Where we go from here.

Photo taken by me at the new Trump Tower during the Vancouver Women’s March on January 21, 2017.

It’s been a hard week for many of us.

I’ve noticed at conferences and gatherings that there are many colleagues in the credit union movement who don’t get into politics, and at times that’s a lovely respite from all the arguing. We all want to see our communities increase their self-reliance. Whether you’re into it because you like to see a non-governmental actor dive into the solution or because you see the need for progressive financial institutions shoring up what should be the government’s responsibility, we are working for common goals.

In this uncertain time we are entering, our core values are likely to be pressured and many of the people we’re here to serve will need increased support. We need to have healthy discussion in the movement about our purpose. Our “why.”

I came across this excellent five-part podcast from NPR’s On The Media about poverty in America called Busted: America’s Poverty Myths. I believe this should be required listening to any of us who believe in the core purpose of a credit union to increase the financial inclusion of our neighbours. What would result if groups of people in your co-operatives listened to this and came together, book-club style to discuss? What would happen if we invited our boards and members into that dialogue? Poverty is real and often our belief in a meritocracy is just that: more a belief than a reality.

I offer up the following for discussion.

Originally published on the CU Water Cooler.

Running for the Modo board, again.

It’s been three years since I first ran for the Board of Modo, our local car sharing co-operative. Serving on the Modo board has been an immense privilege and pleasure. It’s an amazing organization, a great board, incredible staff and an important mission. It’s what I’ll likely be speaking about at the upcoming Disruption ’17 by CU Water Cooler conference.

I’m privileged to have been the board chair for the last couple of years, and hope to continue serving the members as I run for my second term as a volunteer director. If you’re a Modo member, please log in and vote, and, hey, if you’re voting, please consider voting for me.

Here’s my election statement and video for my re-election…

I’m William Azaroff, vice president of community investment at Vancity and current chair of Modo Co-operative’s volunteer board of directors. I’m up for re-election this year, and I hope you’ll vote for me to continue serving Modo’s membership.

I’m extremely proud to be a part of the Modo board. In the three years since my election, we have successfully merged with Victoria Carshare Co-op, brought in new leadership and renewed our strategic planning process.

Patrick Nangle came to Modo from Purolator Canada, where he was also CEO. He is a values-based leader whose deep knowledge of business, operations and technology will move our co-op forward in the increasingly complex and competitive world of car sharing.

With Patrick on board, we have begun a new strategic planning process to map out which roads are right for us. We are at a pivotal time in car sharing. Our local co-operative has a strong brand, loyal members and solid partnerships; yet our competitors are multi-national corporations who have the deepest pockets imaginable. Disruption is everywhere. Electric vehicles have far longer ranges and more affordable price points; self-driving cars are emerging on roads; and multi-modal transportation is expanding and evolving. We need people on our board who can solidify a local co-op’s place amongst global players – people who can focus on competing against corporate giants while staying true to our core values.

I would be honoured to earn your vote to continue this good work on behalf of the Modo membership.

Watch my talk: On the Spectrum.

Since my son and I gave our talk at the Credit Union Water Cooler Symposium last October, we’ve been asked repeatedly if a video was made of the event. Well, here it is…

Last October, I had a profound experience when I presented on the topic of raising an Autistic child at the CU Water Cooler in Kansas City, Missouri. I had never given a talk about my family’s experience with Autism, so I was nervous about it. But I felt compelled to speak about my son’s experiences, and how his special interest in music helped him through his challenges.

What made the experience so meaningful for me, was that after I spoke my son played several of his songs live in front of 150 people – to a standing ovation.

Check it out and leave a comment to tell me what you think…

On The Spectrum from Tim McAlpine on Vimeo.

Oh yeah, two more things…

PS: Thanks to the great Tim McAlpine for posting this on Vimeo!

Originally published on the CU Water Cooler.

2015 Community Summit.

VC-RCWalk-001-DESATVancity has partnered with SFU Public Square’s Community Summit for four years now. We see our partnership as a good fit. SFU, through its Public Square, invites people to grapple with issues we face in society: inequity, local economy, the future of innovation. Their mission is “to be the go-to convener of serious and productive conversations about issues of public concern”.

At Vancity, we’re looking at ways to harness the collective power of our members’ assets to invest in areas that create healthy communities. That’s our role as this region’s values-bases banking institution. In order to do that, we need places where we can convene our members and the public to discuss and deliberate on steps we can take to create communities where we can all thrive. A good partnership is one that can bring more people into that conversation and include more voices and hear from people with diverse opinions, perspectives, and backgrounds. We can’t solve problems and create new opportunities for a more co-operative economy, a cleaner environment, or greater social inclusion unless we partner together.

This year, the focus of SFU Public Square is on city-building. The aim is to “invigorate the public conversation on how people can connect with their cities, find their voice, and enjoy increased participation in civic life.” Nothing could be more important. A disengaged citizenry means that key issues aren’t being addressed and is a recipe for complacency and cynicism.

In order to engage around these vital issues, SFU has focused on the role that the arts can play as a facilitator of dialogue, new thinking, and reflection. To get us outside our experience to build empathy for other points of view.

I look forward to being challenged and inspired to rethink my assumptions and grapple with some new ideas, and as a result, focus on how to make our region better for all.

Originally posted at the SFU Public Square Blog.

Knives and forks, a community investment co-op.

In my role at Vancity, I think a lot about an inclusive, sustainable and also vibrant local economy. And I am a hypocrite.

Oh, I’m not alone, all my colleagues and peers are hypocrites too.

We support local businesses. Especially businesses that create a local food economy, hire people with barriers to employment, support new Canadians as they settle so they can be productive and happy in their new country, help companies trying to reduce the carbon emissions they put into the environment and help people reduce the carbons they emit in their lives.

Why are we hypocrites? Our personal investments can’t be put into these kinds of companies. Instead, at best, our mutual funds can screen out companies whose ethics we disagree with. But you can’t screen out everything we disagree with or there’d be almost nothing left to invest in. Big banks? No thanks. Oil and gas? Uh-uh. Resource extraction? No way.

Assuming we’re all investing in socially responsible investments, we’re investing in national and multi-national companies that are moving along a spectrum towards greater sustainability. That’s better than putting our hard-earned money capitalizing companies that we don’t support, endorse or whose practices we actively disagree with. But the government says we can’t invest in the local food market down the street trying to bring local food to our community. (No one sums this up better than Michael H. Shuman.)

The government says we can go to the casino down the road and gamble away our life savings. Sure, that’s allowed. But putting some retirement savings into a local business we can touch and shop at and support? That’s verboten.

Until now.

12072555_1168714549823067_2646994795263451844_nSay hello to the Knives and Forks Community Investment Co-op – it’s the newest co-op that I’m a member of. It uses the co-operative structure to allow ordinary people (aka: unaccredited investors) to invest increments of $2,400 into local businesses after becoming a co-op member for a $100 membership share purchase. Knives and Forks focuses on local businesses involved in the local food economy. Restaurants, growers, producers, value-add suppliers, and so on.

It’s a needed addition to our options as local BC citizens trying to support the businesses that we believe in. A central tenet of investing is to invest in companies whose products you use and enjoy. As much as I love Apple and enjoy their products and am proud of their major leaps in environmental sustainability, I don’t know them in the same way that I know my local, organic grocer that I go to every week and can chat with and ask for products that are relevant to me and my family. Or a local butcher, fishery co-operative, raspberry farm, etc…

That’s the best kind of investment.

Originally published on the Co-op Water Cooler.