SEIZE as a network of community organizers, activists and entrepreneurs has a vibrant history of organizing at Concordia University and beyond. SEIZE organized numerous conferences, workshops as well as incubated 5 nonprofits and cooperatives since 2015. This legacy of social solidarity economy organizing is highlighted below:


2014:

The first organized efforts towards creating a social-solidarity economy incubator at Concordia (by the group that would later take the name SEIZE) came with the establishment of the Concordia Food Coalition. Concordia students, including Benjamin Prunty (pictured), Chloe Williams (pictured), Jessica Cabana (not pictured), and Gabriel Valesco (pictured), mobilized around the Concordia Transitions conference, and used it as a platform to launch the CFC and create the support systems necessary to found multiple solidarity-economy food enterprises. The most notable example was, of course, the Hive Café Solidarity Co-operative, launched later that same year. 

2015:

A few short months after the successful opening of the Hive café solidarity co-operative, in the CSU regular elections, students approve $1.85 million to fund a student housing co-operative, which later becomes the Woodnote. Later this same year, the Reggie’s solidarity co-operative is launched, marking its debut as a co-operative bar, as well as the first time the space reopens in nearly a decade. Simultaneous to its reopening, riding the momentum of these incredible projects, Concordia student and community organizers form the first social economy incubator working group, and a referendum question is formed for the CSU by-elections, asking students whether they want to support the development of an incubator on campus. The question passes with 84% in approval. 

2016:

With a fresh referendum mandate to develop a social solidarity economy incubator, the Concordia organizers formed a working group, and set about developing its draft bylaws. It’s at this point that some of the core group, including Benjamin Prunty, Jess Cabana , Laurent Levesque, and Dru Oja Jay , organize Transform/er Montreal, a hugely successful international conference, to bring together the wider Montreal community into the transformative economic projects coming out of Concordia.

In the meantime, environmental activists in the student union complete the shifting of the CSU’s investments into SRI (socially responsible investment) portfolios, divesting a $10 million fund from fossil fuels with Divest Concordia. Additionally SEIZE member, Marcus Peters, also worked on the SSAELC fund committee of the CSU which ultimately secured the vote to launch Woodnote Solidarity Cooperative project with an investment of $1.85 million.


Later that year, the first grant funding for the incubator working group is secured from the Dean of Students Office at Concordia University, and used to develop research into social solidarity economy incubators across Canada. The research shows that, despite traditional (i.e. capitalist) incubators being a common feature of almost every university across Canada, there (still) has yet to be a university-based social solidarity economy incubator.

2018:

All of this organizing led us to take on the name we bear today – Social Economy Incubation Zone (for Entrepreneurs): SEIZE. The first curriculum series was launched – Fundamentals of the Solidarity Economy, through funding from the Sustainability Action Fund, and a great number of aspiring student activists, organizers, and entrepreneurs participated, showcasing the widespread desire for grassroots economic transformation. This same year, SEIZE began to facilitate the collective purchase of a sole proprietor tree planting company from former owner Dani Kidston (pictured – current member and General Coordinator) by her workers, into the Tree Amigos Worker Co-operative (now called the New Roots Worker Co-operative), and in so doing launched the only tree planting worker co-op in Canada.

2019:

With the curriculum in its second round, the organizers at SEIZE faced their first major opposition, and this came from an unexpected place – the CSU. The organizers had identified the fee-levy system as the ideal means of securing operating funding, because fee-levy funding is not accountable to governments or the wealthy, but to students, and therefore provides an escape from the influences of powerful institutions while being grounded in student social movements. However, despite the CSU’s internal committees giving SEIZE’s 2019 fee-levy application a unanimous vote of approval, the proposal never made it to referendum, as it became a game of cat-and-mouse between two warring political factions in the CSU, and was ultimately voted down in their meetings not once, but twice. What followed was political turmoil, as fee-levy groups, student associations, and Concordia co-operatives called on the CSU to reverse its position, with no effect.


Despite this turmoil, the fossil fuel divestment campaign, with support from SEIZE, managed to push through on their goal to have Concordia divest from fossil fuels. Not only that, but Concordia took the extra step and mimicked the CSU by fully investing its foundation, currently totaling $243 million, to socially responsible investments.

2020:


Before the onset of the pandemic, SEIZE had been organizing a new Transitions conference to once again unite the social-solidarity economy within Concordia and Montreal. These plans unfortunately and for obvious reasons fell through, so instead we launched an online speaker series: This is How we Transform the Economy, with speakers such as Cheyenna Weber, Estaban Kelly, and George Lakey

Despite the pandemic, the Hive Solidarity Cooperative was able to adapt their operations to create a meals on wheels program through the Hive Free Lunch Program. As well as the Woodnote housing cooperative was finally able to open their doors to 140 undergraduate students who would collectively own and operate the first student housing cooperative at Concordia. During this time, the Hive meals on wheels program was delivering free vegan lunches directly to the woodnote housing cooperative. This type of mutual aid across organizations is just one of the examples of how the social solidarity economy multiples its impact across sectors.

2021:

The SEIZE team worked closely with the Media Coop and CUTV to incubate and launch The Breach which is a non-profit independent national media outlet that focuses on transformative journalism. The Breach gained rapid popularity, as it filled a gap in the leftist Canadian media ecosystem, which is reflected by the immense support received during the co-founding crowdfunding campaign raising $165,000 in 2 months. 

In the summer of 2021, SEIZE as a network of community organizers, activists and entrepreneurs continued to solidify itself as an organization through updating their bylaws and offering the “fundamentals of the solidarity economy” 8 week curriculum for a third time at Concordia.  SEIZE is now aiming to expand its service offering to Concordia Undergraduate by institutionalizing itself within the fee-levy system. To learn more about our campaign click here! 

This operational funding will enable SEIZE to finally deliver on the 2015 mandate of setting up a solidarity economy incubator at Concordia. Voting YES on November 16-18 will allow SEIZE to institutionalize and follow through on the full list of services to provide for Concordia students:

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SEIZE as a network of community organizers, activists and entrepreneurs has a vibrant history of organizing at Concordia University.  SEIZE organized numerous conferences, workshops as well as incubated 5 nonprofits and cooperatives since 2015....