The challenge to live local

Natalee Blagden

The LiveLocalKW week-long challenge to “eat, shop and play local” happening September 13-19 is actually a call to do more than swap your Starbucks for a beverage from a local purveyor of happy wake-up brews. While keeping more dollars in the wallets of local businesses is on her mind, founder Juliana Gomez actually sets her goal posts a little further.

How it works: participants complete an online pledge, and are rewarded with access to discounts from local businesses.

With sign-ups already exceeding last year’s numbers, and loads of events added to this year’s offerings, LiveLocalKW is well positioned to fulfill its mandate of supporting our neighbours, achieving “a more vibrant economy, a friendlier walk in neighbourhoods and a more thorough knowledge of our communities that will help us make the best decisions for our tomorrows.”

In practical terms, LiveLocalKW began as a social media-based campaign, with sign-ups showing participants’ Twitter handles, a well-circulated hashtag (#livelocalkw), and a website as the hub of things. On an interactive map at, discounts form a trail of breadcrumbs to entice people to discover local businesses and try products outside their habitual go-tos.

Gomez emphasizes the “try” bit. Not just discover. Try new venues, events, eats, and treats to name a few sectors offering deals to LLKW participants.

“I think a lot of people are interested but they don’t have the incentive,” says Gomez. “Once they try [with the discounts], next time they’ll think of walking the few extra steps to Seven Shores for coffee, or next time there’s a birthday they’ll think of another gift shop.”

As for the larger goals for the campaign: the aims are fuzzy and so is the evidence. If you brushed up on your “stages of change” model from first-year psych (Prochaska and Di Clemente), the move from “pre-contemplation” (no intention to change behaviour) toward “contemplation” (seeing a need or reason for change) is the hardest step. If LiveLocalKW functions as the catalyst here, there’s value and it will be exciting to see how year two unfolds.

Gomez sees easy ways to interpret this challenge in ways that extend beyond the exchange of dollars, and strengthen our ties to each other. She suggests that “eat local” doesn’t always have to mean “restaurant,” but perhaps farmers market finds to be cooked with friends.

The toughest, and potentially most rewarding challenge, is “play local.”

“If you take it really hardcore, you can’t watch Netflix for a week. And you have to listen to local artists. How amazing would be if you wrapped up the week with a whole new playlist of musicians and podcasts that actually spring from, and engage with, the city you call home?”

“A lot of what we do, day to day, is habit. And we don’t think about ‘what am I supporting?’” says Gomez.

“I genuinely think that if you have that sense of community belonging, you’re more likely to get involved
in your community and take care of each other. Imagine if we all did that,” Gomez says.

Speaking from the business side of things, Aura Hertzog, co-owner of Ambrosia Pastry Co. notes a trickle down effect from initiatives like LiveLocalKW.

“Local businesses are more likely to support other small businesses. Personally our sales go directly back into the community,” she says. “Whether it be a dinner out, classes for our kids, or food from the local market.”

“The aim isn’t so that everyone lives local every day, year round. I still go to Starbucks sometimes,” she laughs, addressing the flamewars between the most vocal locavores and the loudest pro-globalization cheerleaders.

LiveLocalKW takes place September 13-19, and all info can be found at