Member Highlight: CommunityWise

Since 1979, CommunityWise has managed the historic “Old Y” building (built in 1911 as a YWCA; now a provincially registered historic resource) through a nominal lease with the City of Calgary. Today, CommunityWise is a nonprofit centre providing affordable office and meeting spaces and other backbone infrastructure (shared internet, office equipment, kitchen, mailboxes), as well as collaborative capacity-building programming supports, to a membership of 90 small nonprofit and grassroots initiatives. Their work spans a diverse spectrum of social, environmental, and cultural issues and their approaches range from direct services to peer support to community development to advocacy and systems change. Among other areas, CommunityWise members work in poverty reduction and community economic development; hunger alleviation; addictions supports; mental health; ethnocultural community development; LGBTQ2+ peer supports; culturally relevant Indigenous services; and film, performative, and community arts. They collectively serve tens of thousands of people in Calgary and surrounding areas each year. We are proud that CommunityWise has been able to build on the legacy of a historic building that has served as a physical and social foundation for mission-driven, social purpose work in Calgary for 107 continuous years.

What is one interesting fact about your space?

The fact that our building is over 100 years old means that it comes with a whole bunch of quirks and historical tidbits. Among many other things, we’ve discovered horse hair plaster in the walls, hat pins from (we think) the 1940s, a secret staircase, and an old dumbwaiter shaft that still has the signatures of women who stayed in the building when it was the YWCA etched into it. Our basement also still includes the structure of what was once the first indoor swimming pool for woman and girls in Calgary.

What are your favorite resources that you would recommend to others?

In 2016, we began a process of Anti-Racist Organizational Change (AROC) to more equitably serve our members that are organized by and for racialized and Indigenous communities. For two years we have undertaken an emergent process that centers the voices of those most impacted by organizational racism in the nonprofit sector (those who identify as racialized or Indigenous, which includes First Nations, Metis, and Inuit) to understand how to best address the systemic barriers they face in participating in and being served by nonprofits. We are proud of the tools and resources that have been developed by a brilliant group of creators, including a resource toolkit, a podcast series, and an anti-racism training manual. They can be found here:

Center Name: CommunityWise

Location: Calgary, Alberta

Center Website:

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