Creating Change, Connection and Possibility in Calgary

Four weeks after our launch, a founding member of New Scoop reflects on the birth of this co-op

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It’s all about steps.

With New Scoop YYC’S official launch behind, its founding members look forward. The premise — a Generative Journalism online news co-op that tells stories of people and grassroots organizations to create change, connection and possibility in the Calgary community.

Founding member Sarah Arthurs led a recent gathering of founding members by asking people to share a moment in life that created a sense of hope. She began with her own.

As she was presenting around co-operatives and economic development across Canada, she mentioned she lived in the Oakridge community. Before it become trendy Sarah said, she and her family put their portable fire pit in the front yard of their home. Neighbours would gather to roast marshmallows and hot dogs.

She was approached afterwards by a gentleman who was intrigued by the very idea.

Sharon Ulrich

Sharon Ulrich (author of this story) is one of the founding members of New Scoop YYC.

“I could see this whole world-view shift happening — that you could take that social hospitality connecting space that’s the back yard and move it to the front yard where it could be open to your neighbours and whomever might want to be a part. It was like all of a sudden new possibilities opened up about being intimate and connected and friendly with people in a different way. It was a lovely moment.”

The idea for New Scoop YYC was born when Axiom News was hired to write a series of articles surrounding ongoing initiatives in Alberta during the International Year of Co-operatives in 2012. Built on the concept of Generative Journalism — a term Axiom CEO Peter Pula coined — Sarah explained the focus of the articles was based on Appreciative Inquiry. In other words, the articles were not just about the here-and-now, but what difference the events would make, what connections were made and how those connections might evolve to co-create a future.

Throughout the process, she and Peter began to explore the possibility of taking the broad geographical storying format into a community where people are more intimately connected and can potentially create the changes they envision. Sarah noted the way to sustain the storying format, legally and structurally, would be through the co-operative model.

“This news co-op will be owned by people in Calgary who step up, become members and say ‘we embrace the vision, it resonates with us and we want to be a part of making this happen’.”

Intrigued with the concept of Generative Journalism, co-founder Sidney Craig Courtice mentioned the work of Peter, as well as John McKnight, David Cooperrider and Peter Block among others who are involved with strength-based, positive movements to get messages across and bring people together.

“One positive story will not only generate positive action, but it will generate more stories — and more positive action.”

“My understanding of what Generative Journalism is, is that one positive story will not only generate positive action, but it will generate lots of positive action; and therefore generate more stories and more positive action. I like that concept of Generative Journalism. I like that it’s also going to be within a framework of the co-operative movement.”

Speaking to co-operatives, co-founding member Greg O’Neill has been involved with co-ops since the mid-1980s across Canada. Co-operatives are a mystery to people, he explained, because there is little opportunity to interact with co-ops, nor are they learned about in school.

Over the years, Greg has developed practical skills to help people organize and develop co-ops. He was inspired during an international co-op development program with people from India and countries in Africa and South America, and the courage they had within the obstacles they faced.

Since it is still in the process of starting out, Greg spoke more to co-operatives in general, than New Scoop YYC specifically. In a vital democratic sense, he explained members of a co-operative not only own it and select a board of directors who set polices, but benefit from the service.

“I really look at co-operatives as the alternative structure to the capital-based economy we live in,” he said, further explaining co-ops are focused on service to people rather than service to capital. “It’s a really nice way for people to organize themselves to do things for themselves that each individual couldn’t do for him or herself necessarily. So, it’s the power of the group.”

Members representing varying aspects of the greater Calgary community engaged with founding members seeing how connections could be formed with New Scoop YYC.

New to Canada, Noreen Mahmood hopes to learn more about the community from New Scoop YYC. Her involvement with a women’s group centred around domestic violence sees her wanting to forge connections to help women “come out of this vicious cycle and live a normal life.”

Good news to John Griffith is about building community and building relationships. After 43 years in church service, John relayed the story of when he was a minister at St. David’s Church. A young man, he said, went abroad to study in his junior year and came back a paraplegic. He went on to graduate high school, earn a master’s degree from the University of Calgary and is now a psychologist preparing to write provincial examinations.

“Some people would give up. I really believe the more good news we can put into our lives, the more we can raise good vibration, the possibility, the hope.”

As New Scoop YYC steps forward in its prototyping phase, made possible with the help of a three-month grant from Cities For People, it plans to solidify its foundation. Incorporating as a co-operative, building its membership base, and continuing to generate stories in the essence of Appreciate Inquiry are those very next steps.

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