Why we exist
Shared space is powerful and we know that nonprofit hubs are capable of achieving a number of significant benefits. This includes allowing small organizations to spend a higher proportion of their funds in directly impactful ways. The cost savings and stability resulting from nonprofits being located in a shared space are most often re-directed to increased existing program-related spending. Other uses include the development of new services and programs, and increased staffing (2015 State of the Shared Space Sector Survey, Nonprofit Centres Network, p. 3).
Beyond this, CommunityWise is defined not only by the building as a physical centre, but by the communities, the organizations, and the individuals who occupy it. Playing much more than a landlord role, we strive to learn from, and be in relationship with, our members. This means that the strategies and tactics through which our mandate is carried out are heavily influenced by the groups who use the building. Accordingly, we have been encouraged by our strong, longstanding, and trust-based relationships with our members to meet them where they are at, striving to meet their unique needs to ultimately better enable them to meet their own goals.
5 values guide everything we do:
Our impact – what we do
CommunityWise is a nonprofit hub that, for 42 years, has existed to support and strengthen diverse grassroots groups and nonprofit organizations through our central location in the historic Old YWCA Building that we’ve been the stewards of since 1979. We provide affordable office and community space, administrative infrastructure (shared internet, mailboxes, office equipment), and collaborative capacity-building opportunities to 60 member organizations, most of whom are small nonprofits or grassroots groups. We also engage in community and nonprofit sector development work with a focus on anti-racism and equity.
Among the diverse areas CommunityWise members work in and represent, our current focus areas are: groups that are led by-and-for Black, Indigenous, and racialized populations; 2SLGBTQ+ groups; addiction recovery groups; and small arts groups. According to our most recent member survey, 61% of members reported having annual budgets of less than $50,000. This statistic obscures the fact that a large portion actually have annual budgets of less than $15,000 and are entirely run by volunteer support.
Our long-term organizational goals as identified in our theory of change are to: 1) support our members so that they are better able to achieve their own organizational goals and 2) contribute to making Calgary’s grassroots and nonprofit sector more equitable.
CommunityWise members collectively serve tens of thousands of people in Calgary and surrounding areas each year (source: CommunityWise Member Survey). 1500 events, meetings, appointments, peer support groups, celebrations, workshops, and more took place at CommunityWise in 2019 (source: booking calendar). 2020 and 2021 saw reduced use of the building due to COVID-19.
Members’ words reveal the impacts of CommunityWise on their work:
“The benefits of being housed at CommunityWise have been immeasurable. We have been able to expand our services and vision from the offering of counselling services to the facilitation of client groups, the hosting of a platform of therapists from all over Calgary, and the organization of workshops with instructors from the city as well as abroad.” – Calgary Narrative Collective (CommunityWise member)
“Thanks for all the terrific community support. CommunityWise helps us do our work better through your supportive staff, reasonable rent as well as connecting to other social justice, environmental and arts groups.” – Alberta Media Arts Alliance (CommunityWise member)
“Of the many positive aspects of the Anti-Racist Organizational Change (AROC) project, I most appreciate that CommunityWise is committed to promoting inclusion and equity not only as an outcome, but also through its process. Meaningful change that prioritizes the voices of those most impacted by racism is far-reaching and vital, and I am thankful for the learning and growth I have gained with AROC.” (Working Group Participant)
Our programs – how we do it
CommunityWise is a nonprofit hub that, for 42 years, has existed to support and strengthen diverse grassroots groups and nonprofit organizations through our central location in the historic “Old YWCA” Building that we have been the stewards of since 1979.
In the fall of 2019, a preventative maintenance and repair study was conducted at the Historic Old YWCA building to understand the boiler, heating, and water treatment systems of the facility.
The study identified a number of necessary repair and replacement interventions, including:
-Retrofitting the water treatment infrastructure
-Upgrading the water softener system
-Refurbishing and replacing historic radiator isolation valves
-Upgrading the boiler system with new steam vent, backflow device, and upgraded valves to the boiler in the mechanical room
-Insulating currently uninsulated steam lines for safety
In the process of carrying out these interventions, multiple unanticipated complications have occurred and new issues have been discovered (e.g. boiler testing showed cracking in one boiler, new pinhole leaks to supply lines). As the operators of the building, CommunityWise is working to address these issues, but requires additional financial resources to continue to do so.