Changemakers Vancouver is a network of people who want to learn, share, and act so to make the world a better place. We believe in connection, collaboration, and creativity.

Changemaker Spotlight: Eli van der Giessen

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Eli strives to be a connector — the interstitial tissue that holds the muscle of a community together. He’s been a volunteer manager, an event organizer and a digital campaigner. Basically he’ll take any gig that allows him to enable a group of passionate people to create things they love.

Currently he’s the NetSquared Community Manager supporting a global volunteer network of 50 monthly meetups for the nonprofit technology sector. Together they hold over 450 events per year.

What precipitated you organizing unconferences? Why even do one in the first place? What didn’t you find in a standard conference?

I started planning unconferences because real conferences suck!

The common refrain you hear from conference attendees is “the most valuable moment was the unplanned conversation in the hall between sessions.” The unconference movement takes that insight and turns your entire event into a series of serendipitous moments. By throwing out a formal agenda and predefined “experts” we flip the power dynamic of most conferences. We know that the smartest person on any topic is never onstage — but your secret geniuses are often introverts, minorities, women, or others who are less likely to be invited to present. When we remove the formality of the standard conference format and invite people to share ideas as equals an amazing flowering of new insights and relationships emerge.

Another huge benefit is that everyone is invited (nay, expected!) to participate. In our digital age the unconference format gets people to close their laptops, put away their phones, and engage.

Describe an unconference you’ve organized — it can be your first one or one that you’re most proud of. What happened? Who attended? What did you expect? What was the outcome? Feel free to share one or many stories here.

My first unconference (and the first I attended) was Vancouver Changecamp. Our goal was to help renew the relationships among citizens and government. We worked to create connections, knowledge, tools and policies to drive transparency, civic engagement and democratic empowerment.

But I didn’t believe anyone would show up for something with such squishy goals. Luckily I was super wrong. We had several hundred attendees including civic groups, neighbourhood houses, government staffers, seniors groups, and more. There was an amazing productive energy in the room as groups that normally clashed with their different interests and strategy came together to discuss their common interests and vision for their city. Normally environmentalists and city staffers are battling with each other, but for one day they came together to talk about a shared vision.

I was hooked, and I’ve organized an unconference every year since.

I’m often asked about the impact of the unconferences. What came from all that work? And the honest answer is that I don’t know. In the space of an unconference all we’re really doing is creating a space where unlikely allies can come together and start building a relationship that may turn into something amazing later. I’ll often hear from someone three years later about the job they found, or the project they created, or the new career direction that emerged from their experience at an unconference. To me, that’s the real goal of the unconference – to create the conditions for the next amazing project or life transformation.

What are Eli’s spicy tips on organizing an unconference? How do you come up with the burning question, theme and potential speakers? What other prep work is useful in putting on an unconference?

Here the truth: don’t overthink it. Your attendees are going to ignore all your specific instructions anyways. They’ll talk about what they want to talk about.

I recommend unconference planners be very open with your theme and questions. If there’s a question between specificity or broadness always lean towards opening up the question space. Instead, your prep should focus on getting a diverse mix of attendees and working with a couple ringers to seed some interesting discussion topics that model what a pitch session could look like.

What’s the best gathering you’ve attended and why?

The best gathering I’ve attended by far is the Edmonton Folk Music Fest. It isn’t an unconference — it’s a music festival. But it shares a spirit with an unconference in that it’s all about creating the space for relationship building and fostering collective creativity.

The music programming is done by a small team of producers, but the event itself is planned and run by over 2,000 volunteers, dwarfing the team of 10 who are paid staff. The volunteers come together to build something for themselves, and for their community. Edmonton Folk Fest volunteers build their own fully functioning community. Crews come together to build the festival site, cook the meals, direct traffic, run the sound and lights, and fill every other responsibility needed to host 20,000 attendees each year. The experience of coming together to create a gift for their fellow Edmontonians is so meaningful to the volunteers that many volunteers travel from other countries, contribute 100+ hours of time, and then don’t even attend the festival itself. Creating the event is the reward in itself.

If you could look into a crystal ball, what would the future look like for events and / or gatherings?

Getting face to face is magic – nothing can replace it. But the next big challenge is to blend the in-person and the online. How can we make our events inviting to virtual attendees and provide genuine opportunities for engagement. Broadcasting is now getting easier with new technology like Periscope, but the old skills of facilitation will continue to be vital to make all voices heard.

What’s the best way to capture the energy of the room at an unconference and also capture the energy, ideas or discussion post-event (including the outcomes)?

Graphic facilitation is the sexiest technique out there! Capturing a conversation with text notes can be tricky, but a trained illustrator/summarizer can distil an hour’s worth of conversation into one amazing image.

Super Tuesday Live Stream + Watch Party

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March 1st, 6pm–10:30pm @ The Fox Cabaret (2321 Main St)
Entrance is Free! 19+
RSVP on Facebook

“This is one of the most unique, and potentially transformative, US Presidential primary elections in modern history.”

Donald Trump is leading in national public opinion polls. Hillary Clinton is vying to break the highest glass ceiling and return to the Clintons to the White House. Bernie Sanders is stoking a grassroots political revolution that’s inspired millions.

Change is in the air.

So, like good neighbours do, we’re opening our doors and inviting you to join us for a Super Tuesday Watch party!

We’ll live stream the Republican and Democratic Party primary results from 12 states on a HUUUUGE projector.

Representatives with BC for Bernie will help register expat Americans to vote in the Global Democratic Party Primary.

Co-hosted by: BC for Bernie, New Mode Engagement, Changemakers Vancouver, and The Fox Cabaret.

February changemaking events in Vancouver

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Feb 2 — Net2Van Nonprofit Technology Show and Tell
Feb 3 — Hollyhock Launch Party
Feb 4 — Vertality and Science of Cocktails
Feb 15 — Social Impact Group — third Monday of every month at the HiVE

Vertality6 — Transformation

Thurs. Feb 4 | 6pm–9pm
CBC Vancouver, 700 Hamilton
Tickets: Members $20 | Non-Members $35

What better way to kick the New Year into full gear than at Vertality6 — the annual sustainability bash of the Board of Change.

The Board of Change is pleased to announce that Coro Strandberg, Strandberg Consulting and Adam Millard, ello Foods and 3Fold Partners, will be our hosts for this year’s event, and what better theme for an event that involves Coro than TRANSFORMATION. Like all of our parties we promise not to disappoint, with great people, great food from the Roaming Dragon, music and new experiences.

Re-Purpose Your Textiles
Part of the Vertality6 Transformation evening will include the creation of a giant re-purposed textile sculpture of a giant butterfly. Under the direction of Robyn Thompson from Robyn Thompson Design she – and you – will re-purpose any items of used clothing that you’d like to donate to transform the metal frame of a butterfly into a colourful textile sculpture. Included above are examples of other re-purposed textile sculptures.

Please bring any 1 to 5 pieces of used clothing items. At the event’s conclusion, all dismantled garments will be donated to local charities.

Science of Cocktails

Thurs. Feb 4 | 7pm–12am
TELUS World of Science
Changemaker discounted ticket

We need all the help we can get as we are attempting to raise $200,000 for Science World’s Class Field Trip Program, which give kids from underserved schools free entrance to Science World.

Think molecular mixology, 25 stellar beverage stations (open bar) run by award-winning bartenders and mouthwatering appetizers all night. Bragging rights and prizes to be won all in the name of charity. 100% of ticket proceeds will go towards Science World’s Class Field Trip Program, providing underfunded schools free access to Science World.

New Moon Sparkle Dance Party: A Holiday Soiree for Changemakers

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Friday December 11th
Beaumont Studios (326 West 5th Ave, Vancouver)
9pm ’til late
Tickets $15–$23. Use discount code changesparkle to save $4 (on general admission only).

Changemakers is excited to partner with Transformation Projects for their Holiday Party. The night will feature inspiring tunes from DJ T-Spoon (Delhi 2 Dublin), Chillout Tea & Conversation Bar (upstairs), Veggie Pot Pies, proper cheese plates and exquisite bartending.

Other partners include CityStudio Vancouver, SVI Hollyhock, Vancouver Design Nerds, Junxion, Happy City Lab, Gen Why Media, SFU RADIUS, HiVE, Documentary Organization of Canada, Creative Coworkers, Wize Monkey, Textbook, and Arbutus Medical.

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Invite your friends on Facebook

100 in 1 Day

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What if hundreds of people united, each taking one small action to improve their city, all on the same day? 100 in 1 Day is a global festival of civic engagement returning to Vancouver for its second year on June 6, 2015. Imagine the possibilities for our city if hundreds of people united to participate in small initiatives to spark change. Share your vision for a better city, sign up your urban intervention at vancouver.100in1day.ca

ReMatriate Fashion Show + Panel Discussion

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Saturday, June 27, 1:30pm to 3:30pm
Vancouver Public Library Central Branch, 350 West Georgia St

You are invited to a cultural experience, exploring the depth of creativity amongst notable Indigenous designers, writers, researchers, traditional and contemporary artists, and advocates. Join us for a conscious fashion show followed by a insightful conversation to raise awareness about appropriation of indigenous cultural identities. Thank you to All My Relations for putting on these intentional events.

This event is sold out. More info

Public talk: Is Austerity Fueling the Generational Divide?

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A public talk exploring the factors behind growing inequality between and within generations.

Performance Centre, Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre
181 Roundhouse Mews
Thursday, 4 June 2015 from 7–9pm

Join us at this free public talk in Vancouver on Thursday June 4, featuring Markus Moos from the School of Planning at the University of Waterloo. Markus is the founder of Generationed City, a research project about the employment and housing challenges facing people in Canadian and US cities, especially young adults and Millennials. Learn more about the talk.

Space is limited at this free event so register early to secure your spot!

Register

GradusTalks: Non-Profit on May 6

Hear from speakers who dared to delve deeper into the world of Non-Profit and discover the endless opportunities.

Wednesday May 6th from 6pm – 9pm
The Profile, #200 – 375 Water St
Tickets $18 in advance, $25 at the door

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Panelists:

  • John Bromley, CEO of Chimp.net
  • Michael McKnight, President and CEO of United Way of the Lower Mainland
  • Lisa Hurlbutt, Director of Marketing and Communications at the Canadian Cancer Society
  • Raquel de Munain, Director of People & Culture at BC Children’s Hospital Foundation
  • Tanya L. Oliva, Executive Director, Social Venture Partners Vancouver (SVP)

Moderated by Sam Thiara, Co-founder of GradusOne

More information and panelist bios on the ticket page.

Keynote Panel: United Against Austerity

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Tuesday April 28th from 6–8 pm
Vancouver Public Library — Central Branch (350 West Georgia Street)
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Territorial welcome by Audrey Siegl (ancestral name sχɬemtəna:t) from Musqueam nation. Followed by fantastic speakers!

  • Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of Union of BC Indian Chiefs
  • Reilly Yeo: co-creator of Groundswell Grassroots Economic Alternatives and a specialist at OpenMedia
  • Arielle dela Cruz Yip and Cora Cadiz: Philippine Women Centre of BC
  • Paul Finch: BC Government and Service Employees Union Treasurer
  • Adrienne Montani: Provincial Coordinator of First Call BC
  • and COMEDY by Sean Devlin of Shit Harper Did

Why Unite Against Austerity

All around the world — from Quebec to Greece to Chile to South Africa — tens of thousands of people are rising up against austerity.

Governments and the mainstream media say there is not enough money, and belts must be tightened. Cuts to social spending and wages ensue, while fossil fuel companies and other corporations receive subsidies. Unions are attacked. Indigenous nations are denied inherent land rights and resources from their lands are extracted. Environmental regulations are reduced. Migrant workers are forced into even more precarious working conditions. Vital public services including education, childcare, housing, women’s centers and healthcare are cut, but the prisons and military are expanding. And all of this is justified by a prevailing atmosphere of scarcity and fear.

Almost everyone is affected by austerity policies, but we are typically isolated in our struggles. Unite Against Austerity is a cross-country effort that looks beyond the next election and seeks to transform the political and economic landscape across communities and sectors. By building grassroots power and solidarity, we want to make it impossible for any government to implement austerity policies. Unite Against Austerity aims to build an understanding of austerity policies, and begin to generate a unity (that is attentive to specificity) across Indigenous, labour, feminist, migrant, environmentalist, student, anti-poverty and diverse community movements.

Come join the conversation and let’s build our power!

Event sponsored by BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives, Changemakers Vancouver, Council of Canadians, Institute for the Humanities at Simon Fraser University, Leadnow, Rising Tide, No One Is Illegal, Smart Change, Streams of Justice, Vancouver Ecosocialist Group

There will be snacks and child-minders on site.
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Transforming Society: 5 Wild Ideas For A Better Future

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Friday, February 13, 2015
$10
UBC Robson Square, C300 Theatre

Doors open 6:30pm | Program begins 7pm

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Needing inspiration to get you going in 2015? Feeling stuck at work or in your life? Having crazy bold ideas to change the world but not sure where to share them?

Well do we have the event for you. We have asked five influential thought leaders to share the biggest challenges they face in their respective fields and ask them to share their wild ideas and opportunities to realize a better future. We invite you to hear their story and also participate in sharing your wild ideas during the Q&A / panel discussion that follows.

Our esteemed speakers include:

  • Shadrach Kabango aka Shad | Juno Award Winning Hip Hop Artist
  • Iglika Ivanova | Senior Economist, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Ryan Meili | Physician, Founder of Upstream
  • Paul Kershaw | UBC Professor, Generation Squeeze Founder
  • Harsha Walia | Co-founder, No One is Illegal Vancouver

Transforming Society is co-presented with Next Up and Upstream.

+ Feel free to share your ideas to transform society on Twitter before the event via #wildideas
+ Huge thanks goes to our own Erika Rathje for the design work.
+ Interested in helping out? We’re always looking for people to get involved before, during or after the event.

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