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CommunityWise

CommunityWise is a nonprofit hub that, for 40 years, has existed to support and strengthen diverse grassroots groups and nonprofit organizations through our central location in the historic Old YWCA Building. We provide affordable office and community space, backbone infrastructure (shared internet, mailboxes, office equipment), and collaborative capacity-building programming to 90 member organizations. We also engage in a wide array of community and nonprofit sector development work with a focus on anti-racism and equity.

Our Story

Why We Exist

“CommunityWise is a rare and incredibly valuable staple in the Calgary community. CommunityWise has led the way in offering space to marginalized groups long before societal access to space became a reality.” – Calgary Queer Arts Society (CommunityWise member organization)

Community is the result of building relationships and sharing resources – it is created by its members, and is the result of making “space” to get to know each other, to collaborate, to create opportunities and find solutions that work for everyone.

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.

A 2015 study by the Nonprofit Centers Network found that 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 (State of the Shared Space Sector Survey, p. 3).

As we learned in our own 2015 Outcome Harvest evaluation about CommunityWise, intentional efforts to build cross-organizational relationships in shared space can result in increased collaborative behaviour such as shared material resources (e.g. office supplies), shared knowledge and tools (e.g. shared trainings), shared networks, and feelings of support and collective care, contributing to increased capacity for small organizations to fulfill their missions.

“You all do beautiful and tireless work. Thank you for your contribution to our city even when times are tough.” – anonymous donor

Our Impact

What We Do

CommunityWise is a link between past, present and future. Over the past 40 years, the supportive physical and social space provided by CommunityWise has allowed hundreds of organizations, most of whom are small grassroots and nonprofit groups, to undertake their programs and activities with the stability and flexibility necessary for maximum impact.

The work of these supported organizations spans a wide spectrum of social, environmental, and cultural issues and their approaches include direct services, peer support, community development, and systems change. Among other areas, they work in addictions supports and advocacy; community economic development; hunger alleviation; disability services; mental health supports; ethnocultural community organizing; LGBTQ2+ peer support; Indigenous community services; and film, performative, and community arts.

More specifically, CommunityWise plays a critical role at multiple lifecycle stages of member groups through simultaneously serving as:

1) an incubation hub for new organizations who need a place to start out

2) a transition hub for organizations experiencing challenges accessing space over the shorter term

3) a long-term home and and inter-generational hub

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 other activities took place at CommunityWise in 2018 (source: booking calendar).

VALUE-DRIVEN:

5 values guide everything we do:

-Mutuality: We cultivate relationships, connection and collaboration because of their shared benefits and because together we can withstand individual and shared challenges.

-Inclusion: We respect and elevate diverse voices, practices and cultures, individual uniqueness and collective wisdom.

-Accountability: We are responsible to our shared space, to each other, to the larger community, and to the planet.

-Trust: We have confidence in the knowledge, experience, and ability of our members and partners, and actively work to keep their trust in us.

-Equity: We recognize and redress historical and current-day inequities experienced by certain equity-seeking groups and strive for their barrier-free participation.

TESTIMONIALS:

“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 Women’s Health Collective (CommunityWise member)

“Of the many positive aspects of the Anti-Racist Organizational Change (AROC) project, I most appreciate that AROC 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

“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)

“Thanks for offering a safe space for groups and organizations who can’t often find one in traditional structures!” – anonymous donor

“This organization is a gem. When you walk through the doors of the old building, you feel distinctly like you’ve left Calgary. Officially, they provide affordable office and community space to grassroots efforts. But also…They are unwaveringly committed to community and equity in all they do. They care about each human who walks in the building, regardless of how or why they ended up there. They do A LOT with not a lot of money…personally, they inspire me to try harder and be more thoughtful. Your dollars couldn’t be going to a better cause.” – CommunityWise Supporter

Our Programs

How We Do It

  • Below-market office and community spaces.
  • Shared backbone infrastructure: shared internet, mailboxes, office equipment
  • Collaborative learning opportunities with community partners on such topics as: governance, fund development, financial management, first-aid, self-care, community mental health, peer support.
  • Community Resource Centre Hub partnership: since 2018, we have partnered with Sunrise Community Link to deliver basic needs supports.
  • Internship and practicum placements: since 2010, we have hosted over 25 students who support the work of our members.
  • Anti-Racist Organizational Change (AROC): since 2016, we have led an AROC process. The goals of AROC are to address organizational racism and create greater racial equity and inclusion within CommunityWise while also sharing lessons learned with other nonprofits.

Our Requests

What You Can Do

PROGRAMS AND SERVICES:  CommunityWise provides a variety of programs and services to 90 tenant and associate member groups including their constituents, supporting their ability to deliver their missions effectively and build organizational capacity and resilience.

Programs and Services Goals:

  • To have the right staff in the right places
  • To provide appropriate supports to members
  • To foster a strong membership community
  • To create more a equitable grassroots and non-profit sector in Calgary

FACILITIES:  CommunityWise is the steward of The Historic Old YWCA. Constructed in 1911 our building is over 100 years old. As a result, we have unique repairs and maintenance requirements.

While CommunityWise strives to ensure that organizations here have access to the most affordable, accessible, and functional work environment this is an increasing challenge.

CommunityWise is in need of support to properly fulfill our historic conservation plan which included upgrades to building systems, refurbishment of historic features, and renovations to office and program meeting space.

Facilities Goals:

  • To protect a public asset – historic building – according to stewardship values
  • To provide accessible and functional backbone supports (e.g. shared internet)
  • Renovate and update building so that it is accessible, vibrant and welcoming
  • To provide building operations rooted in the practice of stewardship

Stay Connected

Contact

Erin McFarlane

Community & Organizational Development Coordinator

403.261.9660

Charitable Number: 119066694RR0001

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