Friday, 31 August 2018

Affordable co-operative handy-person services available

Affordable co-operative handy-person services available                                                                                                Yes, we all live by knowledge in the 21st  century, and in some  was always have, but we are still in a material world and, like people, things go wrong or under-perform and have to be repaired or fixed up. As a long time worker co-op, and creator of TorontotheBetter, Toronto’s first online social economy hub, at Libra we are pleased to offer the services of a new member of our co-op who brings practical handy-person services for individuals and social enterprises, including co-operatives, non-profits and other community businesses. We offer painting, carpentry, drywalling , and small scale landscaping, done conscientiously and affordably. And your money will go to Libra, a 15-year old social economy enterprise (a unionized Toronto based worker co-op) rather than to a for-profit business. Not everybody has access to a repair cafĂ© in their neighbourhood, so for more information and/or to request a price quotation send return email or call Libra at 416-707-3509

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Blockchain and economic sharing

Blockchain is a technology that extends interpersonal electronic interactions from simple communications to real world and real time administrative functions like financial accounting. All transactions in a blockchain are instantaneously available to all in the network. As for Bitcoin, a Blockchain spin-off, there is rich geek-fad potential here, but the real question is that, given the availability of an enabling technology like Blockchain, can a "truly, deeply, passionately' shared economics be long in coming? Increasing numbers of people around the world now recognise that the rational self-seeking "homo economicus" constructed hundreds of years ago by proto-economists is not the last word in human understanding. Now that we have tools for sharing economic structures like Blockchain "all" we need is the will. Do we have it?           

For more about the challenges of Blockchain and massively hyped technologies like Bitcoin  see:

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Bringing sports opportunities to the young in under-served Toronto neighbourhoods - Congratulations to Nutmeg Soccer

On Aug.23, 2018 in the Parliament Street Public Library TorontotheBetter was pleased to join with colleague Javier Diaz and other volunteers at non-profit community organization Nutmeg Soccer to support their volunteer work bringing free soccer coaching to young people in the Alexandra Park and Regent Park neighbourhoods of downtown Toronto. Through TorontotheBetter's affiliate Red Panamericana Toronto we offered Nutmeg openings with partners in Jane-Finch and other  neighbourhoods and so hope to enable Nutmeg in its aspiration to engage more young girls and boys in their successful programme. To learn more about Nutmeg and to offer them your support please visit

Monday, 20 August 2018

"Loaner-ship v. ownership" revisited: the commons of water, air and land as a cure for what ails us? Free University of Toronto broadsheet Commuting" poses the central challenge for Toronto and the world

From a medieval saint can our salvation come? "Sister Water", one article of several like-mindedly ecological published recently in Commuting, a broadsheet distributed freely by the University of Toronto Mississauga  (UTM), cites "Canticle of the Sun", a song, legend has it, sung on his deathbed by St. Francis of Assisi, he of medieval sainthood. For article author Andrea Muehlebach the song asks "what it would mean to think of the world outside of the paradigm of the private and the proprietary." True to their founder's beliefs Franciscans observed a radical renunciation of possessions.     

In 2018, disenchantment with major 20th century economic models that collapsed spectacularly in 1989, and then in 2008 (the year of the "Great Recession"), continues, and the commons idea validated by Nobel prize winner Elinor Ostrom seeps into more and more debates. But in this post-millennial epoch simply proclaiming the increasingly acknowledged ideal of the commons, which inevitably speaks clearly to some but not to others, is not society's most urgent imperative. Instead, it is more valuable to explain how a commons approach will address the particular problems that confront the world in our still adolescent 21st century.

First and most pressingly since the challenge is universal and potentially catastrophic is, of course, the environment. If in times of pre-industrial plenitude renunciation could be seen as a moral/religious reversion to an ideal of saintly fleshlessness, in our later times of hyper-consumptive "economism", where citizens are routinely advised to "go out and shop"  to cure social ills, many would agree that our survival as a planet depends on curbing enthusiasm for stuff. In fact, the now irrefutable evidences of global warning suggest a kind of  lament by the universe itself. As our unprecedented, self-destructive epidemics of diabetes, obesity and auto-immune disease imply, consumerism is not a genetic compulsion of human society. It has been created and promoted by forces that depend on it.

Echoing the "Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge" project designed for popular self-education in the 19th century, according to their masthead Commuting, and its companion UTM broadsheets aim to "foster a deeper public awareness of the complex entanglements of ecologies of excess, environmental legacies of colonialism, the financialization of weather, contemporary catastrophism, politics of  sustainability, climate justice and hopeful resilience." If we see the above explosion of "polysyllabism" as an ironic commentary on the ills of uncontrolled materialism then the solution is simple in principle: a few short words - use and return instead of consuming. The solution  sounds a lot like a library.

A trust-based "loaner-ship" relationship with the world, as long enshrined in libraries, is arguably better than ownership, a form of the enclosure that has defined modern society since the 18th century. It is the only way of preserving our commons, the only one we have. A social economy where what we use is conserved by returning it as it is, or as equivalent social value, is the necessary institutional instrument to achieve the sustainable world now routinely celebrated by most responsible citizens and their leaders. Until this becomes a societal norm instead of the discretionary option of a few we will continue to experience pollution and depletion. Worker empowerment, consumer transparency, environmental conservation and community partnership, are the societal values recognized and celebrated by TorontotheBetter though our directory and communications. We call on more enterprises to embody them in their operations.               

Congratulations to University of Toronto Mississauga for the social engagement represented by their Diffusion of Useful Knowledge series and thanks to the friend of TorontotheBetter who introduced us to it. To maximize the diffusion of this useful knowledge we encourage those able to see and read it to loan it to others. 

Monday, 13 August 2018

For a Better Toronto - wise words from Jane-Finch

Quoting Logan X on Toronto's recent gun violence on page 7 of the Aug.9-15 issue of NOW and hoping NOW doesn't sue us for sharing their copy. “We need community leaders on the block. They should be part of committees. These committees should link with other committees in other communities and have a way for all these kids to get to know each other…We need to have a day where communities meet each we can be friends and this violence shit can stop.” Movements always start this way. Toronto's must.                                                                           TorontotheBetter encourages all in Toronto and enterprise too to step up and play their part in solving the problems caused by the politics of cutback, inequality and neglect. Cutting back hurts. 

Friday, 3 August 2018

Selling, but not selling out? - the future of Social Enterprise.

Some green shoots start in the dark but too much darkness will eventually kill the plant.  
The recent sale of pioneering Kitchener, Ontario carshare Community Carshare to bigger brother Communauto of Montreal, through its palatably titled Virtucar of Ottawa raises a question about the evolution of contemporary social enterprise. Like worker co-op Drum Travel, who sold out to Bay Street corporation New Wave Travel in the 1990's, Community Carshare's evolution represents a basic dilemma for innovative enterprise, be it socially purposed or not. If successful, they have to grow to stay viable, at least commercially, in evolving economies. If not, they just disappear. Are enterprising start-ups doomed to disappear into the maw of larger, less idealistic, even if not un-idealistic, businesses? After twenty years of blood, sweat and, probably, tears, by the original marginally recompensed activists who created it, the former People's Car that became Community Carshare and had in recent years expanded from 2 cities to 10, has now dropped its non-profit co-operative structure and become a regular for-profit business, though still plying its carshare trade in a fast expanding sector (now including major capitalist firms like Enterprise) of the kind pilloried by Peter Dauvergne in books like "Environmentalism of the Rich." The challenge, one answered by many co-operatives, over time, is staying true to core values rather rather than following market-based indicators.It can be done, but expanding too fast, as did Community Carshare, I would argue, as a former board member, though understandable in volatile times, is not the route to take, even if the metaphor seems appropriate in this case.       

The business of many sustainability promoting firms is really business, argues Dauvergne, not sustainability, however much they may want to suggest the opposite. The question for pioneering social enterprises which have had a genuinely huge impact on current culture and lifestyles is this:must selling for scale and greater impact require selling out? Unless there are deeper values at work, be they political, moral or in some cases, even religious, probably.       

TorontotheBetter Question for Chris Hedges (speaking in Toronto on Aug.27)

What is the Russian translation of "pornification" (Hedges' one-word critique of America's mainstream - everything can be bought and sold - culture)? As is well known, a few years ago Hedges deserted his post as reporter at the New York Times in disgust about the Iraq War and other murderous matters. He now does his reportorial work on the RT (Russia Today) broadcasting platform that is an undisguised propaganda arm of the Russian state. It is possible that Hedges can square his RT platform with his morality but to date there has been little evidence of how, or if, he does that, in the face of various provocations like annexation of Crimea and high profile poisonings.

Silence on Russia's nefarious activities need not amount to an acceptance of similar moral violations by Hedges' home country; his refined moral sensibility means he should know that. Neither of these big states are either communist or socialist and to what extent they are even democracies is a question many ponder. But to ask difficult questions is what Hedges has long argued for and often done. Will Toronto do the asking of Hedges when he speaks here at the Reference Library on August 27 at 7pm?

For more on recent happenings in the new Eastern Europe see