Community Connections | Citizen Engagement, Neighbourhoods
Environment | Sustainability

Arusha Centre Society

Arusha: "Calgarian communities taking action" We are Calgarians taking action on the most pressing Calgary issues with participatory, exciting activities. More than ever, Calgary needs to connect to urban economic innovation and sustainability. We inspire Calgarians to celebrate local culture, economics, and sustainability.

Our Story

Why We Exist

Carol Sherwood, Arusha’s first staff person recalls “We didn’t start in 1972, but a couple of years before.” Our roots go back to the Calgary and District International Development Society. Staff wanted to incorporate some development education into the publicity for local walks, and devised some innovative programs for young people to learn more about the split between the world’s rich and poor.

  • Arusha takes its name from the Arusha Declaration, a set of principles drafted by the governing party of Tanzania in 1967 as a guide toward economic and social development: Inherent in this Declaration is a rejection of the concept of national grandeur as distinct from the well-being of its citizens, and a rejection, too, of material wealth for its own sake.
  • It is a commitment to the belief that there are more important things in life than the amassing of riches, and that if the pursuit of wealth clashes with things like human dignity and social equality, then the latter will be given priority. – Julius Nyerere, President, Tanzania from The Arusha Declaration , 1967

Activities addressed by Arusha have included film series, discussions, and orientations for Calgarians volunteering overseas.

By the 1990’s, Arusha’s energy was focused on the Committee for Anti-Racist Education, One World Film Festival (that evolved into the Calgary International Film Festival), a resource library, work in schools, and a multitude of workshops and special events. In 1996, The Sustainable Calgary and Calgary Dollars projects emerged from Arusha’s work on sustainable communities. Since then Take Action Grants, a grassroot granting initiative, was created and supported over 100 citizen projects and Open Streets Calgary attends 50 events each year with environmental education using pedal generators, pennyfarthings, and bubblemakers!

In all Arusha’s work, it maintains its commitment to address social, environmental and economic issues in Calgary.



Our Impact

What We Do

For over forty years, the Arusha Centre has been a meeting place for community enthusiasts and activists working on Calgary’s social and environmental initiatives. The Centre is named after the Arusha Declaration on global and community development announced in the town of Arusha, Tanzania in 1969.

Calgary should not be known only for its wealth and high quality of life. More than ever, Calgary is connecting to urban economic innovation and sustainability. The Arusha Centre is a meeting place for community enthusiasts and activists of all types.

Core programs, Calgary Dollars, Take Action Grants, and Open Streets Calgary connect and collaborate with Calgarians of all kinds. Complementary currency blends social and economic benefits for vulnerable Calgarians and across communities. Take Action Grants builds capacity and funds for Calgarians want to take on their first social or environmental project. Open Streets Calgary allows an audience to power a performer while learning cycling skills and energy awareness.

Vision  The Arusha Centre inspires and supports communities to connect, gather, and create a socially, economically, and environmentally just future.

Mission  The Arusha Centre is a collectively run, member-supported organisation that provides resources and initiatives on social justice and environmental issues. We help Calgarians through community economic development and community resilience programs and offers varied practical resources, animating activities which educate, inspire and connect with and between people and projects.

In addition to core programs, Arusha has engaged Calgarians in the following  in 2015:

  • We Are Cities: Arusha advocated nationally as the Alberta Convenor for We Are Cities, which saw five public roundtables with 100 participants take place in Edmonton/Calgary.
  • Alberta Climate Change Action: Arusha sponsored The Alberta film premiere of This Changes Everything which accompanied the book; Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein met with 60 Calgarians during an afternoon workshop and sold out 350 seats as part of a 3 week film run and premiere.
  • CJSW Sponsorship: For 10 years, Arusha has sponsored community radio, training practicums and spread the word about collaborator events and non-corporate radio.
  • Community Collaboration: This year has seen Arusha support initiatives such as Imagine Calgary, the Calgary Cycle community, and the REAP local business network.
  • Sustainability Discussion Circle: Arusha co-organized a monthly discussion on themes of culture, economics, and environmentalism for six years. Sponsors include Sustainable Calgary, Sunnyside Market , Pages Books, Green Calgary, Thrive, and REAP.



Our Programs

How We Do It

Arusha’s programs are inspired by relocalization, the movement to live, shop, and celebrate all things local. Localization increases quality of life, economic stability, and is better for the environment. Arusha is home to Calgary Dollars, Take Action Grants, and Open Streets Calgary and supports numerous other civic inititatives.

  • Calgary Dollars: Neighbours trading with each other to get what they need and get to know each other. Calgary Dollars circulates $80,000 in complementary currency among Calgary businesses and individuals. Instead of moving your money out of town, keep it with small local growing business through C$.
    • We are a localization effort to bring the power of the people back to our communities. Think globally; act locally.
  • Take Action Grants (TAG), in partnership with the Calgary Foundation, grants $2000 amounts each month, half in Calgary Dollars currency and half in federal dollars. A $2000 grant can be made to a group of Calgarians wanting to take action on a social or environmental issue. Since 1998, TAG has funded 110 projects with $81,556 and C$91,922, a total investment of $173,478. An example of a TAG is:
    • A Calgary urban food documentary that educates about the benefits of growing food commercially on Calgarians’ property and making it available using the Community Shared Agriculture model
    • To learn more about the history of TAG, click here.
  • Open Streets Calgary takes participatory environmental and fitness activities to Calgary companies, festivals and the community. Open Streets Calgary brings a collaboration of cycling, arts, & community groups to Calgary events. Open Streets Calgary is strengthening the impact of its collaborators by promoting their initiatives & campaigns. Over the last year alone, Open Streets Calgary animated 47 events with 41,000 attendees and directly engaged 3,500 participants.
    • To learn more about Open Streets, click here.


Our Requests

What You Can Do

Open Streets Calgary animated 47 events with 41,000 attendees and engaged 3,500 people. The first Earth Hour was organized by the City of Calgary and attracted over 500 people, providing a photobooth and programming for the Cycletrack opening, and blending ice drinks while powering summer festivals. Open Streets added a USB/cell phone charger and the capacity to pedal power karaoke, videos and presentations.

Education about active transporation and electricity conservation has taken Open Streets into corporate offices, City Hall, and festivals city-wide. In 2015, our We Are Cities roundtable heard from over 100 participants who want to create more multi-purpose hubs in Calgary’s inner city, and we invite you to get involved in relocalization.

There are a few options for you to get involved with the Arusha Centre:

  1. Become part of the Calgary Dollars Economy, visit and you’ll receive C$20 for your first listing!
  2. Contribute time or money to expand the Take Action Grants program. Each $1000 is matched to double it’s impact and fund another project!
  3. $2500 sponsorships of Open Streets allows us to attend another event no charge. Events include Bike to School Day, Community Farmers Markets, and festivals.


Gerald Wheatley

Arusha Centre Society


Charitable Number: 132004003RR0001

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