building new castles every day

Posts Tagged ‘Community Catalysts’

I have a dream

In Doings, Feelings on January 12, 2014 at 9:05 AM

with title and CC and Fircom

I have a dream.

To launch the Canadian equivalent of StoryCorps, an independent nonprofit who provides people of all backgrounds and beliefs the opportunity to record, share and preserve the stories of their lives.

StoryCorps impacted me years ago. I was living alone in a bachelor suite at the top of a house in Mount Pleasant, Vancouver. Working several jobs out of university. Recently ended long-term relationship. Parents and sisters a day’s travel away. Grandparents a $600+ flight away.

It was a lonely time.

But when a Facebook friend recommended the animated short of Danny & Annie, a seed of possibility was planted. (Watch it yourself, and you’ll feel love, too.)

I should also mention The Hole. It was gaining prominence in my life. I didn’t feel it as a child. But as an adult — away from family, no roots in a community, no elder keeping me in check — I felt it deeply.

That animated short filled The Hole. Just a bit, but enough to inspire me. To connect with my family through story.

I began committing to visits in Alberta and Ontario, to my grandparents and pseudo grandparents. I brought along questions and a voice recorder. I asked to look at photographs and recipes. We sat together in silence sometimes. But it was a fulfilling silence. No fear of rejection or miles of country between us, just generations of experience and thoughts and love.

These stories cost me money and time. But filling The Hole was worth every cent and second.

Jump ahead a few years, and I’m using my passion project, Community Catalysts, as a vehicle to begin my dream. But I’m not the only one wanting a connection through auditory experience. My pals at Fircom have committed to hosting up to 50 people for a weekend, February 14-16, so we can all record, share and preserve the songs, sounds and stories of our lives.

Just like StoryCorps. Except, in lieu of a mobile ‘tin can’ recording studio, we’ll have 120 acres of coastal forest and a 90-year restored community hall. Plus healthy meals, modern shared accommodation, and three days of fun.

If you’ve got a Hole of your own, and you’re inspired to fill it with stories or sounds or songs, and you’d like to do it with equally curious and committed folk, please consider registering for the retreat. Find out more here:

And thanks for listening.

I do it for the stories

In Doings, Learnings on July 2, 2013 at 8:37 AM


For the last nine months, I have been organizing, wrangling, negotiating, pitching, designing, coding and sharing my passion project, Community Catalysts.

It’s a retreat series for everyday changemakers. And it’s the most rewarding work of my career so far.

Community Catalysts was created as an antidote to the negative effects of our reality. Modern realities like nature deficit, urban isolation and creative withdrawal.

These realities get me stuck. And I believe they get my community stuck, too.

My friends and colleagues, Jeff Willis and Janey Chang, felt the same way. Sure, we were inspired by the people and ideas of Vancouver’s typical networking events, professional development conferences and TED-like talks. But we were starving to learn actionable knowledge.

Plus, we wanted a time and place to share these tools, tricks and techniques while making immediate positive change in our everyday lives. We didn’t want to get together and moan anymore. We wanted to take all that inspiration and make something of it with our own hands.

And what better place to do all this, we thought, than amongst the most humbling of teachers — Mother Nature.

In August, 2012, we took stock of what tools and techniques we each had. Jeff runs a beautiful nature sanctuary in Howe Sound known as Camp FircomJaney had a thematic vision to guide our hands-on learning. And I love communicating and connecting all of the above.

jeff_bw_circle  Janey Chang_circle   jocelyn_bw_circle

In April 2013, we offered our first retreat, Sacred Earth.

There, amongst the Pacific ocean and Alder trees, 40 ‘changemakers’ shared their fun, creative and tangible knowledge through hands-on experiences. We learned about mentoring, art therapy, courage, adversity, ceremony, self-care, entrepreneurship, and probiotic fermentation. Facilitators got participants using their tools and resources immediately, and participants got facilitators thinking bigger and listening harder.

We had no expectations of this retreat. We were just bringing a dream to fruition and hoped others shared it.

Turns out, others did share our dream. And they’ve continued to share it since returning to the city.

Since April, we’ve seen our 40 retreat attendees turn first encounters into monthly potlucks, strangers into friendships, friendships into business partnerships, work into passion, ideas into projects, and (my favourite impact) curious participation into workshop facilitation at our next retreat this July.

This residual, positive impact is what gets me unstuck. And they’re the stories of everyday change I will share on this blog throughout the rest of 2013 and into 2014.

Want to hear these stories firsthand? Want to experience this everyday change for yourself? Then you must join us for our next retreat, Living Wellness, July 12-14. Email me for personal Q&A: infoATcommunitycatalystsDOTca

weekend agenda 2

Make Bad Art and get unstuck

In Feelings, Thinkings on June 19, 2013 at 6:34 AM

Bad Books

The ArtStar Props studio in Burnaby is a creative oasis. The first time I stepped inside for a Make Bad Art evening, the rush of traffic disappeared and the rainbow of art supplies enveloped me like my mother’s hug.

The studio’s typical white walls are hung with untypical installations of collage and photography, framed on one side by a small kitchen (complete with espresso machine and platters of cheese and fruit) and on the other side with a lush, bright red sofa (dotted with children’s toys).

Turn towards the south-facing patio and you’ll see (in addition to Mount Baker on a clear day) long tables covered in heaps of supplies, from pipecleaners to lace, door knobs to wood scraps, drill guns to glitter. The wall of ‘inspiration’ beckons you like a kid in a mud pit:

You can’t help but get stuck in.

Dolls Gone Wild

Maybe it’s because I’m blessed to have a mother who maintained an ‘arts and crafts’ space in my childhood basement. Maybe it’s because the 25 strangers who showed up at the studio responded in the same way.

What I’m certain about is that after I transformed an instructional dance book into a schmushed, illustration-gutted Wicked Witch of the Glitter, I felt challenged, reconnected and pleasantly surprised.

Who knew making something so awful could make me feel so unstuck?

Josh and Amber knew.

That’s why I’m so excited to have them facilitate a Make Bad Art workshop at the next Community Catalysts retreat this July.

keller boorman family

The Keller Boorman clan taking a break from making ugly Christmas sweaters at the December 2012 Make Bad Art evening.

Josh and Amber met at the Seattle Art Car Festival. His Mazda was covered in Moorish tile designs. Her 1970′s monster was augmented with 3D googley-eyed flames and giant fins. Their cars (and their lives) were meant to be together.

Since that festival ten years ago, Josh and Amber have relocated to Vancouver where Amber leads ArtStar Props, creating custom art for film and events, and Josh teaches English. Together they host Make Bad Art Nights for their community and raise two boys.

They are my friends. They are my creative guides. They are my Community Catalysts. And I can’t wait to make more bad art in just three weeks!

To make some bad art with Josh and Amber, join all the Community Catalysts for the Living Wellness summer weekend retreat on Gambier Island, July 12–14. More info here:

There is meaning in a catalyst’s wandering

In Doings on June 14, 2013 at 6:51 AM


A catalyst always has a reason for making change. They don’t do it willy-nilly. They don’t wander through this world without aim.

I have done my fair share of wandering. Two universities and an indefinable degree, countless jobs and an indefinable career, years of trans-Atlantic relationship and an indefinable home. I assumed for a long time that I lacked focus. That I was indecisive. That I had no aim.

But what I’ve realized (and I’ll tell you how later) is that there is always a motivation behind my actions. And when I realized that motivation, I realized my wandering has value.

What might make a catalyst believe their wandering is meaningless? For me, it is an abundance of noise, lack of space, and absence of other catalysts.

But, again, that doesn’t decrease the value of a catalyst’s wandering. Look at all the stories, the connections, the experience, the knowledge gained from “wandering”. That delicious stuff doesn’t fade away. No way, Jose – it enriches us! Like Wikipedia tells me about catalysis, a catalyst is never consumed:

A catalyst may participate in multiple…transformations. The effect of a catalyst may vary due to the presence of other substances known as inhibitors or poisons (which reduce the catalytic activity) or promoters (which increase the activity).

My motivation is to help catalysts find each other, to direct the wandering to a comfortable natural space, and to cut out the noise – from the busy city, from the negative state of the world, and from the helpless thoughts trying to consume our motivation.

That’s why Community Catalysts exists. It’s a series of retreats with some catalyst friends on Gambier Island. And we’re looking for more catalysts. You should wander over for the next retreat. You won’t be disappointed.