Even as many of us question where our money will be coming from as 2020 progresses, local businesses, non-profits, and other organizations like ours have been pushing “support local” as much as we can. And while we’re right to–economic activity is an essential part of community recovery–we wouldn’t be doing those efforts credit if we didn’t also acknowledge a recent survey showing that up to 40% of Edmonton businesses have closed their doors, and almost 50% are expecting to remain closed for good. It’s very likely that you know someone (or several people) whose income streams are in jeopardy of an uncertain future–and that person may even be you.
So, sure, we want to help, but how can we with holes in our pockets?
The good news is that Edmonton has a particularly great reputation for lending a helping hand without needing a ton of money to do so—in other words, we’re used to making a little go a long way. Our community leagues have become the envy of Alberta, and we were home to Canada’s first Food Bank dating as far back as 1981. We might be a little [collectively] strapped for cash right now, but we also share a community history that has an almost endless capacity to support local. That’s why we at the Local Good wanted to emphasize that it’s still possible (and worthwhile!) to build community resilience on a tight budget, even as we move forward into economic uncertainty.
Here are three solid ways you can support local social, cultural, and economic infrastructure during the pandemic, all without breaking the bank:
1. Pay Attention
One of the easiest ways to support local is to simply pay attention–in fact, that’s the first step to becoming a part of your community. And when you start to look for them, it’s easy to find those socially and culturally-minded collectives, businesses, and organizations who have always found (and who are finding) ways to to provide their support as we bridge expanding gaps in healthcare, wellness, and safety. For instance, did you know that several restaurants around Edmonton have transformed operations to accommodate food marketplaces and pantries for concerned grocery shoppers?
Some governance organizations are also ensuring that local councils are taking care of residents through initiatives like the City of Edmonton’s one-on-one support services for Edmonton business owners, or the Alberta Emergency Management Agency’s “Unsolicited Offers Program” that helps individuals and organizations across the province funnel much-needed services where they’re most required.
There are even new websites popping up targeting the support of local businesses and individual merchants at a distance, such as Things That Are Open and Distantly, which each detail local business options where you can shop for your essentials, as opposed to the bigger retail chains like Amazon, Walmart, or even Skip the Dishes—which incidentally take local expenditures to third party institutions outside of Edmonton.
Without even spending a dime, you’ve made yourself aware of the community as it moves around you. With just a few clicks you’ve found out who’s helping who, and that knowledge is power, wherever you go. So, pay attention! Look to your local Community League office and make sure to stay tuned with what’s going on. Listen to local podcasts and seminars on how to aid those in need. Support local journalism and media by following organizations like Taproot Edmonton, or by subscribing to local artist performances online, like Avenue Edmonton’s Jam Out With series, Starlite Room’s Starlite Sessions, or the Citadel Theatre’s Stuck in the House Series.
And don’t hesitate to simply follow the businesses, organizations, and non-profit collectives that you would otherwise be frequenting through social media, through backinglocals.ca, or just by doing an active click through websites and Facebook to explore how others are committing themselves. That way, when someone asks you for help, you’re a veritable (free!) well of information on how to stay safe, stay connected, and support local whenever you can. You’ll also be in a great position to be an informed consumer once everything blows over–always a positive as we grow toward a more sustainable community future.
2. Be a Conduit
Now that you’ve been paying close attention to everything that’s happening around you, it’s up to you to take the next step and be a conduit for the information you’ve collected.
Given the tools, being a conduit is a highly achievable and affordable way to make sure that local businesses and local organizations, or the individuals you care most about, are being taken care of–even when you can’t donate cash directly. It means looking first to those who are making a demonstrable effort to help, and then drawing attention to hard-working neighbours, businesses, or groups with your own voice, connecting them with those in need.
It can be a great use of time, and more so, it’s something you can do in the safety and comfort of your own home. There are honestly a ton of ways you can elevate these local gems and support the economy at the same time, just by adding your badge of approval. Writing a great review, or posting pictures of something you had delivered—even boosting articles like the one below—can help make sure that information finds the right ears, and that other community members looking to spend, or commit their time responsibly start to listen. Sometimes all we need is a little empowerment (and information) to move us to help:
Cooks from kitchens shuttered by pandemic keep Meals on Wheels rolling in Edmonton
The idea is to keep the conversation going within your network about who’s doing what, not only to give yourself a sense of connectedness, but pride in the great ways our community has found to give back. By sharing what others are doing, and what we ourselves are accomplishing, we have a better chance of keeping everyone afloat. And the more we can share in these efforts, the more likely it is that we will come through this well on the other side.
3. Reach Out
Remember, you have value. And sometimes the best way to help others comes from what you can do, as opposed to what you can buy. We all have a ton of power to build connections between the businesses and organizations we want to thrive, and volunteering our time, resources, compliments, or craftsmanship can be a game-changer when we’re talking about community resilience.
Not just paying attention and sharing, but making a concerted effort to draw that attention into action is the final step in supporting local without breaking the bank.
This might mean reaching out in a personal message to your favourite local businesses and asking them if they need extra help or services, or even just to check in and see how they’re doing. Donate some of your volunteer hours, an art piece to their office, or build a crowd-funding campaign for them or another cause you’re passionate about. You can even make group efforts with your friends to support one specific organization each week! (More on that in a moment).
Truly, nothing is off limits: plant flowers in your window, call your rich uncle, or send nice letters to every member of a local seniors home. Any message that not only acknowledges the hard times, but also offers help is a welcome one–especially looking forward into the unknown. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all this, but one small action can create a massive butterfly effect that involves everyone in the cause. Just reach out.
Practicing What We Preach
We at TLG are ourselves want to practice what we preach, and we often come up with new initiatives based on emerging community needs and interests. That’s why we’re tackling all three of these objective as we work toward the launch of The Local Goodness Project.
Guided by a well-established history serving the (green!) economic aims of residents across Edmonton, and supported by co-partner organizations in-town, The Local Good is solidifying its role as a community ‘conduit’ by fostering a local awareness campaign that anyone can join!
We’re breaking it down like this:
Pay Attention: Through daily acts of shared economic solidarity during the month of May, TLG will be rallying our community to draw attention to (and help out) small, local, and community-minded businesses, as well as the non-profit sector, local advocates, artists, and activists, and individual community ‘helpers’.
Be a Conduit: #yeglocal folks like yourself will then have the chance to share as much local goodness as possible alongside our great team of volunteers using our #localgoodnessYEG hashtag, and by posting about daily community contributions together with their neighbours.
Reach Out: Once the word is out, anyone can jump in and contribute their time, opinion, voice, or hands to the community-supporting activities we plan each day. We’re also building in a way for community members like you to “reach out” and help (those interested can sign up here), and to add to the goodness, we’ll be entering participants in to win a gift basket brimming with local goodies at the end of each week!
In short, The Local Good wants to not only promote a framework for giving, but to make a replicable effort to support our local community, and include everyone in the process–even those most affected by our current health crisis. In doing as much as we can within Edmonton, we can elevate those businesses and individuals who need our help, or who are best equipped to help others. Edmontonians have proven their never-ending generosity in recent days, and we want to be conduits for that positivity.
So, we’re paying attention, being conduits, and reaching out for you to do the same! Every action matters, even behind closed doors. The best that we can do is to promise to be here for others, and it won’t cost us much—if anything at all.