“Encyclopedia House” Blog by Al Etmanski

This blog is reposted with permission by author Al Etmanski. The original post can be viewed here.

Al is a local blogger, community organizer, social entrepreneur and author of “Impact: 6 Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation.”


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.

NOTE: On Tuesday November 24th Surrey will host its first Social Innovation Summit. I’m participating. Registration here.



She said

I forget

What a conservative bastion we live in

I guess we have only each other, our friends, our neighbours

– from  “Parallel Lanes on the Human Highway” – a video poem by Tom Konyves, poet, educator and inventor of videopoetry. He lives in Surrey.

Check out the tune ‘Sloppy Slaughter’ by Ben Brown’s Juno award winning group Pugs and Crows. Ben is a Surrey native.

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