Category Archives: Government

Institute for Sustainable Food Systems

On April 19 Dr. Kent Mullinix presented on the work of the Institute for Sustainable Food Systems (ISFS).

ISFS is an applied research and extension unit at Kwantlen Polytechnic University that investigates and supports regional food systems as key elements of sustainable communities. The project focuses predominantly on British Columbia but also extends to other regions.

See here for more information on the project, and scroll through the presentation slides below. (It may take a few moments for the slide show to load!)

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“Next Up” Comes to Surrey

Next UP BC is proud to announce their first Surrey Spring Intensive, a 3-day leadership program for young adults committed to building social and environmental justice movements.

This is the first time that this program will be offered in Surrey, so this is a great opportunity to experience this program close to home.

Over three intense days, you will develop new skills and ideas, look at how social change is made in society and learn with changemakers who are doing great work in BC to build a more just province.

Registration deadline: Sunday, March 19, 5pm PST

What will I learn?

You’ll learn more about yourself and your values, and about how to turn your ideas into action. You’ll be challenged with new ways of thinking. You’ll meet provocative guests who are leading social change in Vancouver and beyond. You’ll get new skills to help be more effective in your social change work.

Some of the topics we’ll explore include:

  • Community and campaigns organizing
  • Story & social change
  • Theories of changemaking
  • Anti-oppression and decolonization
  • Purpose
  • And more!

See here for more information.

#SurreyCoastal Photo Contest

The #SurreyCoastal Photo Contest is sponsored by the City of Surrey and the Coastal Adaptation Flood Strategy (CFAS). Learn more about upcoming CFAS Community Workshops here.

Enter to win one of three iPad Minis!

Contest runs January 30 to March 12 2017

Did you know that Surrey’s 40 kilometre coastline faces a big challenge as a result of sea level rise, which is projected to rise 50 centimetres (about 1 ½ feet) over the next 50 years?

Why are Surrey’s coastline and coastal communities important to you?

From January 30th to March 12th, we are inviting residents to share photos of what they love about Surrey’s coastal area on:

  • Twitter with a comment and the hashtag #SurreyCoastal
  • Instagram with a comment and the hashtag #SurreyCoastal
  • on the City’s Facebook page ( by uploading your photo in the comments section on any post related to the Surrey coastline. Include a comment with your photo about what you think is important about Surrey’s coastline.


One grand prize winner will be selected in April, 2017 for each of the photo contest categories:

  • Best Activity Photo
  • Best Nature Photo
  • Best Storm Photo

Official Rules

Official Rules are available at:

By participating, you agree to abide by the Official Rules

Summary of 2017 Virtual March for Peace, Unity and Compassion

On January 20, 2017 a colourful procession  marched across Surrey from City Hall to Peace Arch Park and delivered messages of peace, unity and compassion to the US border on the day of the presidential inauguration.

The messages were submitted by people from around Surrey, and they reflect the values, attitudes and priorities that participants hope to see both locally and globally. The march unfolded online through the Village Surrey Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The community art project attracted a lot of great media attention!

The Now Newspaper published two articles: “Surrey Lego march almost as surreal as Trump’s presidency,” and “Sign-carrying Lego people will do ‘virtual march’ in Surrey on Trump inauguration date.”

The Surrey Leader published “Lego of your aversion to joining a march,” the Daily Hive published “LEGO peace march in Surrey to protest Trump Inauguration,” and Surrey604 published “A Virtual March Through Surrey to Spread Positivity.”

Radio coverage included News1130 “Lego of your perceptions, peace march coming to Surrey,” and an interview on Pulse FM’s “Kash Heed Show.”

TV coverage included segments on ZeeTV’s “BC Roundup” and this feature piece on JoyTV’s “Fraser Focus”:

Each piece of coverage feature different people and perspectives on the event, and I encourage you to take a moment to check them out! A huge thank you to all of our media friends and partners!

Scroll down to see pictures of the marchers throughout the day as they marshaled in locations all around the Lower Mainland, congregated at Surrey City Hall, and crisscrossed their way across Surrey to finish at Peace Arch Park. Further down are pictures of some of the people that contributed signs for the marchers.

Thank you to all of the many people that contributed to this project!

A special thanks to Ellen Niemer and Virginia Gillespie for hosting photo shoots, and to Virginia Gillespie and Connie Waterman for financial support. A huge thank you to E. Drysdale for donating the Lego!

Thanks to everyone that made signs for the marchers!






Virtual March for Peace, Unity and Compassion

The Virtual March is over, but you can see media coverage and pictures here!

Tune in on January 20 to watch a virtual march take place across Surrey!

A colourful procession of Lego mini-figures will march across Surrey from City Hall to Peace Arch Park delivering messages of peace, unity and compassion to the US border on the day of the presidential inauguration. The messages are real, but the “march” itself will take place online only!

The messages have been submitted by people from around Surrey, and reflect the values, attitudes and priorities that participants hope to see both locally and globally.

We invite you to follow, share and re-tweet the photos and messages throughout the day from the Village Surrey Facebook and Twitter accounts.

You can also follow the march on #ThisIsSurrey.

Call for Artists: Virtual March for Peace, Unity and Compassion

On January 20, 2017 a colourful procession will march across Surrey from City Hall to Peace Arch Park delivering messages of peace, unity and compassion to the US border on the day of the presidential inauguration.

The messages are real, but the “march” itself will take place online only!

Throughout the month of January, a group of Surrey artists are roaming the community with cameras and hundreds of Lego mini-figures. They are inviting people to write positive messages of peace, unity and compassion on tiny signs that will be photographed with the Lego mini-figures marching though locations around Surrey.

On January 20, the photos will be released online throughout the day creating the appearance of a “virtual march” across Surrey. The pictures and messages will be posted from the Village Surrey Facebook and Twitter accounts using the hashtag #ThisIsSurrey.

The “virtual march” coincides with the US presidential inauguration but is not intended as a protest or partisan initiative. This community art project is an opportunity for participants to playfully assert the values, attitudes and priorities that they hope to see both locally and globally.

There are a number of ways that Surrey residents and artists can participate in this community art project. See below for samples of the types of pictures that we are hoping to include in the project.

Make a Sign

Throughout the month of January, residents of Surrey are invited to contribute messages to be included on signs held by “marchers.” Signs must be 1 x 1 inch square, and messages should reflect positives hopes for a more peaceful, united and compassionate future. Submissions can be anonymous.

Messages can be sent via email, or made on the spot at one of the upcoming photo shoots:

Word Studio at Camp Alexandra on January 8
City Hall on January 13
City Centre Library on January 18

Be Photographed

Have your picture taking with the “virtual marchers.” Any of the photos taken may be shared online via social media or website postings. To have your picture taken, come to one of the photo shoots listed above or contact us to arrange to have us come to your location.

Be a Project Photographer

Project photographers are needed to take pictures around Surrey. Photographers will need access to their own camera. Let us know if you are interested and we will load you up with a bucket of Lego min-figures and all the art supplies you will need!

Food security in Surrey

(Since I missed half of the meeting, please excuse any inaccuracies or missed names. Feel free to add to this in the comments below!)

“I’d love to see a new form of social security … everyone taught how to grow their own; fruit and nut trees planted along every street, parks planted out to edibles, every high rise with a roof garden, every school with at least one fruit tree for every kid enrolled.”  ― Jackie French, New Plants from Old

rice                                         Rice, which can be grown in Surrey

I was able to attend part of the afternoon meeting yesterday for ‘Seeds of Change’, discussing food security issues in Surrey. Areas being targeted for projects are Guilford and Newton, the two lowest income centres in the city. They were also chosen because these areas already have some ongoing programs (such as Avenues of Change and the Starfish packs). I live at the edge of Guilford and City Centre, an interesting mix of an area.

There were many government  organizations, non-profits and volunteer groups at the meeting, including from the City of Surrey, Fraser Health, Sources, United Way, Surrey Food Bank, Food Action Coalition, Village Surrey, and discussion of projects that were supported by Vancity, A Rocha, and the Rotary Club of Surrey. So lots of groups discussing the issues facing 8% of Surrey’s adult population (and children) that are food insecure.

What does, ‘food security’ and ‘food desert’ mean?  I wrote an article on food security last year which goes into more detail on this issue which affects us all. I live across the street from an ‘inner city’ elementary school and my son attends an inner city high school in Surrey, so I see first-hand the challenges that families face. Food or rent? Car or telephone? Heat or lights? Everything is interconnected so we cannot create food security without also addressing rising housing/rental  prices and the need for social housing in our city.

If community garden space is available but a person has no experience with growing food, that is a barrier. At the meeting, Kate (Gro-Carts co-founder) talked about the importance of connecting experienced growers with new gardeners. There is also a need to grow foods that people are familiar with (fenugreek for an Indian immigrant family, for example, or purslane for a Middle Eastern couple). Food security involves choice, not just having enough calories.

canningThe issue was broken down to four food security concerns:

1) Availability
This involves things like ‘food deserts’ or areas where people are not within a 10-15 minute walk of a food store. If only a convenience store is available, that means junk food so is not a viable option. 8% of people report abandoning culturally important foods because of lack of access or money.

2) Access
A big barrier is not having a vehicle. Most people shop at a big box store, where there can be some good variety, but 75% of food insecure people said they did not drive to the store. Furthermore, 51% mentioned  time poverty as a problem. If you are working two jobs, have children, and are chronically behind on the bills, finding time to shop, prepare food, cook and clean up every single day is exhausting.

3) Income
This is a big one. If you have to pay rent or get evicted, you are more likely to skimp on food and visit the Food Bank. Young families are frequent users of food banks, an unsettling situation.  23% of people in a food poverty survey said they go hungry some of the time due to food affordability struggles.

4) Food Literacy
If money is tight, you buy as many calories for your dollar as possible. That means starch, sugar, and less fresh fruits and vegetables or meat. So learning to make the best choices possible (eg. lentils) take a solid education and management skills. You may be new to the area, not speak English, and not know where the nearest good food store is. Having maps online, showing safe walking routes would be a good start. Pop-up markets, perhaps at schools during the afternoon when parents or grandparents are picking up children, or food trading tables are also possibilities.

The barriers and solutions exist on an individual, neighbourhood and systemic level. The city can change zoning to ensure everyone is within walking distance of a good store, a park, and/or a school or community garden. The individual can start sharing backyard spaces with people they know, to grow food or learn gardening tips from people in their area. The community level has the most power to be collaborative, for example linking people with cars with people who want to go glean at a farm in another part of Surrey. Lower income people are more likely to be in the north, farmland in the south.

Asset mapping is very useful, as is thinking about ‘zones’. If a garden space is too far away and time is tight, likely someone will give up that space. But if it is also a place to come and socialize, perhaps meet with others new to the area, attend a workshop on native plant species or go on a ‘edible weed walk’, or swap food that you preserved last week, there is a much bigger incentive to come together. As permaculture says: ‘stack your functions’.

bee-talk-3-300x300The PLOT in Newton (pictured above) has been a great multi-faceted, community project. There are school gardens, church gardens, community gardens, backyard sharing programs, community kitchen programs, gleaning coordinators, school lunch programs and much, much more. If you know of a project that you want to share, please add to the comments section below! Learning about what programs and resources are already out there helps to know where and what to target. And if we build confidence, there is strength in numbers when we work together from all backgrounds, ages and skill sets. We all have something to contribute!

gro-carts                                       Kate and Tammas with the Gro-Carts

cpiakugviaaoovaSilvia offers free gardening, food preservation
and intro permaculture classes

Examples of Social Capital Building Projects in Surrey

The following informal inventory of projects that build social capital in Surrey is organized according to the matrices found in the “Social Capital Building Toolkit


See here to find out more about the related micro-analysis project, and see here to participate in the online survey.

This is not an exhaustive list, and we know that there are many other projects and experiences that could be added! Please let us know about any projects or experiences that you think should be included.

  1. Individual (Food/Celebration)

Take a friend out for lunch

2. Individual (Joint activity around common hobby)

Walking with a friend

3. Individual (Do a favour)

Borrowing a tool from a neighbor

4. Individual (Discussion of a community issue)

Conversation on the street

5. Individual (Undertaking joint goal)


6. Individual (Relationship building 1:1)

MVA Approach to capacity building

7. Small Group (Food/Celebration)

Going out with group of friends.

8. Small Group (Joint activity around common hobby)

Community-led interest groups, book clubs
Cedar Bark Poets Group
Room to Draw

9. Small Group (Do a favour)

Revolving credit association
Barter or informal skill sharing
Little Free Libraries

10. Small Group (Discussion of a community issue)

Neighbourhood Associations
Friends of the Grove

11. Small Group (Undertaking joint goal)

Study Circles
Community Sweat Lodges
Surrey/White Rock Climate Action Group

12. Small Group (Relationship building 1:1)

Individual in a group pair up and share their extended stories
Surrey Interfaith Contemplative Gatherings
Interfaith Dinners

13. Large Group (Food/Celebration)

Block Party (Hyland Park Block Party)
Neighbourhood festivals

14. Large Group (Joint activity around common hobby)

Voluntary Association
Surrey Earth Walk
Surrey Interfaith Pilgrimage

15. Large Group (Do a favour)

Surrey Skill Share Fair

16. Large Group (Discussion of a community issue)

Town forum
“Community Shift” Gatherings
Dr. Ambedkar Awards Night

17. Large Group (Undertaking joint goal)

Environmental clean-up project
Community Gardens
Community Art Projects
Food Action Coalition
Seeds of Change

18. Large Group (Relationship building 1:1)

Deeper Introductions as part of a larger meeting
World Café events
Community Leaders Igniting Change

Building Social Capital in Surrey

We have an opportunity to give input to the City of Surrey on how to best support grassroots initiatives that build social capital in our community.

Social capital refers to levels of trust and reciprocity in a community. Communities with higher levels of trust and reciprocity are more resilient to things like climate change, violence in the community, social inequality and a whole host of other things. Plus, they tend to be more connected, happier and healthier!

There are lots of different ways that social capital can be built in a community, many of which are already happening in Surrey. (You can see some local examples here.) However, we need to find ways to enhance the work that is being done and create openings for more opportunities to emerge at the community level.

Please take a few moments to complete this online survey, and consider attending one of two “Social Capital Conversations” on Tuesday, December 6 or Friday, December 9.

The results of this survey will be used to advocate for funds to support existing grassroots work and new, community-based ideas.

This project draws on the matrices found in the “Social Capital Building Toolkit” to scan current areas of social capital in Surrey, and provide a starting point for dialogue on enhancing social capital in Surrey.

The usefulness of the “Building social capital: pathways and building blocks” matrix is described by the authors in this way:

“Although building social capital does not necessarily occur in a linear pattern, we have created a schematic that highlights a matrix of potential building blocks to build more social capital sorted by size of group and sorted from activities generally requiring less trust to those generally requiring more trust. This is not meant to provide a complete inventory of ways to build social capital, but to trigger individuals’ and groups’ thinking about potential approaches and some advantages and disadvantages of each.”

The schematic is included here as “Illustration C.”


In “Illustration D” below, the authors show that while there is no pre-defined sequence to building social capital, communities generally go from smaller groups to larger groups and from activities requiring less trust to those requiring more trust.


We look forward receiving your survey results and incorporating your experiences and ideas into this important community conversation.

Please let us know if you have any other thoughts or ideas to share.


Last week’s workshop on “Taking the Next Step” introduced us to the idea of “lifecycles” in community and non-profit groups. Understanding that all organizations go through natural stages of development can help groups better understand where they are at and how to best accomplish their goals.

Workshop presenters Carol Neuman and Mark Friesen from Vantage Point introduced participants to Susan Stevens’ seven lifecycle stages: idea, start-up, growth, maturity, decline, turn around, and termination. You can read more about them below or on the Vantage Point website here.

Later in the week Transition Victoria announced that it is shutting down. At its peak, Transition Victoria had 700 members and some 20 active subgroups. Some of its members helped develop an organization that produces linen from local flax, incorporated a housing land trust, and co-founded the Building Resilient Neighbourhoods project, all of which continue independently of Transition Victoria today. You can read more about Transition Victoria and its plans for shutting down on their website here.

Transition Victoria has reached the “termination” stage described by Susan Stevens. By all accounts, however, it had been one of the most successful transition towns in the province. How wonderful it would be if every transition initiative achieved as much as Transition Victoria did. One of the things we learned at last week’s workshop is that there is value and purpose in each of the seven lifecycle phases, including the termination phase!

What is most important is that groups realize what lifecycle phase they are in and take full advantage of the opportunities that exist.

The workshop left me with several thoughts and questions about Village Surrey.

  • What lifecycle stage are we at? Idea, start-up, growth, maturity, decline, turn around, or termination?
  • Are there aspects of our processes or structures that could be improved in order to help us be more effective in whatever stage we are at?
  • Are we happy where we are or are we ready to grow into a new lifecycle stage?
  • If so, how can we create more space to welcome and support new leadership and ideas?

As with most transition initiatives, the core work of Village Surrey is done by a small and committed group surrounded by a large circle of supporters and collaborators. We’ve been around for over 4 years, and we have accomplished a lot. Some of our work has been visible in the community, but much of our positive influence has happened “beneath the surface” in the ways that we build capacity and bring people and ideas together.

Doing work “beneath the surface” can be difficult for people. The work that we do is seldom recognized, and those who do the work may not always be adequately acknowledged and appreciated.

It takes a quiet confidence to do “Transition work” in a community. It is difficult to “play the long game,” and to keep doing the work, even though the results of that work may not been seen for years or even decades.

In short, transition work is hard. But it is also extremely rewarding. For me, the rewards are found in the people that I meet and the change that I see in the community around me.

I am convinced of two things: Surrey needs the type of grassroots, community capacity building that we bring, and that there are enough amazing people in this community to continue doing it.

Do you have ideas for how Village Surrey can become more effective? Do you have any skills or ideas to offer to the process? Let us know!

Here are the seven “Lifecycle Stages” as outlined by Susan Kenny Stevens, Ph.D:


The stage in which there is no formal organization, only an idea and a personal mandate to fill a societal, programmatic or cultural gap in the community.


The beginning stage of organizational operations in which unbridled mission, energy, and passion reign supreme, but generally without corresponding governance, management, resources or systems.


The stage in which not-for-profit mission and programs have taken hold in the marketplace, but where service demands exceed current structural and resource capabilities.


The stage of operation in which the organization is well-established, operating smoothly and has a community reputation for providing consistently relevant and high quality services.


The stage in which the organization’s services are no longer relevant to the marketplace; self-indulgent, status quo decisions are made; and declining program census creates insufficient operating income to cover expenses.

Turn Around

The stage at which an organization, having faced a critical juncture due to lost market share and revenues, takes decisive action to reverse prior actions in a self-aware, determined manner.


The stage when an organization has neither the will, purpose nor energy to continue to exist.

These lifecycle stages were developed by Susan Kenny Stevens, Ph.D. Licensed to Vantage Point Strategies Society through 2017.