Vancouver-based filmmaker Trevor Meir started with a question: “Can cooperation save the world?” The result is his 2017 documentary A New Economy, a vibrant look at seven mostly Canadian examples of business and organizational models that have successfully broken away from capitalism’s traditional, hierarchical, employer/employee norm. Among them are a cooperative craft brewery, an urban agriculture project, a high-tech scientific collective, and a community group dedicated to bringing new life to its run-down urban neighbourhood.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for the pre-film mingle. The film gets underway at 7 p.m. It will be followed by a talk and discussion led by Ana Maria Peredo, PhD, a University of Victoria professor with the School of Environmental Studies and former director of UVic’s Centre for Co-Operative and Community-Based Economy. Special guest will be Steve Unger from Viridian Energy Cooperative, which BCSEA founder Guy Dauncey recently cited as a model example of the burgeoning cooperative economy.
By rewarding human effort fairly and proportionately rather than focusing exclusively on profits, these business and community start-ups are dedicated in their various ways to the triple bottom line (social, environmental, financial) model that serves the common good in fair, equitable, socially responsible fashion while still generating fair-market earnings. No fat-cat CEOs with quarterly performance bonuses here.
With the beautiful music of Vancouver’s Borealis String Quartet as a unifying thread, Meir interweaves the stories of entrepreneurs and citizens who are adding value to their own lives and communities while also, in the case of the businesses, making an honest, buck.
Following the film, Dr. Perado will share her thoughts about community based entrepreneurship and sustainable development. A native of Peru, she worked as an anthropologist and journalist in her homeland before earning a doctorate in Entrepreneurship, Environmental Management and Sustainable Development from the University of Calgary. She has been a member of the Peter B. Gustavson School of Business at UVic since 2000.
Among the companies profiled in The New Economy:
* Sole Food Street Farms: Vancouver chefs rave about the quality of produce grown by this pioneering social enterprise at its four central locations, among them a two-acre parcel of raised beds built of shipping pallets not far from BC Place Stadium, and North America’s largest urban orchard at the corner of Main and Terminal streets. The company’s mission is to provide residents of the Downtown Eastside with “jobs, agricultural training and inclusion in a supportive community of farmers and food lovers,” says co-founder Michael Ableman of Salt Spring Island’s Foxglove Farm.
* London Brewing Co-Op: Located in London, Ontario’s East Village, this micro-brewery is organized as a worker’s co-operative and is linked with a web of local businesses that specialize in locally grown and brewed food and drink. “We live where we brew” is one of the company’s mottos that capture a homegrown/brewed ethic seemingly shared by independent craft brewmasters everywhere.
* Sensorica: An open-source technology company based in Montreal but with contributors world-wide, Sensorica utilizes crowdfunding to finance what it calls “open ventures.” Teams of freelance tech specialists come together on a per-project basis to design, produce, distribute and service high-end scientific instruments. A brave new approach to online collaboration and proprietary rights.
* Thorncliffe Park Women’s Committee: This grassroots group comprised mainly of South Asian immigrant families in Toronto’s former East York area lobbied City Hall for support in energizing a neighbourhood park with benches, water fountain, trees, paved paths, splash pool, playground and a vibrant weekly night market.
Also featured is Loomio, the virtual-meeting open-source computer app invented by a group of New Zealand #Occupy activists-turned-software developers; The Red Victorian, a co-living space in San Francisco that also operates as a funky Haight Ashbury hotel with a distinct Summer of Love vibe; and the Borealis String Quartet itself. With its own refreshing approach to business and creative collaboration, the Vancouver ensemble has established itself as one of the most dynamic world-class quartets of its generation. Their playing lights up the film, confirming as a Globe and Mail reviewer wrote, “they are not going to let anyone cling to their sober stereotypes of classical music and chamber quartets.”
Admission, as ever, is by donation to cover rental costs of the theatre and film as well as an honorarium for the evening’s speaker. The film follows in the tradition of our AFN co-presentations that to date have included This Changes Everything, Transition 2.0, A Last Stand for Lelu, The Clean Bin Project and The Economics of Happiness.
Jo Philips’ 23rd season of Awareness Film Night continues with films in April (the annual Sooke Food CHI gala) and June. Evenings in March and May are reserved for AFN’s Intermission Film Series, which features non-documentary cinematic gems selected by Susan Nelson and Vivi Crutchet.