Matt Hern

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Matt Hern
Born 1968
Victoria, BC
Occupation Writer, activist, community organizer
Language English
Nationality Canadian
Subject Urban Studies, Alternative Education

Matt Hern is a community organizer, writer and activist based in Vancouver, British Columbia known for his work in radical urbanism, community development, alternative forms of education.[citation needed] Hern teaches at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia.[citation needed]

He helped found the Purple Thistle Centre and Car Free Vancouver Day.

Early life and education[edit]

Hern was born in Victoria and grew up in rural British Columbia. After attending Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, he briefly worked in journalism in New York City before moving back to Vancouver.

Hern was a student at the Institute for Social Ecology in Plainfield, Vermont.[citation needed]

Hern holds a PhD in Urban Studies from the Union Institute & University.[1][when?]


Hern's book Common Ground in a Liquid City: Essays in Defense of an Urban Future (AK Press, 2009) explores a radical participatory urbanism in the context of his home city.[2]

Other books include Everywhere All The Time (2008), Watch Yourself: Why Safer Isn’t Always Better (2007), Deschooling Our Lives (New Star, 1996) and Everywhere All the Time (AK Press, 2008), Field Day: Getting Society Out of School (New Star, 2003), and two forthcoming titles, Stay Solid (2012) and One Game at a Time (2013).

Hern teaches in the Urban Studies department at Simon Fraser University, the Education department of the University of British Columbia, and the MBA program at Cape Breton University in Nova Scotia.[citation needed]

Hern remains on the faculty of Prescott College in Prescott, Arizona and the Institute for Social Ecology in Vermont.[citation needed]

Purple Thistle Centre[edit]

After running a small learning center just off Commercial Drive, Hern and his partner Selena Couture worked at Windsor House Alternative School, then opened the Purple Thistle Centre in 2000 with seven teenage friends in East Vancouver. The Thistle has since flourished and expanded significantly into a major community center that is run collectively by a group of youth. Hern acts as a mentor, fundraiser, and organizer who works closely with the collective.

Car-Free Day Vancouver[edit]

In 2005, Hern co-founded the Commercial Drive Car-Free Festival. Quickly the project expanded into a huge event, closing down a major arterial street with a celebration of radical politics, urban sustainability and social ecology, drawing up to 50,000 people per day. Then in 2008 Hern founded Car Free Vancouver, which has spread the festival to four major Vancouver neighbourhoods, draws 250,000 people annually to call for a sustainable city with fewer cars and more community.


Hern runs annual major trips with teenagers – up to 25 teens camping for a month at a time in Montana, Utah, California and elsewhere. In 2002, Hern and a colleague started a Youth Exchange Program between East Vancouver and Fort Good Hope (Radeli Ko) in the Northwest Territories. The exchanges are organized explicitly around difference, with the goal of getting native and non-native kids together to travel and stay in each other’s’ homes. The central goal of this project is to move past simple tolerance and towards comprehension, hospitality and solidarity.


Groundswell is a collaboration between Hern and Gilad Babchuk to develop grassroots economic alternatives for youth. It is a project with two parts: the first is a training institute for youth to develop their own ethical enterprises: co-ops, collectives, non-profits and social ventures. The second aspect links these projects together in an economic and social network of solidarity. The project derives inspiration from Mondragon[disambiguation needed], the Bologna co-ops, the Argentinian autonomista movement and much else, and seeks to build an alternative economic logic with youth.


Hern lives in East Vancouver where he lives with his partner and daughters.[citation needed]

Selected publications[edit]


  • One Game at a Time: Why Sports Matter, AK Press, 2013.
  • Stay Solid: A Radical Handbook for Youth. AK Press, 2012. (Editor).
  • Common Ground in a Liquid City: Essays in Defense of an Urban Future, AK Press, 2009.
  • Everywhere All the Time: A New Deschooling Reader, AK Press, 2008. (Editor).
  • Watch Yourself: Why Safer Isn't Always Better, New Star Books, 2007.
  • Field Day: Getting Society Out of School, New Star Books, 2003.
  • Deschooling Our Lives, New Society Publishers, 1996. (Editor).

Articles, Essays, Interviews


  1. ^
  2. ^ Hamm, Theodore (February 2010). "Learning from Vancouver: Matt Hern in conversation with Theodore Hamm". The Brooklyn Rail.