Agent of Change? Yeah let’s try it!

A wonderful friend passed along an opportunity to join a forming community around youth who are trying to make change using models based off social entrepreneurial practices. Thought I’d send in a proposal. Here are some thoughts and answers to some of their questions. Whattya think?

Agents of Change Proposal:
Why do you want to be an Agent of Change and what will you contribute to the program? (200 word max.)

In permaculture design we collaboratively align components of a system so that they flow with the utmost efficiency. In our communities we create spaces that allow for individual empowerment, which we find leads to the growth of thriving communities. I will contribute my ability to create space that is comfortable and accessible for others to become engaged—to share their actions and ideas. As a leader in my community, I will bring humility and vulnerability to demonstrate that what we can accomplish as a team is much greater than what I can do alone. Much like George Costanza I hope to bring food into the middle of it all. In my opinion, food is the base of a thriving community; If we can grow good healthy food—based on regenerative, self-supporting planting systems known as Edible Forest Gardening—perhaps we can be the super community that helps to save the world. I will bring that conditional optimism, too. I want to be an Agent of Change to learn new ways of “doing business” from the social entrepreneurial leaders of today and to grow a network of supportive youth “actionists” in the GTA.

What does community mean to you? (200 word max.)

Community, as a figure, has been my teacher and a huge support network during one of the greatest learning curves of my life. In the past 6 years, community has become an extended part of my family: we share skills, we communicate successes and downfalls, and we eat together and live together. As a space, community has been creative and diverse, safe and accessible, and open and always expanding. Community has also been a goal for me. In my initiatives, whether financial, educational, or recreational, I’ve been trying to find a way to include my community so that everyone benefits—to create a tide that lifts up all boats.

What is the mission and vision of your project? (200 word max.)

To create a healthy, environmentally-protective, politically-engaged, food-loving, “I-wanna-grow-that-in-my-backyard” community. We believe in grassroots organization, community-skill sharing, and individual empowerment as a means to develop community resilience. “Once you get in the soil, things just get better.”

By creating a tangible connection with our environment through growing food and eating, which we consider to be the most intimate action, we hope to develop a more equitable relationship between ourselves and our neighbours; between our choices and our environment; between our local actions and our global impacts; and most importantly, a fair relationship with ourselves. We believe in and envision a future that is ecologically and socially just.

What challenge are you trying to address in your community? (200 word max.)

First challenge is flipping the challenges into opportunities. Like many other communities, Mississauga has the opportunity to greatly increase food security, which one might assume to be easy seeing as how we sit on top of class 1 agricultural land. However, to bring this opportunity to realization we need to address some other opportunities first: individual and family engagement in the place—and the community—where they live; returning public land to appropriate food production; reviving our agricultural heritage through formal and informal educational programs; empowering those individuals who are in most need of social services; and protecting our environment and ourselves with proper eating habits.

How does your project/organization work to strengthen community? (200 word max.)

We work to strengthen our community through some pretty cool practices. We are collaborating with many community partners that are already engaged in initiatives with similar missions. For example, Ecosource, a local environmental charity, grows food for the Eden Community Foodbank and provides free afterschool programs on how to grow the food. Bam, partner. We are doing academic research and training locals on how to design, sample, and maintain the experimental sites. Roles and responsibilities have been crafted to include community members in very specific ways so that they have ownership in this project. The results of the research will be put together in a simple, graphic-oriented guide and distributed so that groups and/or families can learn and apply the techniques gained. On top of all that we are growing healthy food systems that produce healthy food, which builds thriving communities, which, we think, will help save the world. Yeah!

Who is doing similar work to you, and what makes your approach unique and innovative? (200 word max.)

Thankfully, many other organizations are working towards similar goals surrounding food security in the GTA. The Permaculture Project – GTA is creating a space to introduce our community to the practices of permaculture. Ecosource is striving to reduce hunger and poverty by educating community members on organic, urban food production. Mississauga Fruit Tree Project is mapping out fruit trees in our community and gathering the bounty to share with other groups in need. Where we, Many Rivers Permaculture, fits in is with the research and application side of permaculture and edible forest gardening. We have funding and backing from the University of Guelph, The Cooperators, and IMPACT! To bring this regenerative form of food production into the academic world, as well as the community eye. We’ve found a perfect niche among all these other organizations; a spot that ties into and builds upon their strengths and existing framework. For example, Ecosource is providing land and expertise and Mississauga Fruit Tree Project is providing people power.

What challenges are you currently facing with your project? (200 word max.)

Like many others in fruit production, we are having issues with deer eating our apple trees’ leaves. We’ve got some appropriate solutions for that, though. Other areas for growth include how to turn these actions away from purely charity-based and into something more community-/coop-/social enterprise-based. What are the existing opportunities for community (financial) ownership and how can we apply it to food.  We are also in the process of creating community impact metrics that spread the focus from purely financial to well being, education, and health. We are also in the process of growing/transitioning from a group to a business, which is a first for myself and many others on my team.