About This Cause
“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
At CommunityWise, we offer more than just subsidized office space. As a nonprofit hub, we build the capacity of grassroots and small nonprofit organizations by creating opportunities and facilitating resource-sharing that enables increased knowledge, skills, effectiveness, connection, and community for our 85 nonprofit member groups. We also seek to engage with the broader community through nonprofit sector development work with a current focus on anti-racism and equity.
For 40 years, CommunityWise 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 and event equipment), and collaborative capacity-building programming to 85 member organizations while simultaneously serving as stewards of an 110 year old heritage building.
The work of these supported organizations spans a wide spectrum of social, environmental, and cultural issues and their approaches include direct services to peer support to community development to 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.
Our overarching GOALS 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.
WHY DO WE DO IT?
In terms of the power of shared space, 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.
HOW DO WE DO IT?
-Below-market office and community spaces.
-Shared backbone infrastructure.
-Collaborative learning opportunities with community partners on such topics as: governance, fund development, financial management, first-aid, self-care, community mental health, peer support.
-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.
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.
“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
"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