2013 Unify Dialogues

Unify Toronto Dialogues

The local lab for the Great Turning

A monthly dialogue series toward co-creating a just, thriving and sustainable Toronto.

  • Connected with Unify Toronto, supported by a board of dedicated social movement leaders
  • Bringing together leaders and interested citizens from social justice movements, ecology, democracy and social activists, and faith-based communities.

Gather with other shift-makers working toward positive change for a sustainable, just and thriving Toronto.  Find juice for your change work. Renew inspiration and find connections and support for individual and collective action.

Unify Toronto Dialogue

Visual Reflection from March 2013 inaugural dialogue by Patricia Kambitsch.

Gather with other shift-makers working toward positive change for an ecologically sustainable, socially just and personally fulfilling Toronto

  • In a safe space, explore your inner responses to the intersecting global environmental, economical and psychosocial crises and their local manifestations here in Toronto
  • Regroup and reconnect with yourself and others, finding respite from your change work as you nourish body, mind and spirit
  • Renew inspiration and find or deepen connections and support for individual and collective action

These dialogues will be gently guided by various skilled facilitators, drawing from a variety of methods and tools such as The Work that Reconnects, Art of Hosting, A Small Group, and Awakening the Dreamer, with the occasional guest speaker to inspire the exchange.

Reinventing Money for an Abundant Toronto

An enthusiastic group gathered in the Peace Lounge at OISE to look at complementary currency systems as a means of enhancing a thriving, just and sustainable community. We talked  about what money is, from Allan Watts’ story about running out of inches, to show how we have come to believe that a measure of relative value is something real and how it is becoming less and less real ever since national currencies were floated. We also looked at the contradictory functions of conventional, fiat money — means of exchange vs storage of wealth. We spoke as well about some history of local currencies, from the story of scrip currency in Wörgl, Austria during the depression of the 1930s, time banks, WIR, to the experience of LETS (local exchange trading systems) in Toronto.

The focus of the evening was devoted to LETSPlay — a simulation game that demonstrates the differences between a scarce commodity, fiat currency and a self generated, mutual credit currency like LETS. Monopoly money and a blank balance sheet was used to record their Green Dollar transactions. A list was provided with hypothetical items for sale (most of which had been available in the Toronto LETSystem) for varying percentages of Green/ Canadian. After performing several trades people revealed their final balances of each type of currency. It was easy to see that a scarce commodity currency very quickly creates rich and poor as most of the paper money ended up in a few hands while most participants ended up with considerably less than they started off with. Almost everyone was unable to buy some items on the list because of a scarcity of paper money. No one, on the other hand, ever had a shortage of credit points during the game.

Knowing that an individual or organization can generate their own medium of exchange could generate a culture of abundance, with the social benefits that go with it, rather than of scarcity upon which the dominant economy depends. As with the gift economy, people are acknowledged for their gifts with a positive balance on their account, and carry a commitment to contribute to the community, rather than to repay a debt to an individual or institution, when their balance is negative.

We hope to continue this conversation with email exchanges and expansion of networks with a view of restarting local currencies in Toronto. If you’d like to be part of this process, please contact David Burman at dburman@web.ca or 416-705-6516

Suggested reading:
Thomas Greco, The End of Money and the Future of Civilization, Chelsea Green, 2009
Community Way Dollars
Bernard Leitaer and Jacqui Dunne
Edgar Cahn – Timebanking
Open money theory and practice

 Cultivating a Community of Reflective Practice

A dialogue to explore the nature of reflective action. Adapting a Six Conversations inquiry (Peter Block’s A Small Group) we explored:

  • Can reflection itself be action?
  • How does reflection help in social action, with realizing our so-called goals and envisioned outcomes?
  • What are the gaps within us that inhibit right action?
  • Who is acting? In community, do we ever “act” alone?

Within the Possibility and Ownership conversations we inquired into what we expect to actually “change”:

  • What if instead of Change we envisioned a Restoration of Community.
  • Who is accountable for change? Do we ever really change conditions?
  • How might we listen in new ways to be accountable for our own contributions in community?


Continuing in the spirit of the questions guiding dialogue.

  • What is reflective citizenship to you?
  • What does it mean to be a reflective citizen in our communities?
  • Where does community show up in your everyday experience?
  • What is civic engagement? Can you engage an entire city?
  • How might we energize our groups and “design for community”?
  • Where do you see a shift of locus of control from institutions to citizens?


The Question of Direction – Growth in the Face of Limits

Sustainability guru Mike Nickerson led a dialogue on The Question of Direction.

“Should we continue to defy planetary limits and seek to grow forever, or should we acknowledge those limits and work to secure the future within them? The times have changed and so must our vision—locally, nationally and for the entire human project.”

A group of 20 explored views of a Toronto we envision around the year 2030. In small and large groups, the dialogue explored: What do we want our city to become in that time?

 is the author of Life, Money and Illusion: Living on Earth as if we want to stay, republished in a second edition by New Society Publishers. He has also developed a business card-sized point form summary, Guideposts for a Sustainable Future. He is Executive Director of The Sustainability Project and spends several months of the year travelling across Canada, making presentations and facilitating meetings on “how to live on Earth as if we want to stay.” He is forming an ecovillage near Lanark, Ontario and supports his interest in cultural evolution doing custom woodwork. He would like to spend more time growing things.

Meeting the Sustainability Challenge

Most important is to remember that we can face the future with confidence; humans are capable of living securely for millennia on this bountiful planet, if we respect its limits.

Interest in our changing times is no surprise.  Almost everyone has underlying concerns that are hard to acknowledge without a sense of hope.

My essential message is that the human family is now grown up.  In the historical context, taking responsibility for our mature strength as a species (ie. living within the Earth’s limitations) will be no more difficult, proportionally, than is the similar challenge facing each of us as we become adults.  All that is needed is to choose (or be forced) to accept Earth’s limits.  Hence the Question of Direction program.