Alisha Maxfield graduated from the SFU Certificate program in Community Economic Development in May 2016. Alisha works in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) as a mental health worker for Coast Mental Health, and has worked for RainCity Housing and Support Society. Shortly after graduation, Alisha became Community Economic Development Coordinator for the DTES Community Economic Development Strategic Action Committee.
The CED Strategic Action Committee is quite large – made up of Downtown Eastside residents, and many stakeholders, including local BIAs (business improvement associations), community groups, social enterprises in the area, City of Vancouver staff, the local neighbourhood house, employment services organizations, and non-profit service providers.
They are a community-based committee, involving many stakeholders that live and/or work in the community. They meet once a month and decide together what are the major issues together with regards to economic development and people's livelihoods in the Downtown Eastside, and develop recommendations for action on these issues. There are also 3 sub committees within CEDSAC whom meet once a month as well, which are the Incomes and Livelihoods group, Retail Gentrification and Social Inclusion group, and the Community Benefits Agreements group. The committee presents their recommendations to the City of Vancouver council so they can include them in the DTES plan and the healthy city strategy.
Alisha’s role on the committee includes coordinating projects, facilitation, attending meetings, report writing and community engagement. She goes out into the community and both obtain feedback from residents and others in the community, and inform them of their work as a committee. She works closely with Kiri Bird who runs the Local Economic Development Lab, an initiative of SFU RADIUS and Ecotrust Canada. Both of them do a lot of community engagement and community facilitation work together.
The SFU CED program showed Alisha the enormous potential of community economic development to create the social impact that many people have been tirelessly working towards. The CED program connected her with the right people in Vancouver. Through the program, she met instructors, classmates and alumni who she now works with on the committee.
A huge piece of community economic development involves bringing people together to address the concerns that affect them. When it comes to housing and mental health, the people seeking services are usually on income assistance. There is enormous benefit in having the community come together to share their perspectives and advocate together for system changes. Through that community involvement, grassroots change can occur. People come together and start thinking about solutions.
Alisha visions herself to work towards systems change that benefit community members who have been struggling in the DTES in the last several years. She wants people to feel included and connected to their community and have various ways of generating an income for themselves, with opportunities to showcase their talents and skills within the DTES community and the city at large.
Original story written by SFU Community Economic Development
Published in November 2016