Wednesday, August 25, 2004

To Market We Go. Wrapped in Good Intentions?

Canadian Social Enterprisers are drawn to the American experience. It’s rich, accessible, familiar and seemingly relevant. However, the VSEF had to ask, is an “almost fit” good enough? The question introduced us to broader source material.

This week we’re looking at funding issues, in anticipation of a future Canadian Social Capital Market, we hope you’ll join the debate.

The Bank of England: Financing Social Enterprise Report. A 75 page report looking at the supply of/demand for external finance for social enterprises in the UK. What separates a Social Enterprise from an SME? Does a lack of personal stake undermine investor confidence?

Small Business Services is a department of the UK government’s Department of Trade and Industry. The case studies of Social Bank and Community Development Finance Institution (CDFI) loans are of interest (see pages 23 – 30). The document, Lending to the Social Enterprise Sector, is a result of the Bank of England document, Financing Social Enterprise Report.

Jed Emerson’s paper, “The Nature of Returns: A Social Capital Markets Inquiry into Elements of Investment and The Blended Value Proposition”, rounds out our recommended reading for this week.

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Social Enterprise in British Columbia

Kyle Pearce, Social Enterprise Project Manager for the VanCity Community Foundation, is curious to see how British Columbia will be represented at the inaugural Canadian Conference on Social Enterprise this coming November.

Several groups from B.C. have already proposed presentations/sessions for the conference, including the Enterprising Non-Profits funding partners and the VanCity group of companies. Here's a chance for local Social Enterprisers to make an important contribution to the conference and help promote the sector in the province, particularly with regions of the country that are unfamiliar with the scale of Social Enterprise locally.

If you would like to contribute to the presentation – “The State of Social Enterprise in B.C.”, please contact Kyle. The process would involve participating in a planning meeting, engaging in some research and preparation, and (if the proposal is accepted), participating in the delivery of the session.

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Monday, August 23, 2004

Reading List: Diminished Democracy

Theda Skocpol's Diminished Democracy: From Membership to Management in American Civic Life might also be titled Professionals at the Gate. The book explores the decline of member-based voluntary associations, since the 1960s, in the wake of growing professionally managed agencies. Diminished Democracy asks: Does the trend leave citizens with fewer opportunities to get actively involved in community and public affairs?

To get a perspective of Skocpol's work, consider reading, The Narrowing of Civic Life.

Theda Skocpol is Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology, and Director of the Center for American Political Studies, at Harvard University.

Here are links to order Order Diminished Democracy in Vancouver, the United Kingdom, or the United States.

Interested in learning more about social enterprise? Take a browse through the Vancouver Social Enterprise Book Store (Vancouver | United Kingdom | United States) and see what other social enterpreneurs recommend reading.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Business Listened. While the Social Economy ...

Business listened when Wal-Mart announced support for Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). How many members of the social economy are listening?

Say what? ...

RFIDs the bar codes of the 21st century. The only difference, this device (read: "stickers") can "signal" to let you know where it is. Imagine your looking for a needle in a haystack, if it is RFID'd then the needle will "call" to you. Tell you exactly where it is and lots of other helpful information along the way.

"Great technology!" say the technologists. "Will save us time and money", say Wal-Mart. "We'll invest in it!!" say the Venture Capitalists.

But not a word from the social economy. Except for a small group from the VSEF who are looking to use an adapted RFID reader to help the blind navigate in urban environments. To find out more ... e-mail us.

Do you think Business would pay as much attention if the RFID press releases were coming from Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) or the National Federation for the Blind (NFB) rather than Wal-Mart?

We'll let you know.

For more, you might like reading "Attention, Shoppers", from Wired.

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Sunday, August 15, 2004

Investing in Self-Sufficiency: Asset Building Conference - October, 2004

Social and Enterprise Development Innovations (SEDI) will be co-sponsoring a conference at the Executive Plaza Hotel, in Coquitlam.

The conference, Investing in Self-Sufficiency: Moving the Asset-Building Agenda Forward in BC seeks to build Canadian awareness of the field. Asset-Building is not a public policy, but is one of many areas the federal government is exploring with the intention of increasing access to learning and skill development among low-income earners. In co-operation with SEDI, the government has launched learn$ave - an asset-building demonstration project.

What is "Asset-Building"?
Provide low-income individuals with tangible incentives to "save their way out of poverty" by helping build the kinds of assets that can transformed lives, i.e. continuing education, skills training, self-employment or housing.

For perspective, consider reading Building Assets: A Report on the Asset-Development and IDA Field, the report is comprehensive. Read chapter two, Ray Boshara's (editor) handy overview.

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Friday, August 13, 2004

Change This!

A number of weeks ago, Seth Godin annouced the creation of Change This!. Today, Change This! went live.

The forum intends to be
[a] form of media that uses existing tools (like PDF files, blogs and the web) to challenge the way ideas are created and spread.

Read the Change This! manifesto.

Also recommend:

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Wednesday, August 11, 2004

EnviroFund by VanCity

Established in 1990, the VanCity EnviroFund was conceived as a way to support community initiatives that address local environmental concerns in a positive, constructive, and creative manner. The EnviroFund grows through donations made by VanCity based on a minimum of 5% of VanCity VISA card profits.

Each year VanCity VISA cardholders vote on which local environmental issues they would like the EnviroFund to support.

This year the EnviroFund will accept applications for projects that address one or more of the following areas:

Wildlife Preservation & Habitat Restoration
Water Quality & Consumption
Sustainable Agriculture – food & farmland issues

The purpose of the EnviroFund is to encourage positive, actionable solutions to our local environmental concerns. Grants of up to $40,000 are available. If your group has a project that you feel may fit this year’s criteria visit the VanCity EnviroFund website to download the application form.

The deadline for submissions is September 1, 2004. If you have questions about the EnviroFund program please contact Moira Teevan.

For serious consideration, all project submissions should meet all of the following criteria:

Local: The project must take place in the Lower Mainland/Fraser Valley or Greater Victoria areas and directly benefit our local communities.

Action-Oriented: Although the project may include research and education components, the primary focus should be on taking concrete steps that work to resolve local environmental problems and help to develop sustainable communities.

Innovative Alternative: The focus of the project should be on the development and implementation of an innovative project to address the 2004 issue areas above.

Not for Profit: The project must be carried out through a not-for-profit or charitable non-government organization.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Funding Them to Fish

Nonprofits often seek start-up and growth capital for social enterprise ventures from local grantmakers. The Social Enterprise Alliance partnered with 100 funders across North America to craft a case statement in support of earned income ventures.

The result of that collaboration is Funding Them to Fish:The Case for Supporting the Earned Income Activities of Non-Profits.

I liked the following:

Types of Earned-Income Activities Supported by [Funding] Peers

Not surprisingly, the largest single category of earned income activity funded by grantmakers was Fee for Service initiatives. Nonprofits most commonly gain comfort and experience with earned income efforts through the introduction or expansion of fee for service or other tuition-based programs.

However, funders also report support for a broad array of enterprise efforts, including:

  • Service Businesses
  • Retail Operations
  • Manufacturing
  • Wholesale Assembly
  • Software Products
  • Consulting
  • Rental Housing
  • Agri-business
  • Real Estate Development
  • Restaurants and Catering
  • Packaging
  • Home Repair

  • As a tool to stimulate interest, I think this brief hits the mark. The funders list of examples isn't exhaustive, but it does allude to a wealth of opportunities and really each non-profit represents a point of potential innovation.

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    Monday, August 09, 2004

    Feed me ... Seymour

    Morgan Spurlock's film Super Size Me is many things. I think it nicely brackets a conversation about our relationship with food. Not just fast food and fat, but... food.

    A local perspective is offered by The Farm Folk/City Folk Society and the newly formed Vancouver Food Policy Council both organisations are featured in this local newspaper article.

    A few weeks ago, the VSEF had wondered about being too close to an issue to appreciate the wealth of opportunities that may exist. Is the Vancouver food system one of those issues? Without being alarmist, [although ... after a year of e. coli, border beef, and lead levels in salmon ... ]if the Vancouver food system is good what needs to happen to be great? Yes, that is a nod to Jim Collins.

    The recent lack of eggs, post avian flu concern, brought the point home. So what are the opportunities for local social enterprise? Food recovery programmes? City roof-top gardens/markets?

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    Friday, August 06, 2004

    McDonald's: Yeah, ... I'm lovin' it

    McDonald's Canada 2004 Corporate Social Responsibility report is available. The document is instructive ... particularly in the context of McDonald's global activities.

    If you say to yourself, "That's not good enough"; is that an opportunity for a social enterprise?

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    Wednesday, August 04, 2004

    Canadian Conference on Social Enterprise - November 2004

    The Canadian Conference on Social Enterprise (CCSE) is currently canvassing presenters for its inaugural conference, November 15 -17, 2004 at the Marriot Eaton Centre in Toronto.

    Will you be there??

    The goals of the conference are:

    • To increase interest in developing and supporting social enterprises in the non-profit and funding community in Canada.

    • To develop our understanding of social enterprise and its value as a new business model for non-profits and as a mechanism for empowering marginalized populations and achieving sustainable community economic development.

    • To provide delegates from all sectors: social entrepreneurs, government representatives, and philanthropic organizations with valuable content through keynote presentations, panel discussions, workshops, site visits, networking opportunities and a showcase of social enterprises.

    • To successfully launch the Canadian Conference on Social Enterprise (CCSE) as a viable national forum for the exchange of ideas and best practices in the emerging and exciting field of social enterprise.

    The organizers expect 400 delegates from social enterprises, non-profit organizations, funders, investors, government agencies and the private sector.

    Here are the details, per the CCSE "Request for Proposals for Session Presenters".

    The inaugural theme, "Social Enterprise: The Business of Change," promises to highlight social enterprise as an emerging model and innovative strategy for sustainability of organizations and/or programs. There will be lively debate about scope and benefits of social enterprise and the challenges faced by both social entrepreneurs and granting agencies.

    Note: All RFP submissions must be received by August 27th , 2004.

    Interested parties are encouraged to "mail or fax [their] proposals" ... but here is the e-mail address

    FYI - is the suggested URL but seems to be still "under construction".

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    Tuesday, August 03, 2004

    "Transparency", "Continuum", "Accountability": Clearly A Long Beating

    Today I was reacquainted with "Bollocks Bingo". In a previous life it came in handy when reviewing business plans. Try it. You might like it.

    Which brings me to ...

    "Transparency", "Continuum", and "Accountability" seem to have the greatest currency in the Social Enterprise realm. OK ... other than "Social Enterprise".

    At a recent meeting, "transparency" was outlawed. For my money, it's "continuum" and "accountability" that make me want to shout "Bingo!!!!"

    Please ... don't ask me to be "accountable", if you want me to be "responsible".

    And, so what if we're on a "continuum". Where are we going to latch on and stake a claim??

    It all makes me think of Alice at the tea party (with the Mad Hatter, March Hare, and Dormouse), esp. the part

    `Do you mean that you think you can find out the answer to it?' said the March Hare.

    `Exactly so,' said Alice.

    `Then you should say what you mean,' the March Hare went on.

    `I do,' Alice hastily replied; `at least--at least I mean what I say--that's the same thing, you know.'

    `Not the same thing a bit!' said the Hatter. `You might just as well say that "I see what I eat" is the same thing as "I eat what I see"!'

    Language is ... a funny thing.

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    Sunday, August 01, 2004

    Leveraged buying for social awareness

    Recently met with Heiko Amos of Charity Tango.

    Vancouver based Charity Tango partners with retailers to give back to the community via charitable gift card programmes. Gift card programmes aren't new, what is interesting is the attempt to align consumer behaviour with social awareness. Can you imagine buying a gift card at The Gap and adding the opportunity for the recipient to make a pre-set donation to a cause of their choice? Is this a chance to teach civics to young people?

    Heiko views Charity Tango as a corporate partner for socially progressive merchants. How would you use a gift card programme?

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    Angels, Venturists and the 'Avant-Banker'

    Many summers ago … Clara Peller asked the question, "Where's the beef?"

    The question came to the Vancouver Social Enterprise Forum this week in the wake of discussing the role of various funders, structural gaps, and opportunities to create a broader financial infrastructure for enterprising non-profits.

    Here is the text of a presentation made by Bill Young of the Social Capital Partners. Bill's remarks were made as part of the Ketchum Leaders in Philanthropy Series. His comments draw attention to broader participation in the development of social innovations in Canada. Two structural issues are worthy of deeper consideration a) the degree of dependence on one funder, i.e. the government, and b) the degree of dependence on one financial structure, i.e. a grant for a programme.

    Bill will be at the Social Venture Institute gathering at the Hollyhock Retreat Centre on Cortes Island (September 12 - 16, 2004). The SVI gathering will focus on storytelling and practical skill sharing. The event is billed as

    "giving access to valuable insights and guidance, ... the opportunity to present
    your business challenges to expert respondents and peer reviews. Seminar themes
    include raising second stage capital, overcoming sales and marketing challenges,
    and managing organizational change. Be prepared for a rich mix of people,
    resources, and deep reflection on why, who, and how business can be used as an
    important method to support values and missions in the world".

    Will you be there?

    If finding the funds is an issue, consider turning to Canada Helps for assistance on the road to Hollyhock

    For those going to Hollyhock ... this item by Jed Emerson might add some sparkle to those evening fireside chats. Here's Emerson’s 'Horse Manure and Grant Making' from the Foundation News.

    Keep in the loop.

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