Note: this piece was originally published on Shareable.

We stand at a historic moment—a crossroads in the history of humanity and Mother Earth. Rarely has there been a convergence of so many crises, from climate catastrophes to fascism.

These are scary times, but crises also create opportunity. The last two major economic crises, the Great Depression and the stagflation of the late 1970s, resulted in fundamental shifts in the dominant capitalist economic model. Today, people’s faith in the status quo is shaken. There’s a growing openness to new narratives, new models, and new paradigms: the solidarity economy offers a transformative pathway to a new system beyond capitalism.


What is the Solidarity Economy?
What are the key elements of the Solidarity Economy?
What are “imaginal cells” of the Solidarity Economy?
What are examples of the Solidarity Economy in the United States?
What are examples of the Solidarity Economy internationally?
How is the Solidarity Economy different from the Sharing Economy?

What is the Solidarity Economy?

The solidarity economy (SE) is a global movement to build a world that centers people and the planet rather than maximizing private profit and endless growth. It is not a blueprint theorized by academics in ivory towers, but is grounded in concrete practices that exist all around us. Some practices are old, while others are emergent innovations. Some would be considered alternative, while others are quite mainstream. There is a large foundation upon which to build. The trick is to connect these currently atomized practices so they work together to transform our whole economic system (and indeed world). 

The image below lays out a definition of the solidarity economy that draws on both the US Solidarity Economy Network (USSEN) as well as RIPESS, the international solidarity economy network, which led a two-year international consultation process to build a shared understanding of the SE.

Photo credit: US Solidarity Economy Network and RIPESS

What are the key elements of the Solidarity Economy?

While there is a tremendous latitude within the solidarity economy to encompass a wide range of approaches—grounded in the local realities of culture, language, history, political-social-economic contexts, and the environment—there are elements of the solidarity economy definition that apply across these specificities:

1. The solidarity economy is a framework

2. This framework connects solidarity economy practices (see below for examples)

3. Solidarity economy practices are aligned with solidarity economy values:

  • Solidarity
  • Participatory democracy
  • Equity in all dimensions: race, class, gender, abilities, etc. 
  • Sustainability
  • Pluralism (meaning that this is not a one-size-fits-all approach, or as the Zapatista say, “A world in which many worlds fit.)

4. The solidarity economy is post-capitalist

  • All of the values above articulate a post-capitalist vision. The solidarity economy holds that we cannot achieve the just, sustainable, democratic, and cooperative world that we seek by reforming capitalism. We don’t reject reforms, but it’s imperative to see them as part of a longer-term process of fundamental system change. In the absence of this, reforms alone can end up strengthening capitalism. 

5. The solidarity economy is an international movement

  • The solidarity economy is an international movement. The movement includes RIPESS, an international solidarity economy network of continental networks, the International Labor Organization (ILO), which runs an annual Social Solidarity Academy, and the United Nations which has a solidarity economy task force. Bolivia and Ecuador also include the solidarity economy in their constitutions, and several countries have national policy frameworks supporting the solidarity economy. 

What are “imaginal cells” of the Solidarity Economy?

Awakening to a different vision

When a caterpillar spins its chrysalis, a magical process begins. Its body starts to break down into a nutrient-rich goop. Within this goop are imaginal cells, and these imaginal cells have a different vision of what they can become. They are so different, they are attacked and killed by what remains of the caterpillar’s immune system.

Yet, surviving imaginal cells begin to recognize each other as having a common purpose and vision of becoming. They begin to cluster together and can survive the immune system attacks. As they continue to come together, they start to specialize—some become an eye, some a leg, some the body, and some the wing—until what emerges from the chrysalis is an entirely different creature—a butterfly.

The solidarity economy is currently akin to isolated imaginal cells. The vast foundation of solidarity economy practices don’t yet recognize each other as holding a common vision, so the clustering and specialization—equivalent to forming an ecosystem—is not yet realized. The solidarity economy provides a framework for these imaginal cells to recognize their common vision, to come together and operate as a wholly different, post-capitalist system and world!

Photo credit: US Solidarity Economy Network and RIPESS

What are examples of the Solidarity Economy in the United States? 

Defunding the police and participatory budgeting

In Seattle, Washington, the city allocated $30 million to a participatory budgeting process that gave community members a say in how the money should be used. Twelve million dollars was directly diverted from the Seattle Police Department, while the remaining $18 million came from the Mayor’s Communities Initiative Fund.

Community land trusts

Community land trusts (CLT) are nonprofits that hold “land on behalf of a place-based community while serving as the long-term steward for affordable housing, community gardens, civic buildings, commercial spaces, and other community assets…” according to the International Center for Community Land Trusts. Among the many strategies to develop CLTs, municipal public sector support for community land trusts can significantly increase the supply of permanently affordable housing. A recent report on CLT-municipal partnerships cites three dozen examples of cities providing support through funding, technical assistance, donation of property, staffing, helping with regulatory hurdles, and more.

Local solidarity economy ecosystems

The imaginal cells of the solidarity economy are already clustering, but what will it take to go to the next stage of building and creating connections between existing and emergent solidarity economy elements to give birth to a new post-capitalist system? In the U.S., there are nascent efforts to build local solidarity economy ecosystems. 

Cooperation Jackson in Jackson, Mississippi has built a Community Production Center, with cutting-edge technology such as 3D printers and other forms of digital fabrication; they have formed a community land trust, holding a considerable amount of land for affordable housing and farming, as well as to preserve important historical sites of civil rights and Black liberation struggles. The group has a community center that provides a space for gathering, community education and training, and childcare and purchased a shopping plaza for a food co-op and other co-op businesses. 

There are statewide solidarity economy networks that seek to connect the ecosystem, including the Massachusetts Solidarity Economy Network (MASEN), the first statewide SE network in the U.S., the Virginia Solidarity Economy Network (VASEN), and others. 

There are also local ecosystem enablers like the Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Inspired by the Mondragon Corporation in Spain, the Arizmendi Association is a worker cooperative that runs a chain of bakeries and a construction business in the Bay Area. The model emphasizes democratic governance, shared ownership, and equitable work conditions.

What are examples of the Solidarity Economy internationally?


In Brazil, the term “economia solidária” gained prominence as various social movements and community organizations sought alternatives to the neoliberal economic policies of the 1980s and 1990s. These initiatives were focused on creating economic systems based on solidarity, cooperation, and social welfare, rather than purely on profit and market competition. Brazil now has one of the most extensive networks of solidarity economy enterprises in the world, supported by strong government and social movements. The Brazilian Forum of Solidarity Economy facilitates numerous initiatives, including worker cooperatives, community banks, and fair trade organizations. The government has also implemented supportive policies and national programs to promote the solidarity economy.


In Quebec, various initiatives including community economic development financial institutions (CEDIFs), cooperative housing, and social enterprises have grown into a major sector of the economy. The region has a supportive ecosystem that includes government policies and a network of support organizations dedicated to fostering the solidarity economy.


Italy has a rich tradition of cooperative businesses, particularly in the Emilia-Romagna region. These cooperatives span across sectors such as agriculture, retail, manufacturing, and services and produce a third of the region’s GDP. 


Japan’s solidarity economy features consumer cooperatives, which are particularly strong in several food sectors. These cooperatives are known for promoting local and organic produce and for their role in disaster resilience, providing support and resources to communities affected by events like the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. In the past 100 years, Japan’s cooperative movement has grown from its humble start to become an economic powerhouse with over 65 million members and over $135 billion in annual revenue.


In Kenya, informal savings and loan groups known as “Chamas,” a form of Rotating Savings and Credit Associations (ROSCAs), have become widespread throughout the country. These groups play a critical role in providing financial services to communities often underserved by traditional banks. Additionally, Kenya has seen growth in cooperative movements in agriculture and housing, empowering small-scale farmers and low-income families.

How is the Solidarity Economy different from the Sharing Economy?

The sharing economy, as it was initially conceptualized, focuses on the sharing of access to goods and services, often facilitated by digital platforms. While it includes community-driven sharing practices like car-sharing, tool libraries, and community gardens (which we love at Shareable), it has unfortunately become associated with extractive commercial platforms like Uber, Airbnb, and Lyft. Although sharing resources often leads to more efficient use of assets and reduced consumption, many commercial sharing platforms have been rightfully critiqued for prioritizing profit without necessarily fostering genuine communal sharing or ensuring fair labor practices.

Here are some key differences between the sharing economy and the solidarity economy:

  1. Profit orientation: While the solidarity economy actively seeks to downplay or redistribute profits to stakeholders and community members, the sharing economy, particularly in its commercial form, often centers on profit maximization for platform owners and investors.
  2. Community engagement: The solidarity economy is deeply rooted in community engagement and empowerment, aiming to improve local resilience and economic democracy. The sharing economy does involve community members but often as consumers or service providers within a profit-oriented framework.
  3. Governance: Solidarity economy initiatives typically involve democratic or participatory governance, with stakeholders involved in decision-making. In contrast, many sharing economy platforms are governed by private entities with centralized decision-making.
  4. Sustainability and equity goals: The solidarity economy explicitly aims for social and environmental sustainability and equity. While sharing economy platforms might contribute to resource efficiency, these outcomes are not always the primary goal, and the effects on equity can be mixed.


The convergence crises has created a rare opportunity to push for a new system beyond capitalism. There is a huge foundation of imaginal cells that already exist within the current system and new ones are emerging all the time. Many of these imaginal cells already see themselves as part of a transformational process. While there is still much to be done, we can see the emergence of a metamorphosis into the solidarity economy.   

Additional contributors to this explainer include Steve Dubb, Mike Strode, Paige Kelly, and Tom Llewellyn


Emily Kawano

Emily Kawano is a founder and co-coordinator of the US Solidarity Economy Network and has served on the board of RIPESS (the Intercontinental Network for the Social Solidarity Economy) for almost a decade. She is codirector of the Wellspring Cooperative, which is developing a network of worker cooperatives and solidarity economy initiatives in Springfield, MA. Previously, Kawano was director of the Center for Popular Economics, has taught economics at Smith College, and has worked as the national economic justice representative for the American Friends Service Committee.

In March 2024 we wrapped up our fifth cohort of CreateAction placements after over 3 years of funding from the Government of Canada’s Youth Employment Skills Strategy. The CreateAction program was delivered in partnership with the National Association of Friendship Centres and the Social Demonstration and Research Corporation with the purpose of helping youth overcome barriers to employment and develop a broad range of skills and knowledge to improve their labour market participation.

The project involved five cohorts (159 youth in total) and included four main project components:

  • Work placements with organizations working in community economic development and social economy typically six months in length
  • peer learning program facilitated by CreateAction partners for and between youth that included community meetups, youth circles, and a Slack workspace
  • An employer support program based on research, resources, and training. Activities included peer learning drop-ins, capacity building workshops, individual check-ins, and ongoing tailored support
  • Youth support activities including individual check-ins and access to counselling through Inkblot Therapy

This program was unable, in its scope, to address broader systemic issues that can lead to chronic unemployment and underemployment for youth. Instead, we focussed on what can be done with and for youth to address and overcome barriers to employment and what can be done by employers to make their places of work more welcoming and adaptive to the unique needs of their employees.

Click on the link above or below to read the full report on promising practices developed through the CreateAction program.

Quick Glimpse at the Lessons Learned

  1. Cultivating empathy in the workplace is key to providing a supportive and empowering experience for youth.
  2. Clear communication of program objectives and expectations are essential for both program practitioners and employers throughout all phases of the program.
  3. One-on-one meetings with employer applicants can provide valuable insights into their organizational capacity and help ensure alignment with program goals.
  4. Accessible job postings and outreach strategies are crucial for reaching youth who may face barriers to employment.
  5. Discussing and providing available wraparound supports for youth during onboarding and early placement stages can help set them up for success in the workplace.
  6. Regular communication and check-ins between program staff, employers, and youth throughout the placement are essential for addressing challenges and providing tailored support.
  7. Creating a transitioning out of placement plan helps support youth as they move on from the program, facilitating their continued career development and wellbeing.

Introduction: The Canadian Community Economic Development Network (CCEDNet) is seeking proposals from qualified recruiting firms to assist in the identification and recruitment of a new Executive Director.

Background: CCEDNet is a values-based, non-profit association committed to connecting people and ideas for action that builds local economies, strengthens communities, and benefits everyone. We have members throughout Canada, including organizations, networks, and individuals who are strengthening sustainable and equitable local economies. Members are active across many sectors such as community development, social enterprise, rural development, co-operative development, employment development, and housing.

We are committed to the values of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Dignity, Self-Determination, Solidarity, and Local Control. Together, we are working towards sustainable and inclusive communities directing their own social, environmental, and economic futures through our Theory of Change.

Scope of Work: The selected recruiting firm will be responsible for the following.

  • Conducting a comprehensive search for qualified candidates for the position of Executive Director.
  • Developing and implementing a recruitment strategy to attract diverse and highly skilled candidates.
  • Establishing criteria for potential candidates through a stakeholder consultation process, including the development of a job posting and evaluation and assessment criteria.
  • Screening and assessing candidate applications based on defined criteria.
  • Supporting the interview and selection process, including coordinating interviews with the CCEDNet hiring committee.
  • Providing guidance and support to the hiring committee throughout the selection process.

Requirements: The ideal recruiting firm will possess:

  • Experience in executive search and recruitment, preferably within the non-profit sector.
  • Demonstrated expertise in sourcing and attracting top-tier talent.
  • A commitment to justice, access, inclusion, diversity, decolonization and equity in the recruitment process.
  • Strong communication and interpersonal skills in English and French.
  • Knowledge of community economic development principles and practices is an asset.
  • Demonstrated relationships and meaningful connections to grassroots and community-based organizations is considered an asset.

Proposal Requirements:

  • Company name (including GST number and incorporation number if applicable), and contact information (address, email, phone number, and website).
  • Name and position of individual who will oversee the project, as well as project team members (if applicable) including brief professional biographies and an explanation of interest in this work.
  • Outline of previous experience:
  • Providing consulting services, including Executive Director recruitment processes.
  • Working with organizations in the non-profit sector.
  • Utilizing a variety of online techniques and platforms to meet deliverables.
  • Sample list of past and current clients including any relevant commentary on outcomes and impact of this work.
  • Description of your approach to this work:
  • Identification of which deliverables you can address.
  • Your consultation approach to centering the experiences of Indigenous, Black, and racialized individuals, persons with disabilities, 2SLGBTQ+ individuals, and religious minorities.
  • Work plan describing methodologies, approaches, timelines, and roles and responsibilities for how the work will be accomplished.
  • Description of anticipated risks and difficulties, and proposed strategies to address them.
  • Confirmation of willingness to work alongside internal board and staff members to achieve the deliverables, if applicable.
  • Expected compensation and other estimated costs including a breakdown of the proposed budget by deliverable.

Proposals should be submitted to our Hiring Committee at .


  • Proposal Submission Deadline: June 10, 2024
  • Selection of Firm: June 17, 2024
  • Project Commencement: June 21, 2024

Budget: The budget for this project is $10,000 – 15,000 CAD.

Evaluation Criteria: Proposals will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Demonstrated understanding of the project requirements.
  • Experience and qualifications of the firm and its team members.
  • Proposed approach and methodology.
  • Cost-effectiveness of the proposal.
  • Ability to meet proposed timelines.

Contact Information: For inquiries or additional information, please contact our Hiring Committee.

Attn: Hiring Committee


Conclusion: CCEDNet is committed to selecting a recruiting firm that shares our values and vision for community economic development. We look forward to receiving proposals from qualified firms that can help us identify an exceptional candidate to lead our organization into the future.


A Message from the Board

Dear CCEDNet Community,

Mike Toye presenting at EconoUs2017 while wearing a white cowboy hat

We write to you today with a rich tapestry of emotions as we announce the departure of Michael Toye, after 16 years as Executive Director and over 20 years of involvement in CCEDNet. During his tenure, Mike has been instrumental in shaping the direction and evolution of the Network. He has led with vision, integrity, and unwavering commitment, guiding us through both triumphs and challenges with grace and resilience.

Under his leadership, CCEDNet has achieved significant milestones, and has become a respected source for community-led economic innovations, advocacy, and solidarity. Michael’s passion for CCEDNet’s mission and values has inspired us all to strive for excellence and to make a positive impact in our communities.

While we are feeling a sense of nostalgia, we are also grateful for the indelible mark Mike has left. His leadership has laid a strong foundation upon which we will continue to build and grow.

As we embark on this transition, we are committed to ensuring a smooth and seamless handover of responsibilities. Mike will be working closely with the Board and staff in the coming months to facilitate this transition process.

We would like to take this opportunity to express our deepest gratitude to Mike for his invaluable contributions and remarkable leadership with CCEDNet. His legacy will continue to inspire us as we embark on the next chapter for the Network.

Mike remains as committed as ever to the vision and values of CCEDNet and is looking forward to continuing to be an active member and contribute to our movement for economic justice.  While Mike is moving on from the Executive Director role, he will always remain an integral part of the CCEDNet family.

A hiring process is underway and a posting is expected this summer.  More details will be shared when they are available, and questions for the Board in the meantime can be sent to .

In gratitude for Mike’s leadership, we look forward to building the next era of CCEDNet’s impact with you. 

The Board of Directors

A Season for Review and Renewal

CCEDNet is celebrating 25 years of collective action towards local economies that strengthen communities! 

We are also moving through a season of transition. Over the past 6 months, we’ve noted several changes and milestones pointing us towards a need for intentional review and adjustment. 

It’s been five years since work commenced to create our Theory of Change and as we wrapped up the tracking and analysis of our performance this year we now have three years of data collection to help guide our work. We can celebrate successes and also clearly see areas where we need to evolve in service of our vision and mission. Not to mention, much has changed around us in those 5 years! 

This spring, four significant projects were completed. With this came the departures of several project-based team members. We also want to acknowledge the upcoming departure of other staff members that have contributed to our work over the years. We are so grateful for their contributions! And, of course, we echo the sentiments of the board in their message announcing Mike’s departure and offer gratitude for his contributions over many years of work at CCEDNet!

Seasons of change mark key moments for review and renewal. As we move our work forward, we are aiming for a more sustainable and collaborative organizational model that leverages the power of the Network to build our team and programs together.

All in all, we believe this is a timely opportunity to take stock of our progress and lessons learned, and reassess how we can best achieve our vision a quarter century after the Network was founded.

So, we warmly invite you to join us at the AGM on June 13 (only one staff member per member organization is eligible to vote). After the formal portion of the AGM, we will be breaking from the tradition of presenting the Stronger Together awards to celebrate the incredible collective progress made by our Network of members, partners, and stakeholders over the last 25 years, and to officially launch a CCEDNet Strategic Review process.

In Solidarity,
Sarah Leeson-Klym on behalf of the CCEDNet team

Do you have a story to share about successes or impacts across the CED field or CCEDNet over the past 25 years? Maybe you made an important connection at a CCEDNet event, or recall a policy change that was influenced by member advocacy, or you learned something that really shifted your practice in a positive direction. SHARE YOUR STORY HERE. We’ll share these at the AGM and your insights will help ground the Strategic Review in our Network’s collective story. 


CCEDNet mourns the passing of David LePage. 

David got involved in CCEDNet not long after his arrival in Canada from the US.  He helped organize CCEDNet’s first major event, the National Policy Forum in Vancouver in 2001.  His subsequent roles at enterprising nonprofits, the Social Enterprise Council of Canada, the Social Enterprise World Forum and Buy Social Canada placed him at the forefront of actions to strengthen social enterprises and social procurement. He drew together his many insights into a book – Marketplace Revolution.

David was a longtime member of CCEDNet’s Policy Council, including as Chair and representative on the Board of Directors.  He also was key in sustaining the People-Centred Economy Group after the National Summit on a People-Centred Economy in 2010, and was a partner in the Social Enterprise Ecosystem Project that CCEDNet administered. 

He was appointed to the federal co-creation steering group that produced the Inclusive Innovation report, which became a blueprint for the government of Canada’s Social Innovation and Social Finance Strategy. 

In Manitoba, CCEDNet became the local enterprising nonprofits affiliate, launching our dedicated social enterprise programming with David facilitating the first events and workshops. His kind mentorship and advice often supported our local advocacy for a social enterprise strategy and for social procurement, eventually achieving a policy and action plan at the City of Winnipeg. Together, CCEDNet and the Social Enterprise Council of Canada (with David at the helm), hosted memorable Canadian Conferences on Social Enterprise in 2017 and 2019.

David travelled a lot (the Air Canada lounge was a second home), and joined many early remote meetings from the Pacific time zone. We will remember fondly his unique mixture of seriousness and laughter, his constructive criticism, and quick phone calls while he walked to his office in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

We offer his family and friends our deep condolences.  In lieu of flowers, donations to the Social Enterprise Policy Fund which David established are encouraged. 

More about David

This is Part 6 of our Ecosystem Building Blog Series.

part 1) Pan Atlantic,
part 2) Saskatchewan,
part 3) Ontario,
part 4) Newfoundland and Labrador – 1,
part 5) Newfoundland and Labrador – 2

Ecosystem building is a core focus of CCEDNet’s Regional Initiatives Program.

Stronger [balanced] together:

How pragmatics, changers, philosophers and visionaries built Manitoba’s ecosystem

A coffee chat with Brendan Reimer. 

Interview With






Melissa Sinfield


Melissa Sinfield, Regional Initiatives Manager 

Blog Summary

Read this if you are: 

  • Wondering what factors might support establishing a lasting community economy ecosystem?
  • Curious how balance may be the key to lasting relations and sustainability for regional ecosystems? 
  • Questioning whether to start building your ecosystem with a focus on structure or action?
  • Wanting to learn how CCEDNet Manitoba’s ecosystem came into being? 

Blog Notes:

Region: Manitoba

We spoke with Brendan, who served as Director of CCEDNet Manitoba for the first 11 years, building many of the network functions still being practiced today.

To learn more about other ecosystem building projects and approaches that have been supported by CCEDNet check out our Regional Initiatives Program

Note: interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

How did CCEDNet Manitoba come to be?

1) A groundswell of collaborative energy wanting systems change 

Brendan: At the time there weren’t as many collaborative groups and there was a sense that something different or new was needed given the needs we faced as a community:  housing, food security, poverty. 

There was a group of young organizers, some students, who were all keen to work together and saw the value of creating associations. CCEDNet also already had a local presence since one of the founders and first Executive Director, Garry Loewen, was based here. So, the network came together. Around this time other collaborations (such as Manitoba Co-op Association) were also growing or being created including Food Matters Manitoba, Right to Housing Coalition, the CCPA-hosted Manitoba Research Alliance on CED and the New Economy, and Make Poverty History Manitoba to name a few. 

The collaborative groups were also specific communities of practice. There weren’t as many at the time, but there were great collaborative groups emerging with place-based work (example: Neighbourhood Renewal Corporations) and within Indigenous communities.

2) Grounding systems change ecosystems in local realities

Sarah: Location matters. Given the reality of innercity poverty here, it’s so obvious that there is a systems problem in Winnipeg. Do you think that is part of why CCEDNet [a systems-change focused network] has sustained here?

Brendan: Yes. The Winnipeg reality matters. Everyone knew each other: the leaders and mentors knew each other, the student researchers and young leaders all got to know each other as well as getting to know the leaders and mentors. 

We all had our offices here, as most provincial associations and collaborative initiatives have their head office or base here in Winnipeg. These experienced and emerging leaders had a simple mentality–or perhaps actually more complex– they shared a common understanding of how we were all in it together and how everything was interconnected: housing, food, co-op development, public policy, funding and finance, environmental sustainability, and what we now refer to as reconciliation. Also having a network employee connecting people, and so many of us having schooling on CED or related topics, it all cemented everything. Also, it helped to have politicians growing up working in these communities before they entered politics. Over time, we start having deep, meaningful ties. That’s true of academics here too.

These experienced and emerging leadersshared a common understanding of how we were all in it together and how everything was interconnected

With experienced and emerging leaders being grounded in a theory of change that was community-led and holistic, and with so many participating in the Manitoba Research Alliance projects where we needed to explain our concept and theories as part of writing the reports, we came to understand our common language and our common approach and our interconnectedness to each other.

3) Shared vision and an intersectional systems change mindset

Brendan: I think one key reason why CCEDNet emerged in this context is that the leaders (and the younger folks they hired and mentored) understood CED to be broader system change work that consisted of all those various initiatives and sectors working together in a common philosophy of engaging communities and building sustainable, fair, inclusive local communities and economies. 

I think some regions might have defined CED more narrowly, which is why some of those broader networks didn’t understand how they connected and related to CCEDNet, but in Manitoba the ethos and philosophy positioned CCEDNet as the hub of the wheel connecting the groups together, or the umbrella as an overarching development paradigm they shared.

One aspect that built this common understanding and culture is the Manitoba Research Alliance on CED in the New Economy and the subsequent SSHRC projects after it. The CED leaders were part of the leadership of this research, and many of the “younger leaders” were student researchers mentored and funded through that program that turned into jobs.

[T]he leaders… experienced and emerging leadersunderstood CED to be broader system change work that consisted of all those various initiatives and sectors working together.

As I think about this more, each research project would have had literature reviews and a section defining terminology and theory of practice or concept, and so every student researcher (and academic partner) along with the community partners would have been researching, writing, learning, developing, and articulating these aspects of a research paper and that process would have grounded us all in a theoretical framework of CED philosophy (as that was the focus of all the research). This would have had quite an impact on our collective mindset and approach to our work and each other.

4) Intergenerational sharing and setting aside ego

Brendan: I would add that the younger leaders who emerged in this space had a good way of working together, it wasn’t about the egos, it was about having a common and broader vision for our work and how it was all interconnected with each other. But I’d also say that we all had more experienced mentors as well who taught us about the interconnections – CED, social enterprise, co-ops, poverty, housing, Indigenous organizations, etc all had very experienced people leading the way and mentoring the younger staffers brought in to lead the networks. I am extremely grateful for the time they invested in me and the other emerging leaders, and I think the legacy of their efforts lives on today. 

[It] wasn’t about the egos.

5) Building fertile ground for a CED ecosystem through aligned approaches and language

Brendan: CED was also common language in Manitoba, where organizations like Neechi Foods, LITE Winnipeg, SEED Winnipeg, Jubilee Fund, Community Futures, Neighbourhood Renewal Corps, and by then even the Province of Manitoba used the language of Community Economic Development. So many leaders in so many different organizations and institutions were very familiar with the terminology, principles, and philosophy of CED. 

CED was also common language in Manitoba.

By 2003, about when I started, there was a CED Policy Framework and Lens at the Province of Manitoba. About that time United Way Winnipeg hired one of the top CED leaders to develop a strategy around CED, and shortly after the Winnipeg Foundation did the same thing. Assiniboine Credit Union launched a CED Strategy, University of Manitoba and University of Winnipeg had authors publishing and teaching about CED (John Loxley, Jim Silver, etc.), and the Manitoba Research Alliance had millions of dollars to lead dozens of CED research projects engaging dozens of community organizations, academics, and students. 

There is so much more that was in place and emerging, but this was the context of Manitoba and why CCEDNet Manitoba grew the way it did as well, it was extremely fertile ground for something to grow – and CCEDNet Manitoba did.

6) Finding a leader who the network trusts to centre multiple approaches and perspectives 

Sarah: What made it okay to trust CCEDNet? 

Brendan: As in, why were local practitioners willing to trust this unknown upstart new national network? 

The answer to that in part is that Garry was a founding member of CCEDNet and then the first Executive Director of CCEDNet. He had experience, and a nuanced understanding of the need for balance between practitioners and visionaries. 

The local leaders trusted Garry, and if Garry was a leader in CCEDNet, they would trust CCEDNet because they trusted Garry. There were many others who played important roles in that part of building trust in CCEDNet, but I want to highlight that aspect of how he brought a nuanced understanding of blending vision and practice which was really key to the culture.

Mike: So it was a mix of collaborative energy and culture? 

Brendan: And trust.

[Leadership with] a nuanced understanding of blending vision and practice which was really key to the culture.

Editors note: We also have heard that when the national network was emerging, local practitioners were connecting with and inspired by people working in other provinces. However, in a place like Manitoba where many feel that other regions don’t understand the context, having a local leader made a difference.

7) Formalizing structures of accountability

Sarah: The organizational structures were collaborative. How did you sustain that moving forward?

Brendan: Through some humbling moments where we were challenged to do better. CCEDNet was called out for presenting ourselves as representing other communities while lacking a formal democratic process that would give us the legitimacy as representatives of the sector. And they were right. We thought we were being representative but we weren’t doing enough. The network wanted it with more formality and accountability. They wanted a clearly outlined structure and decision making process, especially when it came to public policy advocacy. 

Editor’s note: CCEDNet Manitoba now uses a member voting structure and resolution framework, particularly with the Manitoba public policy advocacy work. The models are closely reminiscent of co-op and union models likely reflecting the strong co-op and union networks that span much of Winnipeg, and Manitoba more broadly. Brendan’s note: In fact, the people who helped CCEDNet form our current process all (from what we recall) came from student union backgrounds including one long-time policy forum facilitator. 

8) The importance of resourcing paid positions 

Sarah: We definitely had alignment with the government for a long time which made a difference, but the work of CCEDNet Manitoba kept going even when the alignment wasn’t there. How come we were able to sustain? 

Brendan: There are other factors. As mentioned, there were resources from other sources as well, along with a well-established network of leaders who were committed to the common vision. But one key was that we had paid staff in Manitoba, whereas when we looked into other regions we saw how volunteer-based networks struggled to sustain their work and impact.

Sarah: So how important is it to have paid positions?

It’s about building resilience and sustainability over time, and this is more possible with a dedicated staff person who is able to build a network over time. .

Brendan: It is very important, as you need dedicated time for building a strong and effective network and that is very difficult to do without having a person who is able to fully focus on doing that. It’s about building resilience and sustainability over time, and this is more possible with a dedicated staff person who is able to build a network over time. 

Mike: When provincial support ended, the Manitoba network could survive because they’d built ongoing support with other local funders like United Way Winnipeg and Winnipeg Foundation.

9) Strategic positioning of leadership

Brendan: I’ll add one more key to the evolution in Manitoba, that the ecosystem being built created a very fertile and nurturing environment for CCEDNet Manitoba. Over time, community leaders who aligned with CCEDNet’s emerging vision were strategic about positioning themselves and advocating for change in key institutions like governments, funders, and financial institutions. I think that the fact that my original Prairies Coordinator role was in Winnipeg was likely, in part, because of the existing organizing work of local leaders in these institutions.

10) Balancing Action and Structure

Brendan: We had a mentality of needing to figure out what needs to be done and then doing it. Manitoba leaders were very focused on action and outcomes that mattered most to communities. It was the belief that we needed real change in communities.

Mike: Interesting contrast between outcomes versus structure. In Quebec they say it isn’t worth trying to predetermine and focus on set outcomes — those will change as situations evolve, but if you have good, community-rooted structure, positive outcomes (often previously unpredictable ones) will happen.  

Sarah: Structure is sustainability. 

We had a mentality of needing to figure out what needs to be done and then doing it.

Brendan: It has to be both, but you can’t have just structure at the beginning or people will be tired of investing their time in building structure without seeing outcomes that matter to their mission and vision of community. 

Editor’s note: Beatrice, from Chantier, QC, has mentioned before the importance of having short term wins that can bolster motivation and resolve of the network so momentum is not lost. This may be part of the nuance behind why the formally structured Quebec model was so successful. Similarly, the action heavy Manitoba model was likely sustained through implementing the formal structures shortly thereafter, which were noted above. The trick is likely understanding which approach would be better received in a region during the initial years, and finding ways to lean into that approach while counterbalancing it with the other. They may not need to be treated or understood as opposites, but complementary approaches. 

11) Balancing the thinking and action for systems change 

Melissa: What about the different roles that practitioners and systems thinkers played as this ecosystem emerged? 

Sarah: Community development practitioners care about the change, and what change looks like. 

Brendan: Which came first?
The practical practitioners or the system change thinkers? 

I think an interesting thing in Manitoba is the number of leaders who are both practitioner and system thinkers: we had top-level academics who were actively involved in co-op development, network leaders who were system-thinkers and practitioners leading music festivals and on boards of neighbourhood renewal corporations, we had practitioners of community organizations who completed PhD while they were at it, and so forth.

[A]n interesting thing in Manitoba is the number of leaders who are both practitioner and system thinkers.

It’s about understanding you’re part of a broader system and having a vision for a whole community. 

Sarah: There was some intentionality behind it. 

12) Balancing pragmatics, changers, philosophers, and visionaries

Brendan: Part of building this network was regular meetings over coffee and chats: talking, disagreeing, addressing issues and opportunities. 

Sarah: The network we have here is full of community organizations, the front line folks. In other regions, there is more emphasis on networks-of-networks, which probably makes sense in larger provinces. In Manitoba though, there is less separation between the networks and the front-lines, and lots of connections between research and everyone else. An example of this is the Urban and Inner City Studies program with professors who are involved, experiencing the reality of work in communities.

Brendan: What’s clear is you need a balance:

  • You need pragmatic people, but not just pragmatic practitioners
  • You need architects of systems change, but not just systems changers
  • You need philosophers and visionaries, but not just philosophic academics and visionaries 

It’s all of them together. 

Mike: Also a Theory of Change. 

13). Collectively imagining a shared, better future as a powerful tool for sustaining the movement

Sarah: What I am hearing is networks have to bring these different types of people together because they balance each other – practitioners might struggle to continue believing in the possibility of change or feel they have the time to connect across sectors as they navigate heavy day-to-day challenges while academics or collaborative leaders might lose sight of the day-to-day realities in community without being grounded in it. 

Brendan: Perhaps that’s the role of CCEDNet to teach the network? The collective imaginary. Intellectual and creative. Bring together the practitioners, the visionaries, the intellectuals and the creative solution builders, and all others involved to build the common imagination and vision of the world we want to build.

Sarah: With the Manitoba Gathering, we started to think differently in how we designed it. We created a day where the community comes together each year imagining that the whole economy could be this. ‘Oh, there’s hundreds of us, maybe we can make change!’ It’s not marginal anymore. It is when they click into that imaginary, that solidarity. It’s so powerful. It is what sets the Gathering apart. But it’s hard to write that into a funding report! 

[When people]
click into that imaginary,
that solidarity.
It’s so powerful.

Brendan: Probably one of the hardest things to do, to explain in a funding application. Has CCEDNet done that successfully in other places? 

Sarah: I’m not sure we’ve achieved it completely, but this is what we are trying to work towards doing here with the Regional Initiatives program! 

14) Hosting frequent get-togethers and predictable annual gatherings 

Melissa: Two recurring and interconnected threads I am hearing are balancing voices and approaches and doing this by keeping everyone connected, including: 

  1. Frequent informal small get-togethers: such as the small weekly coffee chats of “talking, disagreeing, addressing issues and opportunities”  that Brendan mentioned earlier. 
  2. Formal structured gatherings: including reliable and predictable events for collaborative action and accountability such as the annual formal policy convenings.
  3. Morale boosting visioning gatherings: such as the larger annual events for building and feeding the imaginary to maintain long term momentum like the Manitoba Gathering. 
  4. Ongoing meetings and convenings: such as all the frequent meetings and partner convenings that go on behind the scenes that sustain those connections throughout the year. 

All this ties back to the earlier point made on the importance of having a paid staff for sustaining ecosystems in the long term, because the amount of energy needed for building and maintaining these types of connections and systems is quite significant. 

Thank you Brendan, this conversation has been so insightful! 


Thank you Brendan!

We would like to extend a warm thank you to Brendan Reimer for taking the time to chat with us on the history of CCEDNet Manitoba and for all the thoughtful revisions that added deeper nuance to the conversation.

Ecosystem Blog Series:

Blog 1) Pan-Atlantic
Ecosystem Building
Blog 2) Saskatchewan
“On the Cusp of Change”
Blog 3) Ontario
Weaving Together…
This is Part 5 of our Ecosystem Building Blog Series.
Read part 1) Pan Atlantic, part 2) Saskatchewan, part 3) Ontario, part 4) Newfoundland and Labrador – 1

Read Section 1 of our conversation with NL Partners: Creating Luck: “Where opportunity, preparation, and relationships intersect

Stay tuned throughout May for the rest of the series! Ecosystem building is a core focus of CCEDNet’s Regional Initiatives Program.

Can’t quantify relationships:

6 reasons why funding for ecosystem building is essential
(and why it’s tricky to obtain)

Conversation with NL Partners: Section 2

Interview With



Jiménez Ojeda



Propel Impact

Melissa Sinfield


Interviewer and Editor:
Melissa Sinfield, Regional Initiatives Manager 

Blog Summary

Read this if you are: 

  • Questioning the value of ecosystem building?
  • Feeling like ecosystem building initiatives are yet more projects competing for scarce resources (hint, it can actually help buffer against scarcity in the long run)
  • Wondering why it is so hard to find funds for ecosystem building despite its ability to empower communities?
  • Doing transformative ecosystem building already, but appreciate being reaffirmed that it’s worthwhile and the struggle to gain resources is real.
  • Want to learn more about Newfoundland and Labrador’s growing community economic ecosystem?

Blog Notes:

Region: Newfoundland and Labrador

We spoke with Gillian, Mariana, and Cheralyn who are working on an ecosystem building project hosted by the Centre for Social Enterprise (CSE), Community Sector Council of Newfoundland and Labrador (CSCNL), Propel Impact, and the Community Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador (CFNL).

The project’s aim was to quantify the size and stage of the social enterprise ecosystem in Newfoundland and Labrador in order to understand the potential demand for an impact investing fund in the province. This project is supported by CCEDNet’s Regional Initiatives Program

Note: interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Need for Dedicated Funding for Ecosystems Building.

Melissa: Linking back to something Cheralyn said about funding in an earlier conversation. I’ve heard similar things echoed in relation to how difficult it is to find funding that supports this kind of early stage work for ecosystem building. I’m just wondering if you could speak to that a little bit more in terms of your experiences?

Cheralyn: We have done this type of work before–understanding the needs of social enterprises in various regions– but always framed it as ”community-based research.” It was always self-directed. I was always asking myself, “who am I to do this work? Living in a city like Vancouver while interviewing these folks in other regions and writing these reports.” 

Having dedicated funds available to be able to do work that doesn’t expect the typical project-based outputs and outcomes that we’re used to seeing makes a difference. I think in order for any project or program to be successful, this is the work that needs to happen so that we understand needs, and don’t come in thinking that we know best or we know exactly what’ll work.

Having dedicated funds available… that doesn’t expect the typical project-based outputs and outcomes… makes a difference.

1) The Intangible value of ecosystems. It’s hard to measure and communicate.

[I]t’s hard to measure ecosystem-building and partnership development activities…

It’s intangible.

Mariana: Well, I honestly don’t have much experience in that piece about finding funding for ecosystem-building work. I do see that the dynamics of the community sector tend to be more results-driven, and it’s hard to measure ecosystem-building and partnership development activities in that way. That might relate to the hardship of funding such activities, partly because reporting and communicating their impact is challenging. However, having a supportive ecosystem plays a crucial role in the future success of other initiatives. 

Melissa: I think that truly does get to the heart of some of the issues that a lot of the folks I’ve been talking to have in relation to sustaining ecosystem building. They all say it’s really hard to measure and communicate the value of it, because the value is so intangible.

2) “We created inspiration” is not easy to add to an application or report. 

Gillian: It’s very hard to measure. It’s hard to say, ‘we’re creating this vision together,  building a sense of community and shared direction.’ That’s very hard to communicate on a funding application. “We created inspiration.” How do you quantify that?

‘We created inspiration.’ How do you quantify that?

[T]here’s no financial proxy for trust, goodwill and relationships.

People understand dollars and cents, but there’s no financial proxy for trust, goodwill and relationships. It is challenging to explain the value of a relationship. How do I quantify that?

Melissa: Absolutely, how does a person quantify the power of relationship building, trust, and shared visioning on applications and reports.

3) Can’t quantify relationships: Setting and maintaining connections

Cheralyn Chok: I think it’s important to note that if we hadn’t already built a relationship, we wouldn’t be doing this project.

For ecosystem projects, there already has to have been that work put in by organizations. Organizations do it all the time. We build relationships and discuss and share resources even if there’s no funding or nothing telling us that we need to do it. I want to flag that it didn’t start with a project proposal and then we said, oh, suddenly we need to go look for this person in Newfoundland because we want to work on this. There needs to be a foundation.

Melissa: Yes, I remember you mentioned earlier that “Propel connected with Mariana a couple years ago… and [you] kept in touch over the years.” (refer to Part 1 “Creating Luck”)

For ecosystem projects, there already has to have been that work put in by organizations

There needs to be a foundation.

The ones with an ecosystem already growing

They are not reactionary, but rather primed for opportunities.

It makes sense. From my still early experience in this world of ecosystem building, I already am starting to see such a difference when projects that are building on the seeds that are already planted. The ones with an ecosystem already growing (pardon the pun). They are not reactionary, but rather primed for opportunities. Even in situations where it is early stages, strong relationship connections make a world of difference.

Gillian: I think this is a central tenant to our work in this sector, though. I’ve often heard it said “We work at the speed of trust.” Relationships are above all else. There’s no point in me looking for a funding proposal or trying to start a new project unless I have the relationship and the trust first. You build the relationships, and success comes from those.

4) Collaboration as response to scarcity (and scarcity mindset as an obstacle to collaboration)

Melissa: This leads me to the question of scarcity. 

I’ve been hearing in conversations with other folks that scarcity mindset really is an obstacle to creating regional ecosystems. There can be pushback around funding going to ecosystem building when some folks in the sector think maybe the funding should go somewhere else like direct services. This sentiment is understandable considering the economy we’re living in right now. 

Admittedly, I might have been one of those people at the beginning until I saw firsthand an established functional ecosystem and how it generates resources and buffers against times of scarcity. Ecosystems like the Manitoba Network and Quebec’s Solidarity economy even arose as a response to economic hardships.

So, I’m curious in terms of the scarcity mindset, is it in your case an obstacle or is it something that’s kind of bringing people together in the sector or maybe a complicated combination of both? Or something completely different? 

Mariana: So I guess a little bit of both. From what I’m hearing, I think that some organizations have reached the point where scarcity is leveraged in terms of ‘we are aware of this, and that triggers how we partner, collaborate and do things together.’ However, I’ve also seen some organizations being very protective of their programming or knowledge because of that scarcity mindset. So, I think it’s a little bit of a double-edged sword.

[E]cosystems become a tool to enable collaboration and resource sharing, and we divest from mindsets driven by fear.

I think here is where the ecosystem-building piece is really important. Then ecosystems become a tool to enable collaboration and resource sharing, and we divest from mindsets driven by fear, protectiveness and guarding ‘something’ under the belief that it will lead to the organization’s continuance. This behaviour is natural, it has become a survival instinct rooted in the passion and desire to keep serving their communities and beneficiaries.

[T]hat’s where the ecosystem building, partnerships, and trust you were saying are critical and come into play.

And I think that’s where the ecosystem building, partnerships, and trust you were saying are critical and come into play. Without it, it’s hard to evolve into that mindset of collaborating and co-creating. Without it, there’s no sharing of intel, which could prevent us from using the ecosystem to map and fill the gaps. Without trust, we won’t be able to understand the real problems and needs of the people served, resulting on superficial or incomplete solutions instead of the identification of clear gaps and complimenting services in which every party can benefit and thrive. 

Unfortunately, there are plenty of social and environmental challenges and issues out there. So, there won’t be a lack of activities to be accomplished and problems to be addressed. For us to switch from a reactive approach (rooted in a legitimate fear of missing out, of being left out, of losing grants and supports, and ultimately of being unable to serve our communities) to a constructive or co-creating perspective we need to focus on building more supportive ecosystems and a less competitive access to resources. 

[Supportive ecosystems help] to switch from a reactive approach …to a constructive or co-creating perspective.

5) Ecosystem builders can model collaboration as strategy for greater abundance and resources

Gillian: I was going to say the same. I haven’t been part of the interviews we’ve been conducting, but I read all the summaries and the notes and I would agree. In some cases, there’s some really good examples of leadership, but there is definitely a scarcity mindset and fear among folks in our ecosystem too. I think one of the best things we can do as capacity builders and ecosystem builders is to model the abundance mindset and collaborative nature. Collaboration is becoming a necessity, as well due to the lesser amounts of funding available. As a sector we have to be more creative and build partnerships to secure funding.

[O]ne of the best things we can do as capacity builders and ecosystem builders is to model the abundance mindset and collaborative nature.

Cheralyn: To bounce off of that: I’m a huge proponent and fan of mergers that bring organizations together. Propel went through one; we merged two nonprofits together to make our programs and operations more efficient. I’ve seen a lot of value from this process and interest from other organizations in how we went about it. I think mergers are something that we can progress towards: from building relationships; to collaborating on proposals; to perhaps coming together with shared back office pieces such as HR, bookkeeping, and evaluation. In some cases, becoming one larger  organization makes the day-to-day easier to manage.

6) Greater sector resilience and sustainability 

Melissa: I guess the takeaway is that economic hardship could be a catalyst to move people to build ecosystems to buffer and support one another to create change, but the scarcity mindset sabotages us. And I agree, it really is understandable as a survival response in our current systems. I think this really gets to what I have been hearing reiterated by partners like the National Indigenous Friendship Centres and SETSI about shifting our mindsets to abundance. 

[E]economic hardship could be a catalyst to move people to build ecosystems to buffer and support one another to create change, but the scarcity mindset sabotages us.

Collaboration is almost the antithesis to scarcity mindsets in this context.

It is not an easy thing to do in times of hardship, but one thing that gives me extra hope is the nature of reciprocity and collaboration as a survival strategy that is often built into a number of community cultures, which lay the ground for the formation of ecosystems. Collaboration is almost the antithesis to scarcity mindsets in this context. If people already have those connections they can fall back on each other and navigate through those hurdles. Whereas when the connections don’t exist, it becomes more fractious and harder to navigate and there’s more of that feeling of competition over resources.

It reminds me of something Sarah Leeson-Klym previously said in this Ecosystem series: 

[With an established ecosystem like the Manitoba Network] the routine of keeping people together… means the field comes together a little bit more easily in hard times or for opportunities. They already have a bit of a sense of what they want to do and each others’ approaches, and when something, an opportunity, comes available they are ready to strike at that moment.” (Reposted from Blog 2 “On the Cusp of Change”)

This is reflected a bit in what you folks were saying on how this project came to be, where you already had those connections, on a smaller scale, but then this opportunity came about and it’s like, ‘hey, this might work out’ in terms of the vision you have in place for building out a stronger ecosystem in Newfoundland and Labrador.

All that rambling to say thank you for this conversation. There is so much food for thought from this one discussion.

Gillian: Melissa, I have one final thought. My dad, a business man himself, has this saying that,
‘luck is where opportunity meets preparation.’ But I think in our context of social innovation and social enterprise, it could also be: 

‘Luck is where opportunity, preparation, and relationships intersect.’ (Quote reposted from “Creating Luck” Blog

‘Luck is where opportunity, preparation, and relationships intersect.’

Read Blog 4: “Creating Luck
Section 2 of our conversation with NL Partners

My dad, a business man himself, has this saying that,

‘Luck is where opportunity meets preparation.’

But I think in our context of social innovation and social enterprise, it could also be:

Luck is where opportunity, preparation, and relationships intersect.’

Gillian Morrissey

(Reposted from “Creating Luck” Blog)

Read part one of this conversation: “Creating Luck: ‘Where opportunity, preparation, and relationships intersect.’

Ecosystem Blog Series:

Blog 1) Pan-Atlantic
Ecosystem Building
Blog 2) Saskatchewan
“On the Cusp of Change”
Blog 3) Ontario
Weaving Together…

Every year, CCEDNet members are invited to submit nominations for CCEDNet’s Board of Directors. This year, there were four vacancies to be filled.

Four eligible nominations were received by the deadline, leading our Elections Officer to declare the following candidates elected by acclamation:

  • Ryan Oneil Knight
  • pk mutch
  • Michael Norris
  • Tori Williamson

The results will be ratified at CCEDNet’s Annual General Meeting of the members on June 13, 2024.

Congratulations to these amazing CED leaders from across Canada, who will be part of CCEDNet’s dedicated Board of Directors.

Ryan O'Neill Knight

Ryan Oneil Knight

Ryan has built multiple businesses over the last 15 years and spends a great deal of his time leading and mentoring young entrepreneurs. His expertise focuses on unlocking capital for entrepreneurs and co-operatives with a mission to use their business as a source for good.

After starting the social enterprise Detailing Knights, a mobile waterless car cleaning company, Ryan was able to launch his first youth entrepreneurship program called Knighthood Academy.

Knighthood Academy was designed to help at risk youth in the community develop their leadership skills through an entrepreneurship bootcamp. Various youth with multiple barriers have accessed the program ranging from high school drop outs, past gang members, and those recently released from detention.

“I have realized that entrepreneurship is a tool that gives a level playing field to all those that want to partake. I envision helping youth all over the world experience entrepreneurship at least once during their learning journey.”

To this end Ryan is an active board member with the Canadian Community Economic Development Network. He is also a board member with the Peel Learning Foundation, helping to bring alternative resources to youth in the Peel District School Board. Ryan is also a board member with the Mississauga Board of Trade.

pk mutch

pk mutch

pk mutch is a serial award-winning social entrepreneur, publishing professional, entrepreneurship curriculum consultant, experienced board director/chair, and adjunct faculty at the Gordon S. Lang School of Management and Economics at the University of Guelph. mutch was recognized as one of Canada’s Inspiring 50 women in April 2018 and as a top community collaborator by the Immigrant Women in Business association in 2019.

In 2013, mutch became the founder/managing member of the HighWire Collective (formerly Eve-Volution Inc.) and founder/Publisher/Managing Editor for LiisBeth Media, a niche nonprofit, indie digital publishing venture that serves as a platform and voice for over 30 000 diverse women in entrepreneurial spaces who believe business can be a powerful ally in our collective quest to create a sustainable, fair and inclusive, people first world.

mutch has worked with Indigenous entrepreneurs, and supported the development of the first women’s incubator program in Imman, Jordan. mutch co-founded and currently serves as the Entrepreneur in Residence at The Fifth Wave (Canadian Film Centre/Media Lab), Canada’s first and at present only feminist-identified accelerator program for women entrepreneurs in digital media, film and gaming. mutch also serves as a consultant and course designer/ facilitator for Rise Asset Development, Elizabeth Fry Society and Up with Women.

Michael Norris

Michael Norris

Michael has 15 years of experience in Community Economic Development, starting with conservation initiatives at the Friends of the Highland Creek Association in Scarborough, ON. As a recognized young leader, he served as president of the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association, representing 2.5 million students and contributing to Ontario College’s Major Capacity Expansion Plan. He graduated from the Vancouver School of Economics at the University of British Columbia, specializing in Sustainable Development, and engaged in social enterprise and cycling advocacy in Vancouver.

Post-graduation, Michael returned to Toronto to aid in establishing Ontario’s first French-Language University, UOF, and later focused on Indigenous economic development, food security, and housing. His efforts include supporting the establishment of an Indigenous grocery co-operative and the training of 30 Indigenous women in hydroponic farming, alongside promoting affordable housing through the land-lease model. 

Michael currently serves as the Senior Director of Impact at Impact ON, where he oversees all project deliveries and continues his advocacy work, recently recognized as an Agent of Change by OceanWise Eco-Action Accelerator. An avid road cyclist and paddler, Michael remains committed to local community initiatives.

Tori Williamson

Tori Williamson

With a passion for understanding the systems around us and working collaboratively on community-centred solutions, Tori believes in people and the power of shifting perspectives and objectives to create monumental change. As Chief Operating Officer at Buy Social Canada, she spearheads consulting services and works across the social procurement ecosystem.

She sits on the Stronger Together Solidarity Working Group to help bring inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility to the social innovation sector. Currently, she is the Project Manager for Wood Buffalo Social Procurement Implementation, Winnipeg Sustainable Procurement Action Plan, Edmonton Sustainable Procurement Tools and Procedures and Education and Training Lead for the British Columbia Social Procurement Initiative.

This is Part 4 of our Ecosystem Building Blog Series.
Read part 1) Pan Atlantic, part 2) Saskatchewan, part 3) Ontario

Read section two of this conversation in Blog 5: Can’t quantify relationships: 6 reasons why funding for ecosystem building is essential (and why it’s tricky to obtain).

Stay tuned throughout May for the rest of the series! Ecosystem building is a core focus of CCEDNet’s Regional Initiatives Program.

Creating Luck:

“Where opportunity, preparation, and relationships intersect.”

Conversation with NL Partners: Section 1

Interview With



Jiménez Ojeda



Propel Impact

Melissa Sinfield


Interviewer and Editor:
Melissa Sinfield, Regional Initiatives Manager 

Blog Summary

Read this if you are: 

  • Questioning the viability of ecosystem building in rural, fishery, or labour class communities?
  • Curious what types of community histories and traits might foster ecosystem building organically?
  • Wondering why collaboration seems second nature in some regions?
  • Want to learn more about Newfoundland and Labrador’s growing community economic ecosystem?

Blog Notes:

Region: Newfoundland and Labrador

We spoke with Gillian, Mariana, and Cheralyn who are working on an ecosystem building project hosted by the Centre for Social Enterprise (CSE), Community Sector Council of Newfoundland and Labrador (CSCNL), Propel Impact, and the Community Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador (CFNL).

The project’s aim was to quantify the size and stage of the social enterprise ecosystem in Newfoundland and Labrador in order to understand the potential demand for an impact investing fund in the province. This project is supported by CCEDNet’s Regional Initiatives Program

Note: interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

What is Ecosystem Building to you? 

Cheralyn: I haven’t used the term “ecosystem building” in the past, but in this context, I think it’s recognizing the immense value that each individual part of a community or different organizations bring to the table and giving them the platform to voice their experience and knowledge. Then, bringing them all together to be able to learn from and lean on each other’s expertise. 

That’s what this type of project allows us to do. To unearth all of these things. And to shed light where it’s already being done but we just might not know, because we don’t always have the resources at the time to go find it. 

I think it’s recognizing the immense value that each individual part of a community… bring[s] to the table and giving them the platform to voice their experience and knowledge.

The Spark: Coordinating a collaborative response to systemic problems

What was the spark that ignited this project you are working on? 

Mariana:  Speaking for myself, I have perceived a really strong sense of community in the province. Rooted in that sense of community, I think what moved all of us was the opportunity to jointly contribute to creating something better and support organizations that are changing the challenging situations we live in. 

Gillian: Newfoundland and Labrador has a history of this kind of organizing for social change. If you look through our history, particularly in the fisheries, the nature of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians is to collaborate and endure, to creatively find ways to persevere in hard situations. Living over here is not easy, you know. I think collaboration and resilience is in our nature. 

Mariana: I think we were aware of the needs and the context we were in, but we were also in that mindset of growth and partnerships. So, coming from that mindset, we tried to coordinate that “collision” of passionate changemakers. That is what sparked it. 

Mariana: This is about wanting to create something better and being mindful that we cannot do it alone. It’s not only better but also essential to do it together. Having all the partner organizations with an impact-focused approach was a bonus that made the collaboration flow and grow smoothly. 

Collaborative Partnerships as a catalyst for systemic change

That naturally leads into the question of how did this partnership come to be? 

Mariana: In that mindset of growth and partnerships, a gap or disconnection was identified when it came to leveraging outside expertise, and we wondered how we could bridge that in a way that would remain local.

Mariana: We strongly believe in collaboration, and how this enhances learning opportunities and meaningful and resilient relationships. Instead of duplicating work, we could work together on transferring and tailoring expertise while recognizing the value that every person brings to the table.

Cheralyn: On our end we connected with Mariana a couple years ago. We have a cut-off age [for participating in our training programs of the time] and Mariana was outside of that, so it sparked this conversation around maybe we should have another program for folks who are more experienced? That is how we met Mariana, and we kept in touch over the years.

In that mindset of growth and partnerships, a gap or disconnection was identified when it came to leveraging outside expertise, and we wondered how we could bridge that in a way that would remain local.

We needed to build the relationship with communities and get a deep understanding of their models and what they are looking for. Integrating education [about social finance] is how we build relationships and trust. It is hard to find funding for that type of work.

Gillian: I would echo, Cheralyn’s comments about deep relationship building. This kind of work requires collaboration and an understanding of the history here.

At the Centre for Social Enterprise we have a broad mandate that is both community and student oriented. It is second nature for us to be collaborative and to engage with the community to look to the lived experience of others, along with the individual expertise of partners. For me, it’s a no-brainer to bring on a partner like Propel, who has expertise in social finance and impact investing,  to do this and do it right..  

It’s not about advancing one organization’s goals over the other…

We’re all working together in pursuit of an aligned vision.

It’s not about advancing one organization’s goals over the other or anything like that. We’re all working together in pursuit of an aligned vision – we have our own strengths and expertise that comes together in a way that is much stronger than any one of us would be on our own.

I wasn’t the person that started all of this. That was between Mariana and Cheralyn. As a manager of the team that Mariana was part of when this happened, it was just an easy “yes”. The value of this partnership was obvious, so let’s make it happen. Then to have CCEDNet jump in and support on this particular project and our  other partners, CSCNL and CFNL, come in as collaborators and funders on the different pieces…we’re all here at the table, we want to work together. That enthusiasm for partnership sets the stage for everything coming together. 

Collaborative mindset as a way of being

Melissa: I’m kind of curious, in terms of how you said that the relationships already pre-existed in the case of Newfoundland. I know that is a case elsewhere too, but in some regions there’s this kind of automated go-to that if you’re faced with a challenge, “let’s work together.” And what you are describing sounds like that. Whereas I have also encountered some places where that would never even come to people’s minds to collaborate and instead scarcity induced competition is the default. 

So I’m really curious in terms of Newfoundland’s case when you say that you already have that kind of relationship building and collaborative mindset, what is the history behind that?

Gillian: I think it comes back to our nature as a people. People who forged a life in a very difficult or challenging environment. I mean, the weather is inhospitable at best, most of the year. We’re a province that has worked hard for the prosperity we’ve built whether that’s in industry, or nowadays in technology.  It all comes from our nature to be collaborative and innovative, in order to survive.

There’s also a funny thing here in Newfoundland where when you meet another Newfoundlander you ask, “ who’s your mother? Who’s your father?’ because there’s a  good chance you know them or are related to them somehow. Six degrees of separation (or less) is very true in Newfoundland and Labrador. It’s a small place. We’re all connected. And what happens to one of us happens to most of us, so we all pitch in and work together. I believe that translates into the community sector and the work of social innovation/social entrepreneurship in this province as well.

We’re all connected. And what happens to one of us happens to most of us, so we all pitch in and work together.

I believe that translates into the community sector and the work of social innovation/social entrepreneurship in this province as well.

Gillian: Melissa, I have one final thought. My dad, a business man himself, has this saying that luck is where opportunity meets preparation. But I think in our context of social innovation and social enterprise, it could also be: 

Luck is where opportunity, preparation, and relationships intersect. 

This ecosystem building project has led to other collaborations and initiatives between these partners. It’s set the tone and space for amazing things to happen, and all of that comes together because the four partners are so collaborative and well-aligned in our values. This project was the spark that has ignited a collective movement towards resiliency and prosperity for the community and social purpose sector in Newfoundland and Labrador. We’re excited to see where it will go.

Luck is where opportunity, preparation, and relationships intersect.”  

Read Section 2 of this conversation
Can’t quantify relationships: 6 reasons why funding for ecosystem building is essential (and why it’s tricky to obtain).

Ecosystem Blog Series:

Blog 1) Pan-Atlantic
Ecosystem Building
Blog 2) Saskatchewan
“On the Cusp of Change”
Blog 3) Ontario
Weaving Together…

Check out the Manitoba region newsletter for May 2024 here.

Get the newsletter in your inbox! Subscribe and click Manitoba CED Bulletins

Michael Barkman headshot
Michael Barkman

CCEDNet’s Theory of Change states that “We believe that how we organize our relationships in a place matters, and that community economies can be sites of transformation.”

So, if our goal is to harness the transformative power of community economies, how should we organize our relationships in a place? What works? What doesn’t? And how do we channel those relationships into advocacy that can tangibly improve people’s lives?

Michael Barkman has devoted much of his career to answering these questions in both theory and practice. As CCEDNet’s Manitoba Network Manager, one of Michael’s primary responsibilities is to lead public policy advocacy through coalitions and direct government relations, and supporting CCEDNet’s Manitoba Learns program. He also has years of experience as an organizer for student rights, civil liberties, and anti-poverty movements.

At CCEDNet MB’s recent event, “Tiny Talks: Advocacy Training in Small Bites,” Michael delivered a session entitled How to Advocate and Organize. We asked him to share some insights from his session, as well as from his years of experience doing place-based organizing for community economic development (CED).

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

What are some strategies, ideas, and/or inspirations you hope the audience of How to Advocate and Organize gained from the session

To get to our vision requires us to demand and seek systemic change and policy change. We can do a lot of transformative work at a community level but we also need governments to play their part in helping to get closer to our vision. Beyond that, if our work is only focused on addressing symptoms and putting band-aids on the challenges of the current global economy, I don’t think we’ll ever fully realize the change we want to see. 

So that requires that we organize – not only to build amazing and innovative community economic development solutions, but also to organize together so that governments act differently. 

The hope of the session was to convey to audience members that they could and should be doing community organizing and advocacy. They already have the skills and talents to do it. You don’t need to be an expert in public policy. By learning and working together we can add to our skills to create change. 

And the other message that I think was really trying to get across to people was the importance of coalition-based work and collaborative work. 500 voices saying 500 different things can be easy for governments to ignore – or to divide and conquer – but 500 voices saying one consistent thing becomes a lot harder to ignore. 

Of course, it doesn’t always work that easily. Even if you have thousands and thousands and thousands of people pushing for the same thing, governments can still find ways to ignore that. But still the principle holds true: by working collaboratively in coalition and pushing for similar goals, we can go a lot further than we otherwise would be able to. 

What are your guiding principles for creating strong community-based relationships that can support effective community organizing?

The first thing that comes to mind is wisdom from adrienne maree brown – that things move at the speed of trust. This is important because strong relationships are at the heart of good organizing work, and that comes through deep progress with each other. And I think that in my mind looks like a few things.

One is that it’s a collaborative practice of working with others. I think sometimes collaboration gets seen as a skill that you either have or don’t, which is a narrative that just isn’t true. Collaborative skills are something that you can and should strengthen, sharpen, grow, and develop.

Another principle is belief in the power and importance of good facilitation. It really matters! It can’t and won’t solve everything – for example, deep conflict may require a more formal mediation or conflict transformation process. But I think there are a lot of times when community organizing is broken down due to a lack of good facilitation. Often, people bring potentially conflicting ideas and desires for change to the table, so there are a lot of times when strong facilitation can build better relationships, develop trust, and find and establish common ground quickly.

Also, good facilitation and strengthening collaborative relationships can help ensure that more diverse voices can be included. You know, as a white man in community organizing work, I think a lot about how to create spaces where people from diverse communities feel included, welcomed, and valued. If I want to help dismantle white supremacy in these spaces, I always need to be focused on building trust and being in good relationships. And strong facilitation can ensure that processes are in place to centre the voices of people who might otherwise be marginalized. 

How do you then channel those relationships into effective advocacy?

For this to happen, it’s important for people to first feel like they’re connected to an understanding of their own role in social change work. There are different theoretical models that can be helpful here, but the key thing is just knowing that you can play a really useful part in a bigger picture – and that you don’t need to be everything or do everything. In fact, trying to do more than your own role can lead to burnouts and bad relationships. 

To figure out what those roles are, it’s important for people to know what skills and talents they bring to the table. These are capacities that can be leveraged as assets, and can help create roles that people feel connected to and invested in. 

Once there’s an understanding of the roles that people can play, then it’s helpful to create an advocacy strategy, a campaign plan, or a community organizing plan. The strategy should have clear ideas about who might be taking a lead on what and who’s involved in sort of which piece of work based on what they want to do and what they feel like their strengths are.

Once the strategy is set, you want to try sticking to it as best as possible. Of course things may change and some plans will have to shift, but channeling our relationships into a solid strategy can give you a longer view than just the next thing that you’re doing or the next event that’s happening. It can help you answer the question, what comes after that?

In terms of what actions to take, I’m from the school of thought that tactics follow strategy. Ask yourself, “what can we do that will allow us to achieve our goals in the fastest and most effective ways possible?” Will using the levers of government help you achieve your vision? If so, it might make sense for your coalition to organize around participation in things like committee meetings and budget consultations. But some strategies call for other tactics, like direct action. It all depends on the context, the issues, and your coalition’s vision and strategy. 

Whatever your tactics may be, your approach to narrative is important. How do you communicate your message effectively? How can you tell stories that invite more people in and get them connected to work?

Finally, no matter what your tactics are, it’s important to understand the decision-making cycles that impact your ability to achieve your vision. Inform yourself of the timeframes for relevant consultations, meetings, etc. at all levels of government, and work these into your advocacy strategy. Whether you’re in the halls of power and speaking at one of these meetings, or organizing a protest outside of it, these are important opportunities to leverage and demonstrate your collective power. 

What is unique about doing organizing and advocacy as it relates to community economic development (CED)?

A lot of people in our network are doing really awesome place-based, local building up of community economies in ways that are really transformative. In my mind, we also need the state (in whatever sense that is) to truly build longer term transformation as well. For CED practitioners, part of why we offer training is to help them think about what they need from governments in order to create transformation – not to ignore that realm, even though it can be overwhelming. And many times, when people drawn into this work come from more of an entrepreneurial or innovator background, they’re not automatically thinking about how we can get governments involved in our vision of building local, fair economies. 

If the goals are around economic justice, economic reconciliation, and economic transformation and toward building a more fair, sustainable, inclusive economy, then this vision comes with policy goals and social shifts in people’s mindsets. However, the organizing strategies and approaches required won’t necessarily be different from other campaigns for justice. I think about the climate movement, and it’s really awesome seeing the connections made between climate justice and anti-poverty work, for example. Or how we’re looking to integrate climate solutions into the foundations of community economic development work, and how the CED sector is pushing governments to support those solutions in their climate plans as well. 

In other words, people who are already practicing CED shouldn’t forget or ignore the importance of making community organizing and advocacy a part of their work. And on the other side of the spectrum, we want community organizers to infuse their campaigns for justice with the transformative power of their community economies. We want to break down those silos — bringing community organizing to CED and bringing CED to community organizing. 

What inspires you as you do this work?

My grandparents, who were and still are (my grandfather is 94) really strong peace activists. In the 60’s and 70’s they organized groups of teachers to go into the US to protest nuclear proliferation, and also went into the USSR on an educators’ friendship mission. They were followed by CSIS when they got home! Anyhow, I grew up in a home where social justice was important and I got to see a lot of community organizing happening on the ground. My grandma had the CBC callback number and the newspaper op-ed information laminated on her fridge — it was amazing to see this strong woman who was always using her voice for change. 

I was recently talking to my grandpa and one of his old friends, and the friend said something like, “hope is not an action; it’s a commitment.” To hear this wisdom coming from these two longtime activists in their late 80s and early 90s was powerful. It’s a commitment to hope for change for something different, even if that change feels very far off. It helped me want to commit to doing my part for change for the next 60 years myself. I know my hope will waver many times but I will stay committed to envisioning change in their honour, building upon their work. 


Ben Losman

Ben manages communications for CCEDNet. He has also helped implement and manage projects such as CreateAction and Community Leadership Program.

Prior to joining CCEDNet, Ben did communications and programming for a number of social purpose organizations across the U.S., Canada, and India. His professional perspective is shaped by his studies in social justice education and his experiences in the world of anti-colonial activism and popular education.

Ben’s ideal community is built around the principles of Indigenous sovereignty, ecological justice, prison abolition, free and wonderful public transit, and abundant access to great local food.

Outside of work, Ben loves exploring the world with his kids, participating in movements for love and justice, and reading.

Ben Losman

Recommendations for a more inclusive and sustainable economy were shared with the Government of Manitoba through CCEDNet Manitoba on behalf of the Network’s approximately 100 member organizations in the province before Budget 2024.

Manitoba Budget 2024 was released on April 2, 2024.

Below is a summary of CED Highlights that relate to the 5 key priorities shared in the Network budget submission. Links are included to further analysis from community coalitions and CCEDNet member organizations about certain topics.

CCEDNet and CCPA press release for a Community-Led Development program in Budget 2024.

An Inclusive Economy & Economic Reconciliation, Manitoba Jobs for Manitobans, Community Benefits for Big Projects:

  • Read these summaries of tax changes and revenue from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – Manitoba here and here
  • The Government announced that they are launching an ambitious economic development strategy. CCEDNet Manitoba will work to ensure that Network perspectives and members’ work building community economies will be included – including developing the social economy and CED as a key aspect of Manitoba’s economic development plan
    • The plan will include expanding Manitoba’s ‘low carbon economy’ by “creating more low carbon jobs and expanding our low carbon economy through strategic investments in clean technologies, sustainable energy, and critical mineral development.” Read the Wilderness Committee’s recent blog about how a critical minerals strategy is actually a climate strategy. CCEDNet Manitoba and its members will work with government to ensure that CED climate strategies are an important aspect of this plan.
    • 10,000 new jobs in skilled trades is a key priority of government. The We Want to Work coalition will be actively working to ensure that Social Procurement and Social Enterprise are used to help achieve this goal.
  • The government also prioritized Economic Reconciliation, signaling its intent to work collaboratively with Indigenous Peoples to develop a meaningful economic reconciliation strategy. Many CCEDNet members are Indigenous-led social enterprises, cooperatives, and community-based organizations who can help contribute to this priority. 

Safer & Healthier Communities

  • Creating a new Community Development program that will “help build safer communities by investing in youth programming and crime prevention in the inner city and other high-needs communities.” $12.5 million
    • Ahead of the 2024 budget, CCEDNet Manitoba and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – Manitoba, urged the provincial government to invest in a renewed community-led development program at a media event. Leaders from member organizations Winnipeg Indigenous Executive Circle, Spence Neighbourhood Association, and Food Matters Manitoba spoke passionately about this need.
    • A forthcoming report offers recommendations for a new community development program and fund in the province. It will be shared publicly this spring and encourage government to collaborate with community on a new program. 
    • Coverage from CTV Winnipeg here and CBC Manitoba here (video).
  • $200,000 increase for 12 Neighbourhood Renewal Corporations, key members of CCEDNet and practitioners of CED in communities throughout the province. This will be the first funding increase in over a decade, though it is unclear how it will be distributed.
  • $10 million to support plans to meet Manitoba’s emissions reduction targets through the Low Carbon Economy Fund Bilateral agreement and $6.4 million for climate and sustainability priorities and to restore funding to environmental organizations
    • The provincial government still has more work to meet community recommendations from the Climate Action Team, included in this budget submission
    • And, check out this blog by Shaun Loney about getting serious about the energy transition and how social enterprise fits in.
    • On April 22, the government announced it was restoring funding to three environmental organizations, including two CCEDNet members
  • The government is developing a new Poverty Reduction Strategy in 2024/25. Make Poverty History Manitoba and Right to Housing will be organizing around this strategy to ensure that priorities of the coalitions are included.
    • Read this CCPA Manitoba report The Cost of Poverty in Manitoba, released prior to the 2024 budget. The total cost of poverty in Manitoba in 2019, the latest year for which complete data are available, was $2.5 billion a year, which amounts to 3.4 percent of Manitoba’s GDP.
  • $30 million for a universal school nutrition program
  • Mental health and addiction care investment of $11 million, including $3.9 million to establish a supervised consumption site, addiction treatment beds, and support harm reduction services
    • Read Sunshine House’s recently published report on the Mobile Overdose Prevention site here!
  • Lifts funding freeze on municipalities and provides funding for recreation, schools, and other community programs

Making Life More Affordable with Energy Efficient Social Housing

  • $116 million to build and maintain social and affordable housing
    • Help create 350 units of affordable housing in the next year
    • Includes $20 million in capital grants program for non-profits and $67.8 million to maintain social housing, plus $4 million to renovate existing housing stock for non-profits
    • The government is committed to end chronic homelessness in 8 years, with $14 million in funding for a variety of programs.

Read Right to Housing’s budget summary here and coverage here – providing information on the coalition’s social housing campaign priorities and how the budget responded

Read the summary of CCEDNet Manitoba’s recommendations for a more inclusive and sustainable economy that were shared with the Government of Manitoba on behalf of the Network’s over 95 member organizations in the province.