“So Chris, how are you feeling? How is your work going? What can we do to help? Let’s talk about it.” I was asked these questions (most) Fridays over the past several months as part of the reflection process built into the Canadian CED Network’s (CCEDNet) CreateAction internship program. CreateAction is the only program in Canada to offer a paid work experience for youth working in community economic development. I, along with thirty-nine other young adults, had the formative opportunity to learn from and about the community economic development (CED) movement happening across Canada.
These questions, I find now, represent an integral part of my experience working as the communications intern at CCEDNet-Manitoba, which is located in the wonderful Social Enterprise Centre (SEC). For one, the reflection process helped develop a personal relationship between myself and my mentors: Sarah Leeson-Klym, Kirsten Bernas, and Brendan Reimer. These sessions also reinforced some of the core principles which I found to be present in a lot CED work being done in Winnipeg – compassion, reflection, and engagement, all with the aim of holistic individual and community growth.
Although I had taken some courses on CED and knew some people working in the sector already, the day-to-day work and the movement’s overall energy were unknown to me prior to working in the CreateAction program. My daily communications work was, in my opinion, the perfect role that introduced me to all of the different nooks and crannies of the sector. Writing CCEDNet’s monthly regional newsletters are good examples of this (sorry if I misspelt your name, and for all of the flat jokes…). I also had the privilege of attending ceremonies, conferences, seminars and learning events, not to mention that special bus tour.
But I learned more than just the material daily routines of our members, CCEDNet staff, and those working at the SEC. I had the privilege of immersing myself in a community that did not shy away from criticizing the steamroller that is our society’s capitalist logic and the socioeconomic reasons behind inequality and marginalization. But here’s the kicker: what makes CED so much more productive than simply being skeptical of traditional capitalism is the real-life, everyday projects that work towards an alternative. CED puts criticism and theory into action. Moreover, organizations not only work to stop-gap the hazards of our current economic system, many (if not all) in the community work cooperatively to support each other through a variety of ways.
I also had the pleasure of getting to know my CreateAction colleagues here in Manitoba. Apart from seeing each other at various CED events and conferences, we also participated in monthly learning calls with our wonderful coordinator Matthew Thompson. A variety of erudite speakers spoke to us about CED and government policy as well as the social enterprise model, just to mention two topics.
But the best was still to come. In late August, after a month of planning, I and three other interns working in Winnipeg brought together a group of inner-city youth for a day of activities. We had planned the activities in such a way that they were centered on the Neechi Principles. For a first time event, I am proud to say it went very well. The kids were bright, energetic and (mostly) engaged. Who said learning about linkages and local decision making couldn’t be fun!
Many of the interns got the amazing opportunity to attend the Social Enterprise World Forum that was held in Calgary early in October. I unfortunately was not able to attend but observed from a far the connections being made, beaming photos posted, conversations that continued via online platforms, and genuinely felt the energy that the event created. All the best to my fellow interns, down whatever path your journey takes you next.
Though my time in the sector has been short, and has all the while featured the training wheels an internship, if I could offer one piece of advice it is to be aware of perfectionism. Be critical of your own work and reflect, reflect, reflect. But freezing up because you think that something you are working on could be better will not always make it better and often results in missing other great opportunities.
I am grateful for the privilege of receiving the support and wisdom that I did through my time at CCEDNet, and I am confident that the principles of CED have been integrated into my worldview and lifestyle in such a way that makes me a more responsible person. Moreover, I now know what type of work environment I wish to inhabit in my career: supportive, open, holistic and effective. To my CCEDNet coworkers and the CED community, thank you.