Solid State was established in 2017 when its founders became with alarmed with burgeoning narratives around newcomer youth in suburban Vancouver: stories that fixated on gangs, violence and crime, while dog-whistling narratives of exclusions, discipline and intolerance.
We spent several years in research and consultation, primarily in Surrey. As we developed a proposal and a plan, we found remarkable levels of support, heartened by a constructive, progressive and forward-facing project. We have assembled a terrific Advisory Team and huge network of allies and collaborators - and all of whom have been instrumental in contributing to the design of this project.
As we were learning locally, we were also extensively researching community safety initiatives and best practises in youth refugee and newcomer work locally, nationally and internationally. The models and examples which influence our thinking and work the most are those which employ socially entrepreneurial, asset-based and co-operative approaches.
We live in a neoliberal era driven marked by rising xenophobia, racism and ethno-nationalism. We hope that this project, in a small way, can contribute counter-narratives of solidarity, co-operativism, hospitality and generosity.
WHAT WE DO
Solid-State Industries builds workers’ co-operatives with newcomer youth.
We work primarily in Surrey, BC and with the support of mentors, advisers and community partners are building a solidarity economy hub and a network of worker-owned co-operative businesses.
We believe that young people are almost universally capable, energetic, ambitious, and curious. All too often young people are perceived as objects to be disciplined, managed and corralled, rather than treated as people with subjectivities: abilities, skills and potentialities. This has an even greater impact on low-income, immigrant and/or racialized youth - many of whom are further marginalized in suburban communities.
Young people are told repeatedly to go to school, get a job, and ‘make good choices’. But for many, due to a whole variety of factors, those choices are fundamentally constrained. The decisions young people make tend to reflect and describe larger social immobilities – a lack of options, respect, possibilities – and a real scarcity of viable work.
We’re interested in thinking and acting new possibilities: building on youth strengths and abilities. We work with youth energy and skills to build co-operative enterprises. At every step of the process, youth participants are involved in the conception, design and implementation of the enterprise and become worker-owners of a viable, democratically-run co-operative.
Isaac Oommen grew up in Dubai, Oman and Kerala. He now lives in Surrey, BC and holds an MA in Communications from SFU. He has conducted extensive research into organized crime and has done anti-gang work including running a digital storytelling program at Britannia Community Centre, gang-violence workshops with South Asian youth through the Mosaic Institute and leading the Next Generation citizenship project in South Vancouver. Isaac has also helped build several co-operatives, including the Vancouver branch of the horizontally integrated Media Co-op and the consensus-run BC Compassion Club Society.
Dr. Amarjot Johal is co-chair of the Vancity Community Foundation and has been an advisor to two provincial cabinet ministers representing Transportation and Highways and Community Development, Cooperatives and Volunteers. He holds a Ph.D. in media philosophy and currently works at SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement in the SFU Woodward’s Cultural Unit. Previously he worked on the Vancouver Agreement in urban economic and social development, was the co-founder of UBC’s Humanities 101 program, and served as Chair of the Impact on Communities Coalition. He is on the steering committee of SFU’s Center for Dialogue and is a member of the Vancouver City Planning Commission.