New Mayor's office staffer Lara Honrado (left) working for the US Dems campaign in '08
Vancouver City Hall is in the most difficult economic patch it's seen in quite some time, and one of the sacrifices staff have got used to is the hiring freeze on any new head count that began a year ago. It feels like a spring thaw has set in with news of a new hire for the Vancouver Mayor's office. And like recent hires, we're seeing clear connections to the Hollyhock retreat on Gregor Robertson's native Cortes Island. Which is why many are now nicknaming 12th & Cambie "Vancouver City Hollyhock" (or is it "Hallyhock"?)
The Mayor's office has found additional budget to expand up to four political staff (plus three admins for a total of seven), bringing on the help of social enterpriser Lara Hondrado. Like recent hires Ryan Merkley & Sadhu Johnston, whose Vancouver connections can be traced back to the island retreat devoted to spiritual healing and fostering networks in pursuit of social change, Lara Honrado is herself linked to Hollyhock.
Both Honrado and Merkley attended Hollyhock's annual social change institute retreats, which judging by the photos involve a little bacchanalia. Hondrado consults as Mango Communications, a company where she worked with Alden Habacon, the CBC's current Manager of Diversity Initiatives. She and Alden are featured on this little 2-post blog about door-knocking for the Obama campaign.
Honrado co-founded a registered charity called Kina Social Ventures, whose slogan is "why? a better world." Their website is vague about accomplishments, but their donation page sums up Kina's work as:
...dedicated to helping women and children bring about positive change in their lives and communities. We strive to improve access to education and basic health care and support sustainable community development projects.
The Hollyhock retreat is also partially fueled by charitable donations, which are collected by the NextWave Foundation, another registered charity managed out of Renewal Partners. Renewal Partners, and CEO Joel Solomon, are among the single largest donors to both Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver. Hollyhock, and their social venture institute conferences are described as a "collaboration" by Renewal.
CEO Solomon once waxed about "growing Hollyhock" in a blog post:
...a cornucopia of opportunities for deep explorations of consciousness and social change, combine to place Hollyhock in an important niche outside the conventional educational institution model, with elements of emotional, intellectual, creative, physical and spiritual dimensions interwoven throughout.
Our programming and content opportunities are vast. As word of mouth about the intangible power living within the term "transformational" spreads and an alumnus like base grows, demand for what Hollyhock offers will begin to reach an inflection point.
Over the coming decades the very notion and tangible practical substance of an organization such as Hollyhock, can serve to inspire, catalyze, and support those working towards an integrated approach to human well being that can help society navigate the immense challenges of contemporary life on earth.
Renewal's website also lists the Hollyhock Foundation, who have set up this YouTube channel to inform the public better about the retreat. Among the speakers featured in this video are Ottawa-based CBC Radio host Adrian Harewood, who describe how Hollyhock allows them to clear their consciousness. Sitting on a yoga mat and shutting off your smart phone might also something to do with this.
With Gregor Robertson, Mike Magee and now Lara Hondrado in the Mayor's office, the so-called social change revolutionaries are clearly using powerful fundraising tools, and vast networks within business and media to run the show in Vancouver.
It's not clear whether Hondrado and Magee are continuing to run their businesses while being employed by the City of Vancouver. Chief of Staff Magee's website currently describe his services as:
...[providing] highly personalized strategic counsel to a range of political, philanthropic, investment and community organizations. His clients include some of the most visionary philanthropic and business leaders across North America. As both a visionary and organizer with a history of making things happen, he is rooted in a lifelong focus on strengthening democracy at both the movement and political levels.