Encyclopedia House

The house pictured here stands amidst a grove of trees in the Newton community of Surrey, British Columbia, my hometown. The ‘bricks’ are mainly encyclopedias, textbooks and reference books. All were discarded, unwanted and destined for the dump until celebrated artist Don Li-Leger rescued them.

Like all communities, Surrey has its fair share of challenges.

Like all communities, Surrey has more than its fair share of enthusiasts, creators and problem solvers. People like Li-Leger his artist wife Cora and their construction crew.

“Encyclopedia House” reminds us that:

  • We have more than enough knowledge and experience to address our tough challenges.
  • We should be careful not to throw away what we already know.
  • The artists in our midst are a precious resource. They’ve been opening minds and touching hearts for centuries and are indispensable companions on any social change journey.

Like all communities, the powers that be have two choices.

  1. To bring in experts from ‘away’ to guide their policy and resource allocation.Or
  2. To be guided by the creativity and ingenuity within their communities.

If they choose the latter their first step should be to catalogue the innovation that is already underway. Only when we understand what we are already doing will we understand what we are capable of.

Like every community, Surrey has proven ingenuity that would fill a set of encyclopedias.

And I know just the home for them.

About the Lead Author

Al Etmanski
Al Etmanskihttp://www.aletmanski.com/
Al Etmanski is a community organizer, social entrepreneur and author. (www.aletmanski.com) (@aletmanski ) His latest books are Impact: Six Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation and The Power of Disability: 10 Lessons for Surviving, Thriving and Changing the World. He is a faculty member of the Asset Based Community Development Institute (ABCD), an Ashoka fellow, senior fellow Social Innovation Generation and Co-Chair of BC Partners for Social Impact. Al is co-founder of Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN), a family run social enterprise assisting families address the financial and social well-being of their relative with a disability, particularly after their parents die. He proposed and led the successful campaign to establish the world’s first savings plan for people with disabilities, the Registered Disability Savings Plan. John McKnight endorsed Al's book Impact by saying: Impact is a chronicle of the wisdom Etmanski has gained in exploring the keys to long-term social change. His findings lead us out of the past and onto a pathway for progress in the 21st century. Once describing Al as an Abundant Community Pioneer, Peter Block wrote: Al Etmanski is one of North America's best social inventors. He has looked beyond traditional institituions and their failures to create new means of achieving a better life. His analysis of the forms of organization that enable local communities while avoiding rigid hierarchies is groundbreaking. His book A Good Life is a wonderful and practical guide to the potential for neighbors to grow strong through the power of hospitality. Michael J. Fox said of Al's latest book, The Power of Disability: This book reminds us of what we have in common: the power to create a good life for ourselves and for others, no matter what the world has in store for us.

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