LEDlab Manager Kiri Bird interviewed DTES resident and staff member of the Binners’ Project, Davin Boutang, about his ongoing experience being a part of the DTES Community Economic Development Strategic Action Committee (
In July LEDlab shared a blog about our role with the DTES Community Economic Development Strategic Action Committee. CEDSAC is a group of more than 30 non-profit organizations, residents, BIAs, and social enterprises, participating in a process with the City of Vancouver to co-create a Community Economic Development Strategy for the DTES. Davin Boutang is one of the DTES residents who has been involved in the co-creation of the CED Strategy. Davin is also a binner, and staff of the Binners’ Project. LEDlab Manager, Kiri Bird, interviews Davin about his experience with the process.
First thing’s first, why did you want to join the CEDSA Committee?
What happened was, I was with the Binners’ Project and I just finished talking with Anna, our Director, and I was telling her that I’d be more interested to get more involved… At that time I was doing nothing with my life… I was just starting to get involved with the Binners’ Project, so January, when the CEDSAC just started she was like, “why don’t you come to this meeting? You might find it interesting”. So I went. She told me to have patience, because this was the first time I had been part of anything like this. The first two or three meetings I was just like, “uhhh…this seems really boring” or, “I thought this was about projects and implementing change and all that”. So she goes, “Oh, just give it some time.” And finally by the fourth one, we had the workshop with LEDlab, when we actually started talking about individual projects – that’s when I started getting more interested… I need focus, and it’s great ‘cause I love focusing on stuff like this. Like I said, it’s my first time being any part of a committee like this… so we’ll see what happens [laughs].
[laughs] So, in your own words, what is CEDSAC?
Oh yeah, in my own words? [both laugh] How I’m seeing it so far is just like, nonprofit organizations and whatnot getting together and trying to help the Downtown Eastside economy. Trying to help the local economy, and now – this is what we’re learning – the informal economy, to grow.
What are you most proud of with your work with CEDSAC?
I’m really happy that the informal economy’s being recognized… there’s a lot of work going into it. That’s why I stay with them because finally – like binning and vending and all that – it’s something that’s not only recognized but we are trying to get it legitimized and trying to grow it. I think that’s great. It’s been around forever and now finally getting the City to recognize it is important.
What did you find most challenging about being part of the CEDSA Committee?
Oh for me just learning all the lingo. So, first of all, all the acronyms and all that, and a lot of the language, that’s my biggest thing. We had that conversation the other night about, y’know “procurement” and “social enterprises” within non-profits and all that kind of stuff… I had to learn what all that stuff meant.
Was it hard to be in the meetings?
At the beginning it kind of was. I think one of the biggest problems between let’s say organizations and the residents is language. We define words differently. So how can you actually have a dialogue when you’re using one word that means two different things?
What do you hope that CEDSAC can achieve with its work? What do you hope comes out of the CED Strategy?
I hope some of the ideas we’ve been working on in the workshops – that we actually do it. I’m only on the informal economy, so all the other issues I’m not part of. My part is to get the needs assessment done for the informal economy, and work on the cart project. That’d be really good to see it happen.
Do you think it’s important for [DTES] residents to be a part of CEDSAC, and why or why not?
Oh sure I think it’s important. Top-down doesn’t work; so you gotta go bottom-up, and in order for that to exist you’ve got to have… the bottom, which is residents [laughs].
What would you tell other DTES residents who were thinking of getting involved with CEDSAC?
The biggest problem that I have, myself and all the other residents, is that, the moment you hear like “City of Vancouver”, you just think “government” and automatically shut down. Because of welfare, you think, “they’re not really there to help you; they’re there against you”. So that’s the biggest thing, you have to be like, “look, this is a different model and they’re different people and they’re genuinely there to help”. And once you can break down those barriers, then the residents will be more than happy to join. That’s the hardest thing, most residents have that wall up that they don’t want to take down yet.
What would you tell other cities that are thinking of working in this way with community – both organizations and residents. What would you tell them about this process?
Well I think it’s a great process! [both laugh] But that’s the thing with me is this is my first time in any of this process so it’s hard for me to compare. It’s hard for me to even imagine how this was done before. To me this should be the only way things like this should be run; to me this is just more natural.
The CED Strategy goes to City Council on November 30, 2016. For more information contact email@example.com.