Side Hustler 
I spoke on a panel at the Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Network last week with a few other "side hustlers." I haven't heard the term before but I like it. It fits along with the mosaic economy. Was once given the title "wild card." I've always called it piecing together a livelihood. Parts I do for money, parts volunteer. Parts with others in Sisters Inc and part on my own. Really, I explained in my talk, for me, it's a lifestyle that fits my rhythm and energy levels better. I'm not made to be at a desk all day. Working part time lets me work in fits and starts as seems to be more my nature. I've never fit the "driven entrepreneur" though. I don't live and breathe my business. I have structured my life this way to have down-time, play outside if it's lovely. Yesterday I went for a long motorbike ride and a run in the park. I can spend some time writing and thinking, doing things for my own curiosity. Volunteer where I learn potentially more than my work. Day dream. We underestimate the importance of idleness.

North End Land Trust 
Working together with a group of people to ask the question: what is the role of a community-led organization in setting aside land and property for public good, particularly affordable housing but not only. Possibly community gardens, affordable rental space for community agencies.

We're in a neighbourhood, the North end of Halifax where gentrification is a serious issue. We're interested in ensuring development without displacement and linking it to neighbourhood employment and community building.

Tenants are in dire living situations and are being displaced. Those on assistance can't afford to live on the $535 stipend they're given so it cuts into grocery money, other things. There are community agencies that are looking for places to rent. Non profits that are losing or unable to upkeep their properties. How to safeguard and watchdog and develop opportunities for and by the community? Then there are those in the community who might be able to donate some of their property or equity. Who can pay market rates and give back to the community to ensure affordability. Maybe even a connection with rural land trusts where swaps are possible.

One thing I've learned from my work in economic organizing. The strongest alternative economic models are built on community networks. Wide networks. The community land trust models seems to have had the most success in providing affordable housing and community building and accountability. We'll have to see what works in our neighbourhood, political context, housing situation.

It's the beginning of discussions and connections that just take time. These aren't technical problems. It's about finding common ground to move forward in the same direction.

Research on Women's Economic Empowerment 
Leading a team through Universalia Management Group (Montreal) to assess GrOW research on women's economic empowerment funded by IDRC, DFID (UKAid) and Hewlett Foundation. Over 30 research institutions in 50 countries.

The definition of WEE is "far more than women’s ability to compete equally in existing markets, or than the beneficial outputs of their contribution to growth; it should include women’s access to and control over economic resources, access to decent work, control over their own time and meaningful participation in economic decision-making at all levels from the household to international institutions. In turn, WEE will only be achieved in cooperation with progress in other areas of gender equality like women’s access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, meaningful participation in political decision-making and freedom from violence " (AWID, FEMNet, Gender and Development Network).

Most of the research entails a partnership between North-based and South-based universities or research institutions. There is a wide range from randomized control trials to mixed methods, participatory and feminist research. Three broad aims: quality research; policy uptake and capacity building of in-country researchers. Still very much in process but important questions are being raised about what quality evidence is and how it can best be used to influence thinking, policy and practice.

Sisters Ink work on Financial and Reproductive Health Education for Youth and Children 
Building on what often works best informally- trust, learning, mentoring and play- we have created a social enterprise that challenges the tired divides between North-South as well as face-to-face and e-mentoring, between rigor and access. We play with solutions across boundaries and disciplines.

We have diverse experience in terms of context, language, nature of expertise and focus on academe, practice, policy work. This is a social business that brings independent consultants from around the world to work on contracts related to capacity building, gender justice and economic empowerment in the broadest sense.

We are currently working on a contract for FHI360 reviewing financial education programs and studies for HIV/AIDs vulnerable youth, orphans and vulnerable children. Our team is comprised of Meryem F, a Moroccan gender specialist, Sabrina S, a Swiss economics professor, Ida M, a Zambian HIV-Aids organizer and specialist, Patricia R, a Bolivian economist and me. One financial education program in Uganda working through youth clubs captures the situation well -"Women’s empowerment has three dimensions that are interrelated: political, economic, and control over one’s body." These financial education programs are combining financial literacy with awareness around body, sexuality, marriage. Early (often forced) marriage, teen pregnancy, forced sex are some of the biggest risks for girls in the Global South.

*Ship Festival, Finland 
Just back from a Social Innovation/Entrepreneurship festival in Finland. So exciting! It was a bit of a Dragon's den format where I was both a judge and a mentor. Invited by Momal Mustaq, an inspiring friend and social entrepreneur. She started a platform for women around the world to share new freedoms in mobility. It's called Freedom Traveller. See below.

Some of the start-ups at the festival included:

- a mobile phone app that turns it into a hearing aid
- a platform to connect Syrians to volunteers and agencies in Germany
- a platform that connects foodies to informal kitchens
- building materials made from plant cellulose
- a gaming type of app that allows people with bi-polar to detect their own early warning signs for depression

Important to ask what types of social problems businesses can really address. The limits of this frame and approach. There is a "New Public" where citizens and social businesses have stepped in to fill gaps where private sector or government have failed. At best, we find creative paths and new roles. At worst, it is offloading what should be a public function. Business will never be the best tool for ensuring justice and accountability. We still need activism for that.


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