through low-cost technology and marketing, sharing best practices and using information to find and implement efficiencies in an enterprise.

Finally, there is a huge potential in inviting closer collaboration between the community economic development and social enterprise communities. While social enterprise is not the only way to “do” CED, there is much that each group can learn from each other.

Human Capital

As defined by the OECD (and quoted in “Toward Sustainable Communities”), human capital is the “knowledge, skills, competencies … that facilitate the creation of personal, social and economic well-being.” Put simply, a core goal of the conference is to build capacity in all of these areas. Sharing knowledge – both of the issues and of technological tools and solutions – is critical to building sustainable community economic development. To make that a reality, there needs to be a much greater level of skills development and competency building in community organizations. The presence of the social media and technology community will help this process.

This process can be facilitated through social media platforms such as Facebook, blogs, Twitter and wikis. These tools can be very powerful for sharing stories and best practices, connecting people and helping refine projects. While some community groups are using this type of technology, there is a huge potential for businesses and advocacy groups to “tell their story” in a more clearly articulated manner, to a much larger group.

At the same time, by having the different groups together, we anticipate that needs, knowledge and competencies will be uncovered that we have not even considered. The hope is that we will have the people in the room that can uncover not only the challenges but create solutions.

Social Capital

Interestingly, social capital as measured by community cohesion, connectedness and commonly accepted standards is very high within each of the groups we are targeting. The challenge is the low level of social capital between the groups.

The conference seeks to address this by building a common vocabulary and shared context, creating personal connections between individuals and attempting to situate the discussion in “real-world” communities as opposed to purely online or disintermediated environments. This is not to say that the online component is not useful. On the other hand, we plan to make the most use of all available tools to continue conversations and connections after the day is over. This will be done through methods such as blogs and hosted online conversations, a continuing series of conference calls and web meetings to re-engage participants and networking through sites like Facebook and Twitter. The hope is that some of these tools and media will be identified and created by participants of the conference, not just by the organizers – embodying the spirit of community-driven development

Cultural Capital

Thinking specifically of the DTES, there is a rich set of cultural capital available. To varying degrees, this capital has already been mobilized for community economic development. The goal of the conference is to help accelerate this process by providing examples where cultural capital has been successfully deployed in a CED context through use of technology.

At the same time, we wish to highlight to the social media and technology community the depth of value that this capital can bring to economic development projects if given the support.


In most instances where local groups do a community capital analysis of their own projects or communities, there are moments of realization when it becomes clear that many of the resources needed to solve community problems are in fact already available. We hope to bring that spirit of realization to all participants of Wiring the Social Economy.

More than just knowledge sharing and building connections, we are truly hoping that each group will recognize the tremendous strengths held by the other groups. And make the realization that by working together within the principles of community economic development – equity, diversity, collaboration, participation – we collectively have the potential to generate, and accelerate, sustainable community development.