HOMETOWN: Waterloo, Ontario
TRADITIONAL TERRITORY: unceded Anishinabek (ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᒃ) and Haudenosauneega (Iroquois) territory.
Devon Fernandes has a thoughtful and deliberate approach to environmentalism. Through the multiple occupations and volunteer positions he has held, he noticed one critical trend: environmental movements can continue to systemically alienate marginalized peoples. His solution was simple, yet bold: create a sharing economy that puts individuals with barriers at its centre.
From that, the KW Library of Things was born — “a space for sharing items ranging from tools to camping and kitchen equipment.” Their Facebook page states a clear reason for this sharing economy: “By sharing items, you save money, reduce waste, discover a strong community and provide inclusive and supported employment opportunities.”
Such an innovative concept was possible when Devon worked alongside community partners to think about a system could work for these people. The ideas started to flow: those that traditionally face barriers to employment, but can work within this new sharing economy, should get livable wages. For uniforms, employees should wear aprons instead of t-shirts, allowing the space to be more size-inclusive.
And to make sure this space spoke to the needs of individuals with disabilities, Devon hosted focus groups to talk through these ideas and to see if those people would genuinely want a job at the library.
Devon’s inclusive approach to entrepreneurship extends to how he built a community around the Library of Things even before they opened their doors. He understood that social innovations can be disruptive. With that, he gained endorsements from over 35 local organizations, city counsellors and universities before he launched. He presented the Library at local and international conferences and was featured in newspapers and radio stations.
These efforts culminated into an outpour of support, where his first call for donated items for the Library got him over 350 items in just four hours.
The KW Library of Things has been operational since March and is thriving with around 100 memberships. The Library is hosting workshops for community members to learn do-it-yourself skills, which are all part of what Devon believes will create a strong culture of sustainability in Waterloo Region.
Devon is also completing his masters in community psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University, where he focuses on how organizations can act as catalysts for environmental change.
Devon was also a member of Laurier Students’ Public Interest Research Group Board of Directors and is now a mentor through Laurier Launchpad that helps budding social enterprises deliver value to the community and the environment.
For all his work, Devon has been recognized as a winner of KW Awesome and a finalist for both Laurier’s Community Champion and The City of Kitchener Mayor’s City Builder award.