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Towards Cooperative CommonWealth: Transition in a Perilous Century

Towards Co-operative CommonWealth: Transition in a Perilous Century social cardMar 25 - Jul 14, 2019

Towards Co-operative CommonWealth is a master class in movement building for a new model of political economy that is sustainable, democratic, and socially just. Offered by the Synergia Institute and Athabasca University, it sets out the practical models and pathways for meaningful systems change at multiple levels. The goal: to better secure our basic needs for land, food, livelihood, social care, energy, finance and more in these increasingly difficult times.

The course is suitable for newcomers to social change work as well as veteran activists, practitioners, policy-makers, and researchers. Individuals on their own and people working for social change through organizations, networks, and movements can leverage the course material and the expertise of the Synergia team to advance their own projects and activist work locally.

Enrol for Towards Cooperative CommonWealth

The course is offered in two sections: Section 1 is 4 modules over 4 weeks starting March 25th, followed by a 4 week intellectual pause to catch your breath from April 22 till May 20th, and Section 2 starts another 4 Modules from May 20th to June 22.

Following the course, feedback from the Synergia team will be available for three weeks to promote application of course ideas & models to your own projects or work.

*The course is free at the certificate level. The cost of degree accreditation is $269 CAD.​


  • Outline and explain the problematic, and transformative vision.
  • Discuss emerging food system alternatives and strategies for transitioning to just, sustainable food systems.
  • Recognize the role of public policy and bottom-up innovation in renewable community energy.
  • Become familiar with the interplay of assumptions, interests, power, and technology feeding the growing precariousness of livelihoods and the implications for human wellbeing, and to explore emerging sector-, policy-, and place-based alternatives.
  • Outline the philosophy, rationale, and organizational forms of user-controlled models of health and social care.
  • Discuss enclosure, and the alternatives of commons and land trusts.
  • Describe community development finance and co-operative capital raising and their potential to secure democratic and socially directed investment for the common good.
  • Synthesize key ideas and practices that define systemic transition.

Target Audience: We imagine that if you were attracted to this course, you will be someone who shares our general world view and vision, and wants to broaden and deepen it and join us and others to develop it. That is its principal purpose, but a secondary purpose is to link people and projects that share these views in practical ways. You are likely to be people who are already engaged in social change work in three crucial movements – co-operation, commons, and sustainability. Most are already actively working to make this world view a reality. You may be active in the environmental movement, human or animal rights, social equality and development, the solidarity economy, co-operative finance and alternative currencies; the Transition Movement, permaculture, local food, eco-villages, the digital commons, peer-to-peer and open educational resources, community energy or many others.

For more information about Synergia Institute visit: synergiainstitute.org

Course is offered by Athabasca University in collaboration with Synergia.

"System Change Not Climate Change" Banner photo is copyright (c) 2009 by Kris Krüg and made available under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

Co-opalooza Conference 2019

Co-opalooza Conference 2019In response to our sector’s need for an education & networkingretreat, and building on the success of the Co-opalooza festival, we’re excited to announce that we are evolving the event into a 2-day conference in 2019!

Tailored for your co-op & credit union’s champions, brand ambassadors and community builders, the two days will focus on: igniting passion and exploring creative techniques for staff & member engagement sharing innovative strategies in marketing & communications for your co-op/credit union.​

Taking place at our 98-acre site, the event will feature interactive workshops, inspiring, high-profile speakers, valuable networking opportunities, and will take advantage of the beautiful Carolinian forest with nature hikes, bonfires and a live music social.

Spaces are limited for overnight shared cabin accommodations, so be sure to book early!

Register now for Co-opoolaza 2019


Wednesday, June 5th
For those travelling a distance we invite you to join us for a relaxed night-which will include dinner, an optional hike, social activity, campfire and accommodation.

Thursday, June 6th
Highlights include:

  • KEYNOTE SESSION: Keys to a Co-op's Culture: with Libro CU's CEO Stephen Bolton & Gay Lea Foods' CEO Michael Barrett
  • "Lightening" Talks from Sector Experts: Rapid Resource & Best Practice Sharing
  • "Business Improv" Skill Building Communication Session

Friday, June 7th
Highlights Include:

  • GUEST SPEAKER: Nickolaas van der Velde of Impact Consulting
  • "Communicating Your Brand" with Kerr Smith of Gay Lea Foods Co-op

Celebration of Life: Professor Jack Quarter

Jack Quarter 1:00pm Eastern Time
OISE Library, 252 Bloor St W
and online!

In case you cannot make it to OISE Library (252 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S 1V6) this Friday for Jack Quarter’s Celebration of Life, here are the instructions for viewing the formal part of the event from your computer. Also, see below for more information on how to make donations.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the Professor Jack Quarter Memorial Bursary to support students in financial need; every dollar raised will be matched by the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). You can also donate to the Temmy Latner Centre for Palliative Care at Mount Sinai Hospital www.tlcpc.org, which made it possible for Jack to spend his last days in the comfort of his home with his loved ones. All donations will receive a charitable tax receipt. There will be donation forms and envelopes available at Jack’s Celebration of Life event on Friday, March 8 at OISE.

Join the Zoom Webcast

All you need to do is to click on the URL above or copy and paste it into your browser. You just click yes when prompted. If there aren't any prompts, click download and run Zoom.

Please also check out the following website in honour of Jack Quarter: www.jackquarter.org

The Systems Change Evaluation Canvas: A Tool for Planning to Evaluate Systems Change Webinar

The Systems Change Evaluation CanvasHow will you evaluate efforts to create systems change? Through our work at Tamarack, it has become clear that there is no one answer. The right approach depends on your situation, the type of change, and many other constraints that are unique. As demand for systems change initiatives has increased, so has the need to evaluate this type of work, though this type of evaluation is still emerging. To respond to this need, over the past year we have been developing a planning tool for evaluating Systems Change efforts — a Systems Change Evaluation Canvas. 

Register for The Systems Change Evaluation Canvas: A Tool for Planning to Evaluate Systems Change Webinar

In this webinar, Mark Cabaj and Galen MacLusky will introduce the canvas, walk through important things to consider when planning systems change, and show how the canvas can be applied to a real-world scenario. We’re excited to be releasing this tool and hope you will join us not only to learn what we have uncovered, but also to help us shape this tool and make it work for you.


Mark Cabaj

Mark is President of the consulting company From Here to There and an Associate of Tamarack Institute.

Mark’s current focus is on developing practical ways to understand, plan and evaluate efforts to address complex issues (e.g. neighbourhood renewal, poverty and homelessness, community safety, educational achievement and health). He has first-hand knowledge of using evaluation as a policy maker, philanthropist, and activist, and has played a big role in promoting the emerging practice of developmental evaluation in Canada.


Galen MacLusky

Galen is a Consulting Director of the Tamarack Institute’s Community Innovation Idea Area. He is passionate about working with community organizations to help build and scale new ideas that deepen their impact. An experienced design, innovation, and co-creation consultant, at the core of his work are approaches that help organizations engage with those who are impacted by their services and test new programs and services with minimal investment. Over the past five years, Galen has used these approaches to help Fortune 500 companies and non-profit organizations across North America reinvent the services and programs they provide. Galen is an experienced human-centred design coach and holds a Master’s degree in Engineering Design and Innovation from Northwestern University.

Social Innovation: Beyond a Buzzword

Research Centre on Social Innovation and TransformationSocial Innovation Workshop Mauril-Bélanger (The Atelier), Saint Paul University

The newly founded Research Centre on Social Innovation and Transformation (Centre de recherche sur les innovations et les transformations sociales or CRITS) is issuing a call for participation to its first annual conference. Along with the Élisabeth-Bruyère School of Social Innovation and the Mauril-Bélanger Social Innovation Workshop (The Atelier), CRITS forms a think tank, training hub, and operational base that considers social innovation through a social justice lens. It also strives to ensure various collective action projects converge into the community spaces it creates.

You are invited to join us for a two-day conference . The format will allow theorists and practitioners to come together and address a set of questions that we believe are crucial to ensuring that social innovation is not, or ceases to be, the exclusive domain  of neoliberal trajectories.

For updates visit innovationsocialeusp.ca

For its inaugural conference, CRITS would like to create a meeting space to collectively think through and launch a mobilization and lasting commitment to understanding social innovation through a social justice lens. The event hopes to advance the CRITS’ own research agenda while fostering the initiation of collaborative projects marked by the CRITS perspective. We approach the issue following four lines of inquiry:

  1. emancipatory thought;
  2. the action of social movements in the face of systemic power structures;
  3. democratic governance; and
  4. engaged practices in teaching and research.


Given that the concept of social innovation is widely mobilized by the state, the business world, and grassroots communities initiatives that invest it with various (and sometimes incompatible) definitions, we assert that the flow between innovation and transformation can be activated through an emancipatory approach that offers a critique of current systems in order to develop alternatives. We therefore have a much broader understanding of social innovation actors, or “social enterprises,” than what can usually be found in social innovation literature. In fact, we work to  cover citizen initiatives, activist groups as well as public institutions and/or businesses that engage in innovative and emancipatory practices.

Given the current state of publications and social practices related to the multifaceted notion of social innovation, we believe we urgently need to take the issue into consideration. The discussion will, on the one hand, ensure we accurately assess the risks of neoliberal drift associated with the spread of social innovation through universities and, on the other hand, to measure its potential as a radically emancipatory educational project. For this purpose, we wish  to call into question the emerging practices taking root in hubs, coworking spaces, incubators, accelerators, etc. currently appearing and expanding throughout the world...

Storytelling Training: Using Stories for Social Change

Story Centre Canada - Fresh StoriesThere is a definite buzz around storytelling these days, and there is such huge potential within the non-profit world to harness the power in personal narratives for positive change. Storytelling is a great way to explore a wide diversity of experiences, bring awareness to issues through personal reflection and connect people through shared experiences, particularly in communities or with individuals who have historically been marginalized.

Register for Storytelling Training: Using Stories for Social Change

This interactive workshop will give participants an opportunity to experience writing and sharing personal stories firsthand and discuss how stories can be shared as training tools, as a device for fundraising, at community organizing events, in policy and advocacy arenas, to promote learning and dialogues, capacity building and to support social justice and human rights both locally and globally. Sample digital stories will be shown and discussed throughout the workshop. Come prepared to participate in story activities, share your stories, listen to the stories of others and take part in discussions! The workshop is designed for those with beginner to intermediate knowledge of storytelling.

About the Instructor 

Rani Sanderson is Canadian Projects Director for StoryCentre Canada, where she develops and implements digital storytelling workshops for non-profit organizations across the country. Rani has a background in film studies and production, later obtaining her Masters of Environmental Studies, where she concentrated on community arts and environmental education.


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