A local leader
In the local arts scene in the Okanagan, where Gerald Wheatley is from, there was a rule that you could complain about anything, but that meant you had to get involved in something related to that issue. “That really inspired me — that idea that you should go with what you're most passionate about but then actually do something about it,” says the Corporate Social Responsibility instructor in the Chiu School of Business.
It’s from that root that Gerald draws his belief that you should address the issues in your own community before working on international priorities. It’s also important to him to focus on high-priority issues in your own city like environmental and social ones. Those values are what attracted him to the Arusha Centre, an organization that does just that for Calgarians — provides them with resources and initiatives that improve social justice and the environment. Gerald has been manager of the Arusha Centre since 1996.
The Arusha Centre runs three programs: Calgary Dollars, Calgary’s local currency; Open Streets Events, which raises awareness for walking, cycling, and alternative transportation modes; and Take Action Grants, which issues grants using Calgary Dollars for social and environmental projects in the city. Recently, Calgary Dollars has received national attention for launching the Calgary Digital Dollar. With Calgary Dollars, Calgarians can buy and sell goods and services with friends and local businesses, keeping their money in Calgary, therefore building economic and social capital in the place they live.
“I was really concerned about global economy issues, global monetary systems, global corporate and economic structures,” says Gerald of his decision to start Calgary Dollars. “We've got one monetary model, and one economic model around the world, so it makes for fragility in the design. And it leaves a lot of people out. Calgary Dollars is a way to help identify local culture.”
He adds that when he launched the complementary currency in 1996, he saw it as a way to help small businesses and vulnerable Calgarians such as isolated seniors and new Canadians.
Gerald has been teaching Corporate Social Responsibility in the Business Administration Diploma since Winter 2018. He finds the course interesting because of the global representation of learners at Bow Valley College. “It makes it a pretty exciting course to teach that group of participants.”
He adds that the course shows that the Chiu School of Business is committed to the triple bottom line, a framework in business that equally evaluates an organization’s social, environmental, and economic benefits.
He is particularly proud that this past December, in the Corporate Social Responsibility course, learners got the opportunity to tour the Iniikokaan Centre to meet Indigenous learners and staff at Bow Valley College. “Many of the students [in the course] are new to Calgary,” says Gerald. “To meet students from families that have been in Calgary for thousands of years is important. Beyond that, knowing about treaty, about Moh-kíns-tsis, the history of the city, and realizing that the history of Calgary isn't 150 years old, are all important assets for somebody running a business.”
Posted on January 2, 2019
Story by Julie-Anne Cleyn, photos by Chris Bolin