From idea to increased momentum

The project was sprouted three years ago, when three students realized there is no place at McGill that bridges living and learning about sustainability. After a year of planning, they started a class through the Alternative University Project (altu.ca), where about 30 students got together every Saturday to discuss how urban sustainability goes beyond recycling and is also about community, learning, and living. With more collaborators and added momentum, members of the class started working toward a more coherent picture of what a living and learning community could look like. It seemed like we could get this project off the ground by Fall 2012.

Summer 2012: SPF fund and more partnerships

This resulted in a final push to partner with McGill Residences and obtain a building to start the pilot year of the ECOLE project at the end of the 2012 school year. We applied to the McGill Sustainability Projects Fund (SPF) to sponsor the project, which would cover a year’s worth of rent and costs for maintaining the space. In May, we distributed a call-out for people to live in the space during the next schoolyear and received eight applications. However, the SPF did not accept the application for funding. In this period, we sought to re-evaluate where we stood, and it became clear that we would not be able to start the project by the Fall.

After many more conversations with interested parties around campus, we decided to apply once again to the SPF, but this time for two coordinator positions, who would be tasked with making the project happen over the next year, continuing the momentum, and developing partnerships. At this time, several of the students involved had graduated and were leaving Montreal, so it was important that the project keep going, and this required dedication and time. However, the SPF once again did not accept this new application.

By this time we had developed many key partnerships: we were on good terms with residences, SSMU, Student Services, and the Office of Sustainability. We decided to approach SSMU, and Josh Redel, the new President of the Student Society, was excited about the project and agreed to pay two coordinators to work on the project throughout the year, establishing more connections, and gathering more students interested in participating. We developed a job description with expectations for bringing the project toward a reality.

Fall 2012: Increased momentum and possibilities

With support from SSMU, we developed a presentation of the project. Along with research and case studies of successful spaces at other universities, the presentation included three possible scenarios: a student-run space, a space run through McGill Residences, or an integrated partnership that would also provide space for applied research possibilities on campus. After presenting to the SSMU Sustainability Coordinator, a representative from Student Services, and the administrator of the SPF, we decided we needed, first and foremost, to widen our scope. Talking to the McGill School of Environment, Martin Krayer-Von Krauss, the new director of the Office of Sustainability, and participating in Vision 2020 initiatives, it became clear that ECOLE could fill a much-needed gap in several areas of McGill life. These included a space for applied research, an informal space for students, staff, and professors to get together to discuss sustainability issues, and a center for applied student research initiatives. We also conducted a survey of students participating in environmental groups on campus, where there was a clearly expressed need for a centre for student activities around environmental issues, especially one that provided meeting space, a kitchen, and after-hours access.

Winter 2013: Research and Contextual Evaluation

After a semester of continued connections and excitement, we decided that it was time for the project to go in new directions. We decided to create two new positions that would allow different students to carry the torch, as several of the coordinators would be graduating or pursuing other projects over summer. After three years of research, reflection, and partnerships, we hope that the project can keep going, and there is a good chance that, with some push, we could start a pilot space in Fall 2013. To initiate this transition, we developed a shorter presentation, a 1-page document describing the project, worked on a new job description, and worked on our website.

Summer 2013: Space, Funding, and Partnerships

With two new coordinators hired in the spring of 2013, ECOLE was re-energized and quickly launched forward. Since neither of the coordinators had been involved with the project earlier, a short, intensive learning period was employed to introduce the many facets of the project. This entailed reading innumerable documents and meeting with established partners, such as the Office of Sustainability and Residences. Once the initial, steep learning curve was overcome by the coordinators, a timeline for the development of the project was established to ensure that the pilot space would be ready for Fall 2014. The coordinators are currently focused on obtaining funding and space for the project. A new SPF application is being drafted to fund subsidized rent for the ECOLE Facilitators and other costs associated with maintaining the space. Discussions with McGill Residences have been rejuvenated, and an agreement will hopefully be made in the coming weeks as Residences is very excited for the potential that ECOLE brings to the Rez community.  In addition to working to attain funding and space, the coordinators have hit the ground running with outreach and are building a number of new partnerships. The Applied Student Research interns are helping the ECOLE Coordinatorslink to professors that would like the project, and hopefully supervise an independent researchproject associated with ECOLE during the pilot year. After four years of research, reflection, and partnerships, the ECOLE project continues to move forward, and the project is expected to be ready for a pilot year of September 2014-2015

Fall 2014

updates coming soon

Winter 2014

updates coming soon

Summer 2014

updates coming soon

And special thanks goes out to those who have been involved in the past:

Allison Jones, Aaron Vansintjan, Alex Briggs, Anna Zisa, Brooke Nancekivell, Carol Frasel, Courtney Ayukawa, David Gray-Donald, Eli Freedman, Hugo Martorell, Lena Weber, Lilith Wyatt, Lily Schwarzbaum, Matthew Park, Martin Krayer-Von Krauss, Saurin Shah, Sophia Kehler, Tyler Lawson, and many others.

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