Courage, Crises and Camaraderie: Tales from the World of Groundswell

JP's partner, Katherine, in the Groundswell cafe space

by JP

The second term is in full flight and the attrition rate has levelled off. The previous weeks had been challenging as we tested our assumptions and crafted our grand visions, for ourselves and our projects. To put ones highest values and aspirations, out to the world, is a difficult thing at the best of times. Throw in 20 peers who's opinions you greatly respect, a 2 minute time limit and a barrage of Q & A and you start to question your sanity. As it turns out, this is completely normal and to be expected. A quick informal pole revealed that the average mini breakdown rate is about 1 per week. Furthermore, there is a significant amount of on-line literature on “how to not go crazy as an entrepreneur”, go figure! But through crises we develop courage. If we were in the lull of winter last week, this week provided the first harbingers of spring.

When it came time to present our Mission and Vision statements Monday morning, I was nothing short of blown away. The clarity and concise nature of each presentation was a  demonstration of how much progress we have made over the semester. There was a distinct confidence present. That dreaded question of “What is your project?”, that felt so heavy last week, now feels like an opportunity rather than a burden. Everyone is eager to talk about how their projects are taking shape, share resources and empathize with the inevitable challenges that arise through this process. There is a sense of shared ownership. There is a responsibility to the group, not just our individual projects. A great testament to the culture of co-operation, that has been skillfully developed here at Groundswell.

So with clear visions and new enthusiasm, we tackled this weeks task. Find a vessel for our project. Corporation, Non-Profit, Co-op, Private or Public? This really felt like business school and was very grounding. Moving from the ethereal nature of visions and values, to the hard practical realities of the business world, provided some stark contrast. Once we broke off into small groups for the afternoon and had a chance to talk things through with our assigned facilitators, things started to make sense. “Keep it simple!” was the takeaway message for this task. The rest of Tuesday was spent  working on our projects with enthusiasm and diligence.

A photo from our long-table dinner co-hosted with Ashoka Canada

As always, the week ends with Wednesday night community time, speaker and potluck. Community time started with Annah, Emma and Claire sharing a candid look at some specific challenges and pivots that they have been dealing with over the past couple weeks. Sometimes we have to make ourselves vulnerable in order to move forward and this was another shining example. We also got the opportunity to meet and chat with the new cafe manager, Amanda Kai. She gave us a little glimpse of what our beloved classroom will soon be transforming into, as well as the values and principles she will be bringing to the project. The speaker for the evening was Jennifer Johnstone, President and CEO of the Central City Foundation. She spoke openly about capital investment and the specific qualities her organization looks for when deciding how to allocate funding. It's always a pleasure and privilege to have such well respected and accomplished members of the community come and share their insights and experience.

And finally, the potluck. The most telling indicator of how we are collectively coping with the trials and tribulations of Groundswell. When we are on top of things it's all salads and homemade delicacies. When things get tough it turns into a desert buffet with pies, pastries and assorted sweets as far as the eye can see. This week, a well balanced spread is further evidence that we are succeeding in complimenting each others talents and helping each other overcome our shortcomings.

A great potluck lesson indeed!