Thursday, April 26, 2007

VanCity and MEC Honoured for Social Reporting

Kudos to both VanCity and MEC for being recognised in the sixth annual Ceres-Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) Sustainability Reporting Awards. The Ceres-ACCA awards recognize and encourage exemplary reporting on sustainability issues by corporations and other organizations across the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

It's a laudable accomplishment in a rapidly congested field.

Of the 102 nominees, winners were selected by a panel of 14 judges who focused on the reports' completeness, credibility and effectiveness of communication.

Here's what was said:
Vancity Group, Vancouver, British Columbia: Vancity's winning 2004-2005 Accountability Report is an example of consolidated sustainability reporting, combining Vancity and Citizens Bank's sustainability reports into one. The report sets future targets and action plans and holds a member of Vancity's executive team accountable for each target. The report also provides an update on 44 targets and action plans set in 2004-2005.

For advice in preparing its report, Vancity invited 26 community leaders and members from across Canada to comment on the report's credibility, completeness, and responsiveness. Vancity also worked with stakeholders to set aggressive targets, invited external auditors to check how the organization is doing against these targets, report back the results - both good and bad, and verify that the report was prepared in accordance with the Global Reporting Initiative.

Mountain Equipment Co-op, Vancouver, British Columbia: Mountain Equipment Co-op's inaugural Accountability Report has helped the co-operative develop a reporting system and the capacity to measure and understand its performance. The report conveys the co-operative's commitment to transparency through full disclosure of non-compliance in its supply chain and of the material issues affecting the co-operative. The report also included the results of a series of employee engagement surveys and discusses employee satisfaction, turnover rates, and fair compensation.

As soon as the report on the judges is available, it'll be added to this post.

--------------------- Tags for information about: for:vsef, CSR, VanCity, MEC


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Monday, April 16, 2007

Revisionist IMPACS

With the announced insolvency of IMPACS there has been a good measure of post hoc reasoning. The ensuing discussions reveal more about the state of our civil society organizations than the facts of IMPACS demise.

So it is with a sense of posterity that we share a message from IMPACS founder Shauna Sylvester.

Here is Shauna's letter

Dear Friends,

Last week I learned that the organization that I helped to found, IMPACS -the Institute for Media, Policy and Civil Society was bankrupt. After ten years of working to advance democracy in Canada and in countries in conflict or post-conflict around the world, IMPACS was closing its doors.

It’s hard to get over news like that. It’s as if a close friend has died and you’re left wondering if there was anything more you could or should have done. You think about the people who have given so much of themselves in support of the organization - the board members, the staff, the interns, the volunteers, and the associates. You think about the overseas partners, your colleagues and project officers in government, your advisors and allies in the foundation community, the credit union and the other individual donors who believed in the vision and supported the work through its periods of ups and downs. And then you think about why this happened.

Why would an organization that had an incredible board and staff team, an extensive network of allies and partners, a long-pipeline of potential projects and a ten-year history of working with civil society organizations in Canada and internationally fold? In part, I think it was because IMPACS was an entrepreneurial organization. It operated as a non-profit enterprise in an environment where the supports have not yet been fully developed to support such organizations.

In their memo announcing the bankruptcy, the board of IMPACS identified two key issues: the federal government severe cutbacks of non-profit organizations (IMPACS client base) and the lack of core funding. To these two issues I would add:

  • the increasing transaction costs of dealing with government (which were not compensated),

  • the irrational accountability structures that some government departments like CIDA and Industry Canada put in place (that shifted by the hour and were entirely dependent on who was on the other end of the phone),

  • the lack of appropriate financial instruments for social enterprise organizations (social enterprises need patient capital),

  • the lack of consultants with expertise in social enterprise management,

  • the lack of a level playing field for NGOs in government procurement (unlike their private sector counterparts, IMPACS could not charge their billable rate for government contracts that they bid on and won - they could only charge the actual cost of salary and benefits),

  • the inappropriate regulatory regime for charities (e.g. the restrictions on advocacy and the restrictions on operating a related business),

  • the increasing cost of insurance (and the rise in liability, especially working in conflict zones), and

  • the lack of a skilled ‘labour pool’ (there are many people who are skilled in working in non-profit organizations but it is very rare to find people with the values, the entrepreneurial sensibilities, the international outlook and the strategic orientation to work in an organization like IMPACS).

    So given all of these challenges, it is a wonder that IMPACS survived for ten years. And not only did it survive - it thrived. As a founder and former ED of IMPACS, I am so proud of what IMPACS achieved over its ten year history and though I feel a profound sense of sadness for its demise, I know that the work will continue.

    At any wake, it is the custom to toast the deceased. My first toast goes out to each of the board members who have been involved in this organization. I don’t think anyone could find a finer, more committed group of people. My second toast is to the current and former staff, associates, trainers and volunteers. They have been the heart and soul of IMPACS operations. My third toast is to IMPACS’ Canadian and overseas partners and clients, who were the reason that IMPACS was created. And, finally - a toast to the myriad of IMPACS supporters and allies who walked with IMPACS over the years, helped us up when we fell and celebrated with us when we triumphed.

    Out of the ashes the Phoenix will rise….


    Shauna Sylvester

  • Although IMPACS supported "social enterprise", there is no evidence the organization either understood or practiced the mundane basics required to operate as a social enterprise.

    IMPACS is dead. Long live IMPACS.

    A nod of thanks to David Eaves for sharing Shauna's letter.
    --------------------- Tags for information about: for:vsef, Social Economy, Nonprofit, IMPACS


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    Tuesday, April 10, 2007

    Conflict Timber?

    Our economy relies heavily on extraction industries. So questions come up when reading "Selling off the rainforest - a modern-day scandal", at the Guardian website.

    The article begins:
    Vast tracts of the world's second-largest rainforest have been obtained by a small group of European and American industrial logging companies in return for minimal taxes and gifts of salt, sugar and tools, a two-year investigation will disclose today.

    Here are some other resources:

    Here's how Greenpeace is blogging the issue.

    Oh ... the picture is of merchandise Greenpeace is selling to raise awareness of their campaign addressing Kimberly-Clark’s ongoing destruction of Canada’s magnificent Boreal Forest.
    --------------------- Tags for information about: for:vsef, Social Economy, Nonprofit



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    Monday, April 09, 2007

    Zipcar vs Co-operative Auto Network?

    Vancouver recently welcomed Zipcar - another car-sharing service.

    The VSEF views the arrival of Zipcar as a great opportunity for the Co-operative Auto Network. We're also keen to witness and compare the respective accomplishments - if they can be tracked/shared - of the two distinct business models. As mentioned in an earlier post.

    The CBC, on Thursday, reported:
    Boston-based Zipcar has 100 brand new cars in a parking lot in downtown Vancouver.

    The company's CEO, Scott Griffith, said he was drawn to Vancouver by its lifestyle-conscious population.

    "The typical Vancouverite is someone who is interested in advancing urban lifestyle, and very interested in the environmental benefits of companies like Zipcar."

    Zipcar's competition, the Co-operative Auto Network, has seen rapid growth during its decade in business, said executive director Tracey Axelsson.

    "It has grown exponentially in the first few years, and at least 35 per cent in recent months. We're currently exceeding all of our expectations for growth," she said.

    You can read the Zipcar press release, it's a "full on" trumpeting of the "global" organizations capabilities and aspirations.

    Griffith is "quoted" in the press release saying:
    "Our mission to remove personally-owned cars from urban streets is a perfect match with Vancouver's leading green initiatives. At Zipcar, we have seen that a switch from car owner to car sharer sparks a behaviour change resulting in thousands of personally owned cars coming off the roads. In addition, our members save money that was wasted on under-used cars – a significant share of that savings will be spent in the local economy."

    From the same document:
    About Zipcar

    Zipcar is a leading urban lifestyle brand that provides an alternative to car ownership to more than 90,000 consumer and business drivers worldwide. By providing urbanites with hourly and daily access to fun, affordable, and conveniently-located vehicles, Zipcar has grown to be the world's largest and fastest growing car sharing service, currently operating more than 2,500 vehicles in London and 14 North American states and provinces, including metropolitan Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, San Francisco, Toronto, Washington, DC., and Vancouver. With Zipcar's award-winning technology, accessing and using a Zipcar is as easy as getting cash from an ATM. In minutes or up to a year in advance, members can reserve Zipcars online or by phone, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Zipcar members have automated access to any Zipcar across North America and the United Kingdom using a "Zipcard" to simply unlock the door and drive away.

    Until we get to know Zipcar better, we'll rely on Torontoist's Car Sharing Shootout to offer a glimpse of the future of car-sharing in Vancouver.

    Here are some other links on car-sharing:

    --------------------- Tags for information about: for:vsef, Social Economy, Nonprofit, TechSoup


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    10 questions for public innovators

    Are you a public innovator?

    Here are ten questions that were posed over the past weekend at a gathering of VSEF members. The questions spurred a rich discussion.

    Hope you enjoy them too. Ofcourse, deep appreciation to Redeeming Hope.

    • 1. How can I position my organization so that it not only provides worthy services or programs, but is catalytic and creates systemic change in the community?

    • 2. How can I genuinely engage other people to see why I’m pursing the path that I am in my work – and when do I decide to keep moving forward despite their resistance?

    • 3. How do I move my organization or group to focus on the tough, underlying questions at hand rather than to reach for the easy answers? And how do I avoid watering down our mission?

    • 4. How do I keep our efforts aligned with the reality of our capacity, so that we have a chance to achieve results, and avoid doing things that sound good but ultimately won’t make a real difference?

    • 5. How can I place my work in a larger conceptual framework – so that it’s possible for me and others to see the bigger picture of what we’re trying to do and why?

    • 6. How can I sustain people’s engagement over time, especially when things get tough or move too slowly?

    • 7. How do I take effective action when oftentimes there is limited capacity for action within our community?

    • 8. How fast can I expect progress to come, and what should I do when everyone around me expects change seemingly overnight?

    • 9. How can I engage my funders and supporters who don’t want to take the time to truly understand what we’re trying to do?

    • 10. How can I keep myself going as I pursue my path?

    --------------------- Tags for information about: for:vsef, Social Economy, Nonprofit, Innovation



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    Thursday, April 05, 2007

    [Support] NetSquared - Technology Innovation Fund

    NetSquared ProjectsSome of you might have been following the NetSquared campaign to garner project proposals that "utilize the technologies, tools and communities of the social web to create societal impact in a sustainable fashion."

    If you didn't know ... you can see the project guidelines here.

    Of the projects proposed, twenty will by selected by the NetSquared community to send two representatives (expenses paid) to the NetSquared Conference happening May 29th – 30th in San Jose, California.

    Take a look at the proposals. They are inspired.

    If you're a member of the NetSquared community, don't forget that voting takes place from April 9th - April 14th.

    Here's more information if you're interested in, or wish to support, the NetSquared Technology Innovation Fund.
    --------------------- Tags for information about: for:vsef, Social Economy, Nonprofit, NetSquared


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    Monday, April 02, 2007

    [Worth Hearing] Finding Philanthropy's New Sweet Spot: What Is The Future Of Venture Models?

    If you follow the Stanford Social Innovation Review you already know about the March 20th event, Finding Philanthropy's New Sweet Spot: What Is The Future Of Venture Models?

    If you don't read it, here's a good reason ...

    At the forum, Finding Philanthropy's New Sweet Spot, the focus was on philanthropy's role in the evolving landscape of how donors can achieve social change. Some familiar names highlighted lessons learned from existing philanthropy models and offered perspectives on a rapidly changing landscape.

    The best part ... there's audio. Enjoy courtesy of SSIR and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

  • Keynote — Venture Models: Past and Future — Katherine Fulton, President, Monitor Institute (44:48 minutes)

  • Katherine Fulton looks back over a decade of rapid change in the field of philanthropy, and she challenges foundations to find the new sweet spots that will enable them to deliver social change in an ever-changing world.

  • Thought Leader Response to Keynote — Matthew Bishop, Chief Business Writer/American Business Editor, The Economist (12:49 minutes)

  • Matthew Bishop, author of The Economist special survey supplement "The Business of Giving" looks at the industrial revolution taking place in philanthropy and reacts to Katherine Fulton's remarks about the past and future of philanthropy.

  • Thought Leader Response to Keynote — Clara Miller, President and CEO, Nonprofit Finance Fund (15:14 minutes)

  • Clara Miller shares her views on the limitations of venture philanthropy today and reacts to Katherine Fulton's remarks about the past and future of philanthropy.

  • Thought Leader Response to Keynote — Kim Smith, Co-Founder, NewSchools Venture Fund (12:34 minutes)

  • Kim Smith shares her organization's approach to delivering impact and comments on Katherine Fulton's remarks on the past and future of philanthropy.

    --------------------- Tags for information about: for:vsef, Social Enterprise, Nonprofit, SSIR


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