Recap of April 7’s ReVillaging panel event

ReVillaging: Hopes for work and family in the “new normal”

An intimate group of working parents and community members across BC gathered online on April 7 to discuss the concept of “ReVillaging” with us for the second time. Besides hearing from speakers Anthonia Ogundele and Patricia Lomelli, attendees broke into groups to discuss their hopes for what work and commuting will look like post-pandemic.

Patricia talked about her dreams about living in Canada when she immigrated from Venezuela, where it’s the norm for people to help each other. She dreamed of an inclusive, welcoming community where she and her husband could have a better life for themselves. She talked about struggling with the high cost of living, finding her academic credentials invalid, and studying ESL. That’s when she became pregnant with her first child and began learning about the childcare system in Canada, which she feels is lacking in terms of support.

She said it really takes a village to raise a child: community, neighbours, nonprofits, organizations that teach English, and childcare outside of the 9 to 5. Families all have varying needs to consider.

Anthonia has a diverse work background, but nothing prepared her for becoming a new mother. She and her husband didn’t understand the complexities of communities that share resources between families. She talked about how Ethos Lab is addressing the resources that are lacking for Black youth: childcare, education, and programming.

The topic of inclusion was discussed throughout. Moderator Vanessa Richards talked about taking a Black architecture course and thinking about what space looks like when humanity is centred and no one is excluded. Anthonia said that to her, revillaging means smaller, more personal communities where people are courageous, where they can be their full selves, and be supported for who they are.

“It means to care deeply, to love radically, and not to be afraid to be together,” she said.

Ethos Lab addresses the lack of representation in STEM for Black youth. Today, children are engaging more with each other using digital avatars, and yet they’re incapable of creating avatars with Black hair; coding or robotics should not have a bias against a 12-year-old, Anthonia said. Ethos Lab has hosted workshops to teach children how to create their own avatars.

The speakers were asked where they see the most potential for systemic change. “Even if you feel like losing hope, we can’t lose it. We need each other. We need to push the law, push for changes in childcare regulations that allow for diversity & inclusivity,” Patricia said. Anthonia said that her hope lies in youth like her daughter, who are concerned and speaking out about issues like climate change.

She said that as parents, we also have to let go of conversations around “good” or “bad” schools and programs. Mental health issues are arising in youth, and we must push on cultural norms that have kept us separate, different, and exclusive. This is especially important as we build the Nestworks community.

“We want the best not just for our own kids, but for EVERYONE,” she said.

Hilary Henegar, a Nestworks board member, was inspired by Vanessa’s acknowledgement of introverts and extroverts in the virtual room, and talked about how to reorient our relationships when we get back to working and socializing in communities. She said that “alpha extroverts” usually set the tone or pace at a workplace, and there are ways we can engage more introverts. Silence can be good. Silliness can be too, added an attendee.

After breakout sessions, we also discussed the importance of community members outside of parents and grandparents in raising children: aunties, uncles, and friends who have energy; we need these people to connect our communities so people don’t feel isolated.

You can watch the recap of the panel discussion here:

Attendees answered: Once vaccines have rolled out and we have returned to the ideal normal, how do you want work to look for you?

The common thread across the breakout sessions was flexibility and having different options. Employers must be more inclusive and accepting of options that work for everyone.

Attendees said that they liked working with video calls, not having to commute, and having their children be able to use video calls.

One attendee who works in the field is used to working from home, hotels, Airbnbs, and coworking spaces, and enjoys coworking far more because there are other people around, even if it’s just eating lunch with someone. One parent likes to be around people, even as an introvert. She likes working from home, but has used coworking spaces when she didn’t want to be at home. She would love a coworking space with childcare for times when she needs to work with her child around, because it’s nice to have the flexibility.

One father loves coworking (he started the first coworking space in Seattle years ago) and met his future wife there. They’ve been in Canada for four years and are still figuring out where they “belong” as parents. He’s a member of four different coworking spaces in Vancouver and likes celebrating wins with other members. He’s set his consulting business aside to be a full-time dad, and his wife is working full time.

Nestworks board member Shayna Rector-Bleeker has worked from home, at coworking spaces, and friends’ houses. She’s now working out of a coworking space close to home and is happy that others (during COVID) now know what she’s been experiencing for six years as a mom and an agile worker.

One attendee who has some experience with collective living, shared live/work spaces, and childcare models said that during one of the communal living projects he was a part of, many residents were single mothers who shared their talents and skills among the other parents.

One breakout room discussed the need for more investment in alternative childcare options and community spaces like Ethos Lab.

Hilary talked about the $10aday childcare plan seeming like a false hope, as Canada hasn’t followed suit from other countries who have built alternate childcare infrastructures during the pandemic. (You can download $10aday’s current roadmap here.)

Others would like to see childcare moved into the portfolio of the Ministry of Education and to be a part of a public system, as BC’s Ministry of Children and Family Development doesn’t seem to be effective. They also want to see living wages paid to childcare workers. One mother worked part-time when raising her children and wanted to have them cared for in the same space, but licensed daycares split children up according to their ages.

Some attendees said some of their children’s experiences in childcare were increasing the systemic issues of racism and childcare workers were oblivious to the lack of diversity. 

One attendee from Pacific Immigrant Resources Society said she hoped to keep their Pop-up Childcare service going post-COVID. They are currently working with licensed centres and ECEs. Finding staff has been difficult during COVID, but they anticipate having more business once the pandemic is over. We need to keep parents engaged in these issues.

Other discussion topics included the value that new Canadians and immigrants bring. They have a greater capacity to be with children in a different way, and we should think of them as assets. Vanessa would like to re-imagine places like Granville Island Public Market as a market that celebrates cultures around the world, where refugees can feel welcomed. She’d like to see cloths, spices, shoe repair, tailors, and legacy growers like those who grow African products. Most organic growers don’t grow Asian vegetables, even though we have a large Asian population here. There would be a culture of hospitality and efficiency of space. Young people could work and care for children in that setting. She wants to see small businesses flourish, not just the big box stores.

How do you want commuting specifically to look for you?

As mentioned above, a common thread across the breakout rooms was having the option to work from home, at the office, or elsewhere. One attendee who worked in the office before the pandemic (even on weekends) is now working from home and wants to continue doing that. The spouse of another attendee doesn’t want to commute daily and wants to work from home some days during the week.

Some folks look forward to commuting so they have something to do before and after work, like cycling.

However, they said if they had to commute, they’d only want it to be a 15 to 20 minute trip.

We thank everyone for attending and contributing to a new vision for ReVillaging! Stay tuned on social media and in our newsletter for information on future events.

Join us April 7 for our second ReVillaging event!

ReVillaging’ is a term that the Nestworks community has been using to describe our vision for more closely integrated career, family and community needs. Join us for a discussion about the current realities and new possibilities for working families. Bring your stories and ideas to share in dialogue with peers and thought leaders about responses and inspiration for our new, ‘post normal’ world.

Register here: ReVillaging2.eventbrite.ca

This event is by donation (minimum $1) to support administrative and speaker costs.

Login details will be sent closer to the event date and time.

This event will take place on unceded Coast Salish land.

Our Speakers:

Anthonia Ogundele, Founder, Ethos Lab

As a trained planner and resilience professional, Anthonia Ogundele has a passion for cities and engaging communities. She was a member of the North East False Creek Stewardship Committee, igniting the re-imaging on Hogan’s Alley. In 2016 she turned a storefront facing closet into the Cheeky Proletariat, located on Carrall Street, which is an accessible and inclusive space for the free expression of all people.

She recently left her role at Vancity Credit Union as the Manager of Environmental Sustainability, Business Continuity and Emergency Planning to become the Founder of the Ethọ́s Lab, a social enterprise leveraging the cooperative model to develop an online collaborative platform and creative co-working spaces for youth ages 12-18, that foster Culture and STEM focused Exploration.

Through Ethọ́s Lab she is hoping to inspire a legacy of Black leadership as well as answer the question: “What might place/Space making look like when you centre the Humanity of the Black experience?” Visit www.ethoslab.space and follow on instagram @ethos.lab and Twitter @lab_ethos.

Patricia Lomelli

Born and raised in Venezuela, Patricia Lomelli has been working in the Early Childhood Education field since 2007. After having two children of her own, her passion for early learning and education increased, and she changed career paths. For the past 12 years, she has played an active role in the industry, trying to understand the ins and outs of childcare so she could be involved in the educational journey of her children. Patricia started volunteering at different drop-in programs. Today, she holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Trade and an Early Childcare Education Diploma, and is AMI Montessori Certified with the Montessori Training Centre of BC. She is now the Childcare Coordinator for Pacific Immigrant Resources Society.

Vanessa Richards, Moderator

Vanessa Richards has a foundation in music, screen and live performance, community arts, and writing. Invested in the civic imagination, she devises and facilitates arts-based engagement initiatives with cultural organizations, learning centres, and social ventures. She believes in you.

Thank you to our Community Sponsors:

 

Recap of February 10’s ReVillaging panel event

ReVillaging: An Invitation to Restructure What Work and Life Looks Like

Roughly 70 people gathered online to discuss the concept of “ReVillaging” with us: emerging new visions for work and family. Besides hearing from speakers Minister Katrina Chen, Amanda Munday, and Madeleine Shaw, attendees broke up into groups to discuss their work-life challenges.

People were particularly touched by Minister Chen’s account of being raised by her grandmother, aunties, and uncles in Taiwan as an example of what a multi-generational approach to ReVillaging could look like. As a single working parent, she said that she could well appreciate the value of spaces that allowed parents to work, connect with each other, and care for their children.

She also touched on initiatives the BC government is working on, from the $10 a day universal childcare program to exploring how we can more creatively use spaces like school grounds, public places, and employer work sites as solutions to much-needed after school care and/or early learning. She further recognized that 97 percent of early childhood educators (ECEs) are women, many of whom are racialized and/or newcomers to Canada, and that their labour is often undervalued and their voices under-represented in the childcare discussion. Panelists discussed the various provincial regulations around childcare, which, while inarguably well-intentioned, can limit flexibility for childcare operators.

Amanda, herself the Founder of a family-friendly co-working space in Toronto, shared that ReVillaging to her meant an invitation and an opportunity to restructure what work and life look like and to say, “We can do this so much better.” She shared about how she created The Workaround—a 13,000 square foot workspace—in 2018 as a response to the challenge she faced as a then-new parent trying to manage a demanding career in an inflexible technology environment with limited access to childcare.

Madeleine explained how the ReVillaging concept was born out of the experience that she and her business partner (Shaw and Suzanne Siemens are co-founders of Aisle—formerly Lunapads—an e-retailer of natural menstrual products) had of bringing their children to work with them in the early 2000s. Madeleine shared her feeling that work and family life have only been separate in people’s minds since the advent of the industrial era and stressed the value of closer community relationships that ReVillaging provides.

Amanda pointed out that even with a “universal” childcare system, there will still be some families whose needs will not be met. She argued that childcare should be considered as a standard workplace amenity, similar to lunch rooms, scaled according to the size of the business and also suggested that ECEs could also become empowered to start their own businesses, generating sustainable prosperity and independence for themselves.

Moderator Vanessa Richards pointed out the importance of welcoming everyone and their skills into revillaged communities, including elders.

You can watch the recap of the panel discussion here:

What attendees said about their work and family situations

Following presentations, attendees broke up into groups to discuss their work/life challenges and how they had been affected—or exacerbated—during the Covid-19 pandemic, and how services like Nestworks could support them.

Challenges with the current system

  • The current childcare system revolves around a 9-5 workday, which doesn’t work for everyone. Some parents need evening childcare.
  • Some parents only need care for a few hours a day or for a few days a week (instead of five) and they can’t find help, or they are hustling to pay for more days of childcare per week.
  • One mother left Vancouver so that she could have support from her parents, who live on Vancouver Island.
  • There seems to be a lack of coordination between city planners, the provincial government, and Vancouver Coastal Health regarding regulations around office space, including newly shared office space.

COVID-related challenges

  • COVID has highlighted the fact that all of us, including caregivers, need care and community year-round. Caregivers are used to working with and being around people, and some of them choose to stay home instead of work in the community.
  • Having children in school for only 2 hours a day doesn’t give parents much flexibility.
  • Working at home is mostly an emotional load for parents, usually mothers.
  • Parents must share workspaces with spouses and/or children. Some don’t even have a home office space.
  • The loss of a local manufacturer impacted one entrepreneur with a business in the trades industry. Her costs have gone up, her business is hurting, and she heard from female customers that layoffs occurred and shifts were added, making childcare more difficult.
  • The childcare providers at Pacific Immigrant Resource Society (PIRS) are challenged both ways: If they work from home, they don’t have privacy. If they go out to work in the community, they fear spreading COVID to their families.

Proposed solutions

  • There are many things already working in communities that we could explore more: Cohousing, multigenerational households, and workplace policies.
  • Think of childcare facilities as benefiting an entire community, because it’s not just parents who benefit.
  • An attendee from Metro Vancouver talked about the affordable housing units they’re building and focusing on developing integrated childcare in the new units. She was intrigued about the idea of adding coworking to innovate, according to what parents might need.
  • A set of mothers created OneSpace as a solution to their own challenges managing work during maternity leave during COVID. They had no support, so they built a space themselves, with accounting and law help from Weir and Associates and BTM Lawyers. (Their families also bubbled together during COVID.) Their space offers coworking with flexible, affordable childcare and a massage therapist. They’re also looking to add a counsellor to help members with their mental health.
  • Being able to have a supportive, family-like community in a workspace is very important. One parent bought property with another family to share land and childcare as a co-working space. 
  • Could we train and hire teenagers for roles in the childcare industry? St. John’s Ambulance offers training to enthusiastic pre-teen and teenage girls AND boys (and the courses are filled to capacity). It’s like a rite of passage for them; perhaps there could be a next-level role for them in the childcare system, or we could pay them to do things like make food, clean up, and play games with children. This would address the loneliness/isolation they feel, and teach them to lead and be responsible with love (screen-free!).
  • In the same way coworking with other adults leads to osmosis and inspiration, could we look at working with our teenage children at home as a way for them to learn from us, even if they’re on their devices?
  • A volunteer with Girl Guides of Canada said that two-hour online meetings for girls has helped parents manage their time.
  • Nestworks could be a place where parents could get help, both practically and emotionally.
  • Perhaps larger spaces like WeWork or Regus could partner with Nestworks.
  • A bus that could pick up kids and bring them to a coworking space (like what Nestworks is proposing) would be ideal.
  • We need more female developers!
  • Instead of building large offices, this is an opportunity for big corporations to provide these important options for their employees in smaller, satellite offices.
  • We should look into the City of Vancouver’s Joint Care Council that is collaborating on regulatory issues in BC; developers should be a part of this conversation too. They’ve thought through many of these issues over the years and have seen the negative outcomes when regulatory corners have been cut.
  • If Vancouver isn’t where the greatest need is, perhaps Nestworks could start in other geographies!

We thank everyone for attending and contributing to a new vision for ReVillaging!

Our next event will take place on Wednesday, April 7 at 5pm PT so stay tuned on social media and in our newsletter for the details.

Join us February 10 for Re-Villaging: emerging new visions for work and family

Re-Villaging’ is a term that the Nestworks community has been using to describe our vision for more closely integrated career, family and community needs. Join us for a discussion about the current realities and new possibilities for working families. Bring your stories and ideas to share in dialogue with peers and thought leaders about responses and inspiration for our new, ‘post normal’ world.

Register here: ReVillaging.eventbrite.ca

This event is by donation (minimum $1) to support administrative and speaker costs.

Login details will be sent closer to the event date and time.

This event will take place on unceded Coast Salish land.

Our Speakers:

Hon. Katrina Chen, Minister of State for Child Care

Katrina Chen was elected as the MLA for Burnaby-Lougheed in May 2017. She was sworn in as the Minister of State for Child Care in July 2017.

Prior to her election as an MLA, Katrina served as a Trustee on the Burnaby Board of Education, and worked in both provincial and federal constituency offices for over 10 years. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Simon Fraser University with a major in political science and a minor in history, as well as a certificate in Immigration Laws, Policies and Procedures from the University of British Columbia.

Katrina has also worked as a community organizer with ACORN, emceed for major cultural festivals, and volunteered as an executive member for several local non-profit organizations. Katrina was born and raised in Taiwan, and moved to British Columbia many years ago.

As the mother of a young son, Katrina understands that quality, affordable child care gives children a strong foundation for the future and keeps our economy and communities moving by giving parents the option to return to work, go back to school or pursue other opportunities.

Amanda Munday

Amanda is the Founder and CEO of The Workaround, a parent-friendly workspace with childcare in Toronto. The Workaround is consistently featured in ‘Top Coworking Spaces’ and “Most Innovative Companies” lists including #2 top coworking spaces in Toronto by BlogTO in 2019 and 2020.

Amanda is also the author of Day Nine: A Postpartum Depression Memoir, by Dundurn Press. Amanda is a TEDxToronto speaker and a regular contributor to The Globe and Mail. She has received international media coverage, including being named an Inspirational Speaker in Forbes Magazine. Amanda has been awarded the Toronto Community Foundation Vital People Award for her work with women and technology, and is an active advocate for universal childcare. In 2017 she secured a federal petition on universal childcare which was tabled in the House of Commons and sponsored by MP Julie Dabrusin. Amanda has served as President of the Board of Directors for Creative Preschool of East Toronto since 2017 and has served on the Board of Directors for the Danforth Mosaic Business Improvement Area (BIA) since 2018.

Madeleine Shaw, Founder and Chief Community Officer, Nestworks

Madeleine ShawMadeleine is a serial social entrepreneur and native Vancouverite. She is the co-founder of Aisle (formerly Lunapads) a groundbreaking natural menstrual health venture, and founder G Day, a national event series for tween girls and their adult supporters. She is a graduate of Queen’s University, BCIT and the THNK School of Creative Leadership and is a Mentor and Advisory Board member with Groundswell, an alternative business school. She is currently working on her first book, The Greater Good: Social Entrepreneurship for Everyday People Who Want to Change the World.

Vanessa Richards, Moderator

Vanessa Richards has a foundation in music, screen and live performance, community arts, and writing. Invested in the civic imagination, she devises and facilitates arts-based engagement initiatives with cultural organizations, learning centres, and social ventures. She believes in you.

 

Thank you to our Community Sponsors: