Book Review: An Army of Problem Solvers

an_army_of_problem_solvers From the Catalyst, Summer 2017

An Army of Problem Solvers: Reconciliation and the Solutions Economy
By Shaun Loney
McNally Robinson, 2016

Reviewed by Asha Kerr-Wilson

An Army of Problem Solvers is about empowering people to be the problem solvers of the big social, economic, and environmental problems faced by their communities. Shaun Loney is a social entrepreneur and former civil servant who has worked with and been involved in establishing a number of social enterprises – small-scale community non-profits that aim to address social or environmental challenges using market forces.

This book looks at the potential of a solutions economy, one based in social enterprises and other social-minded business, as a key part of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada. Loney’s solutions economy is strongly based in social enterprises and building, or in the case of many First Nations rebuilding, local economies. This economy addresses the persistent and long standing social and economic challenges many First Nations communities have faced since colonization. Food and energy security are two of the most persistent and widespread concerns for First Nations communities. Loney’s stories show how social enterprises can address these issues in an economically, socially, and environmentally effective way.

Loney also focuses on the challenges that currently stand in the way of implementing these kinds of projects more widely. An Army of Problem Solvers highlights how current policies and systems continue to perpetrate colonial practices. They become barriers to reconciliation through systemically barring Indigenous peoples from the economy, creating many of the social issues Indigenous communities face. Loney makes a compelling case for how and why we should remove these barriers to allow the problem solvers to build socially and environmentally healthier communities to the benefit of all.

If you are interested in the intersections of reconciliation, social and environmental justice, and economic solutions, this book offers an insightful exploration of how addressing these in Canada are one and the same. Through stories of challenges and successes, we start to get a picture of what it could look like to empower some of Canada’s most vulnerable people to be “an army of problem solvers.”

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