Community Economics Exposition Planning Guide

A Planning Guide developed from the CUSO "In Our Own Backyard" Community Economics Exposition that traveled the Maritimes in the fall of 1993.

1 Introduction & Exposition Goals
2 Exposition Core Components
3 Additional Exposition Activities
4 "Fair Trade Zone" Products Criteria
5 Sample Alternative Economics Workshop Design
6 Sample Press Release

For more information, contact:


1657 Barrington Street, Suite 508, Halifax, Nova Scotia. B3J 2A1

TEL: (902) 423-6709
FAX: (902) 423-9736


The inspiration for the In Our Own Backyard Community Economics Exposition comes from the (in)famous Traveling Medicine Shows of the past. The hope is to deliver the message of development alternatives directly to a new audience, providing ideas, information and inspiration.

Similar to any number of trade fairs and expositions held each year in Canada, this Expo has a decidedly different slant. It was piloted in one community in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick during the month of November, 1993, sponsored in each location by CUSO Atlantic and a local community development organization.

The Expo has three primary objectives:

1. to provide public education and inspiration on key community economic/environmental issues
2. to be a catalyst for strategizing by local practitioners and promoters of alternative economics
3. to sell local sustainable products and fair trade merchandise.

The Expo takes a flexible, 'building block' approach to design, featuring several core components (see # 2) and additional components as determined by the capacity of local co-sponsors (see # 3 for ideas). The Expo becomes a creative initiative unique to each community and local context.

In many ways, the Expos are about common-sense economics; many people know there is something fundamentally wrong with economics and, when approached in a non-academic, down-to-earth manner, are more than willing to enter into serious discussion on the alternatives.

With careful planning, future Expo participants will agree with one Maritime participant who remarked "You sure don't think about that everyday on the way home from the mall!"


* Public Education Displays on sustainable community economics issues and case studies of successful initiatives -- including local and global examples.

NOTE: The CUSO Atlantic "Money for Change" colour wall poster set can be borrowed free-of-charge from CUSO Atlantic (the 6 posters are each 11X17"). The posters are targeted towards a general public audience, and can be used in many venues, including malls and other public spaces.

* 'Fair Trade' Zone: examples of sustainable community products produced locally and globally, sold based on fair trading principles (see # 4).

* Public education resource on community economics: a take-home synthesis of the ideas presented at the Exposition.

An example is The Sustainable Times, a tabloid newspaper published by CUSO. The TIMES is a positive, proactive newspaper that lets Canadians know there are alternatives to the way we now do business. The publication includes news stories, success story profiles, op-eds, comics, alternative advertisements, educational pull-out sections, and much more. Contact your local CUSO office for copies of the latest issue of The Sustainable Times.

* Public Information/Discussion Series on community economic ideas (co-ops, barter, etc.) and successful case studies. A 'menu' of mini-workshops (approximately 1 hour each) should be offered, led by those directly involved in the examples/efforts. Ideally, prior to these sessions, the presenters would participate in a workshop on how to effectively communicate alternative economics to the public.

* Film & Video showings on community-economics and community initiatives locally and globally.

* Media Campaign, to help build a positive and hopeful public atmosphere about community development, fair trade and how people in the North and the South can cooperative to build sustainable, community-based alternatives. The campaign -- implemented prior to the actual Expo activities -- could include press releases, media story idea submissions, phone-in shows and newspaper "uncommercial" commercials.

This is in addition to a publicity campaign for the actual event which should include press releases, Public Service Announcements, flyers, posters, op-eds, media info kit, etc.

* "Naming the Community Economic Moment" Workshop, for local practitioners of alternative economics and those working to promote it. This is an opportunity for networking and education in a local context while incorporating global dimensions. The workshop utilizes the 'Naming the Moment' popular education approach to community political analysis and strategizing. This session requires several hours at the least; 1 - 2 full days would be best. Contact CUSO Atlantic for a copy of the 'Naming the Moment' manual.


* Skills Workshops: any number or combination of skills and/or issue workshops. A design for a general public-oriented workshop is included in this planning guide (see # 5 below).
* Local/Regional Organizations' Display area
* Organizational Strategy Sessions
* Public Lectures
* Musical Concert
* International Food/Community 'Home-grown' Supper
* Community "Postcard to the Future"
* Children's Mini-Expo: videos, murals, face-painting, simulation games, etc.
* Art Exhibit
* Photo Exhibit
* Political/Social Theatre
* Field Trips to alternative economic projects, organic farms, etc.
* On-site radio or Television 'Station'
* Practical 'How-to' Guides on various community economic issues
* 'Sharing Our Stories' Talking Circle Session
* North-South community 'Message Exchange' Centre
* Supermarket 'Shopping for Justice' Tour
* Local business Environmental Audits
* Community Murals
* Citizen Referendums (e.g. citizen's referendum on NAFTA)
* People's Think Tank -- a 'Common-sense' Think Tank


Generally, products and services should:

* have social as well as commercial goals
* promote justice and equity as the basis for economic relationships
* be committed to fair employment practices
* be community-based as much as possible
* be produced in balance with the environment and sustainably use natural resources
* complement a self-reliant local economy (in the case of international products)



This workshop will explore alternatives to conventional economics, featuring profiles of successful initiatives from the Maritimes and Developing Nations. It requires 2 - 3 hours to complete.

Required: Flipchart paper, TV/VCR, markers and small group workspace.

1. Introductions of participants & workshop; determine assumptions, expectations, appropriate changes, etc.

2. Presentation: We are told that more money and more economic growth is all we need to cure our economic ills. Our modern economies are circulating more money and producing more goods with each passing decade, yet more and more people are looking for work. The gap between rich and poor is growing, within Canada and between North & South. Poverty is increasing. Our environment is deteriorating. The future of entire communities is threatened. Something is wrong.

We are also losing control over our economies. Multinational corporations control 70% of all world trade and produce 25% of everything we consume. They control 80% of the world's land used for export crops. 47 of the world's 100 largest economies are multinationals. Companies like AT&T, Mitsubishi and American Express are more powerful than a majority of nations. These MNCs say that in the pursuit of profits above all else, companies should be free to search for the lowest labour costs and the least restrictive environmental standards -- "A race to the bottom."

We need to ask a series of fundamental questions:

Should a healthy economy yield short-term profit for a few or meet the long-term needs of all?
Deplete our resources or sustain the environment?
Exploit workers or provide meaningful employment & fair wages?
Take control away from our communities or contribute to diverse, self-reliant societies?

We often hear there are no alternatives to free trade, to unrestricted global competition, to big business, to lower wages and environmental standards. But there are always alternatives.

3. Video on alternative/community economics or sustainable development. (CUSO offices and international issue learner centres have many videos to choose from. The original workshop used the video So Who Lives Here Anyway? Alternative Visions of Sustainable Communities -- 20 mins. This video was produced by the Nova Scotia Environment & Development Coalition. Contact the Coalition at 1657 Barrington Street, #502, Halifax, N.S. B3J 2A1. TEL: (902) 422-4276. Cost: $25)

4. Money jigsaw puzzle exercise/Case Study Walk-about

* Each participant receives a piece of a jigsaw puzzle (the puzzles are enlarged, photocopied currencies from various countries and/or of varying denominations, according to how many small groups are required).
* Participants search -- without speaking -- for others with missing pieces of their puzzle.
* In completed jigsaw puzzle groups, walk-about to read Success Story posters/information posted on walls at different corners/areas of room.

NOTE: The case studies must be written up beforehand -- it's best to also include photographs, and perhaps case study hand-outs. There are many sources of case studies. Two good ones are The Sustainable TIMES newspaper and the Sustainable Communities Network's Community Links Database, both available on the internet.

4A. [OPTIONAL] A specific case study could be explored in more depth using a video or speaker.

5. Small Group Discussions (use groups created in the walk-about excercise above)

a) Share other examples of community/alternative economics
b) What is the potential of examples like these?
c) What are the limitations?
d) What needs to happen for alternatives to prosper?

6. Large Group Plenary/Report-back: On flipchart paper, post these titles to focus discussion: LESSONS, LIMITATIONS & ACTIONS NEEDED.

7. Handouts: For example, The Sustainable Times.


"Community Economics Exposition Travels the Maritimes"

October 22, 1993
For Immediate Release

Halifax -- CUSO Atlantic is sponsoring a Community Economics Exposition that will travel throughout the Maritimes this November.

This exciting initiative will feature displays, workshops, field trips, public panels, videos, children's activities, music, 'fair trade' products from around the world and much more!

CUSO will even be distributing -- free -- its own money at the event: the CUSO Community Dollar, which will be redeemable for CUSO products sold at the EXPOs.

Why a Community Economics Exposition? As Sean Kelly, CUSO Coordinator of the EXPO explains:

"We hear a lot of talk about 'Jobs, Jobs, Jobs,' but what kind of jobs do we want? Long-term jobs that protect the environment and build healthy communities, or short-term jobs that deplete our resources and take control away from our communities?

We just need to look at the fisheries to see what happens to jobs and the environment when the wrong choices are made.

We need economic diversity, increased self-reliance, appropriate technology and, given the instability of world markets, international trade that complements, not dominates a strong local economy.

And we must always remember that a healthy local economy is built on a healthy local environment. Communities should develop in balance with the environment in the long-term, not exploit resources in the short-term.

This isn't radical, its common-sense."

For more information, please contact:

CUSO Atlantic

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