Check out the Manitoba region newsletter for January 2024 here.

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The climate crisis is an escalating threat, but we are not powerless. Michael Lewis, co-founder of Synergia Institute, reflects on how we can strengthen personal, community, and ecological resilience close to home. CCEDNet has partnered with Synergia Institute and Athabasca University to deliver the climate-focused massive open online course, Towards Cooperative Commonwealth: Transition in a Perilous Century, which started this month. Spots are still available- register now!

Indigenous elders lead an anti-pipeline protest at Burnaby Mountain.

System Change, not Climate Change, is a common refrain among climate justice activists. It makes sense.  In 2018, my 13-year-old niece, daughter of a hereditary chief, and her aging uncle (me) shouted this chant along with 10,000 others. Led by the drumming and songs of Indigenous people, we climbed Burnaby mountain with one purpose: to declare the pipeline to bring Alberta Tar Sands oil to export abroad from the Vancouver harbour was the wrong path. Respecting the rights of nature and indigenous territories and the vital need to politically commit to a rapid and just transition away from fossil fuels was elevated as a “Declaration to Choose Life.”

That said, the news is discouraging. Despite the largest-ever increase in wind and solar power in 2022, fossil fuel accounted for 82% of global energy consumption, 1.8% higher than the 2009-2019 period of 80.2%.  Solar and wind, despite exponential growth thus far, have made no dent in fossil fuel consumption

It is little wonder UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is so strident in his warnings. 

“We continue to feed our fossil fuel addiction, emissions continue to rise, and our collective negligence radically alters human and natural systems……

We have a choice – collective action or collective suicide. It’s in our hands.”

Yet, alternatives like renewable energy remain a minuscule percentage of total energy generation, and world leaders continue to promote economic growth as a viable response to climate change.  

Can we Navigate to a Safe Space for All Beings?

Inspiring and regenerative innovations to meet basic needs exist, and we have some understanding of what it takes to hasten their spread and scale their impacts. 

The Synergia Institute seeks to elevate basic needs innovations that are democratic, decentralized, distributed, diversified, and tend toward regenerative priorities and projects. Most are tailored to strengthen the capacity and resilience of local/regional spaces and places to meet more basic needs closer to home. Ranging in size and scale, efforts are imbued with the values of reciprocity, solidarity, and sustainability.

There is much to inspire, but none of it is easy. There are no cookie-cutter approaches. Organizing and weaving together the connections, partnerships, and capacity to challenge the status quo is never simple. Agreeing on the priorities to elevate, the policies to formulate, and practices to propagate is challenging. And even where agreement is reached, investment too often falls far below what is required, and the challenges are mounting. 

Meanwhile, six of the nine planetary systems enabling all that are alive to thrive are in serious trouble. In 2023, fresh water was the sixth to be breached. 

Adaptation, Resilience: Restoring the Foundations for Life while Navigating Decline

Meeting basic needs in ways that draw down carbon from the atmosphere, conserve energy, and restore ecosystem health can be taken where we live. We also know that with proper resources and support, ecosystem restoration on a grand scale is possible. On the other hand, as the crises deepen, cultural and personal bandwidth narrows. Strengthening the capacity to meet basic needs closer to home will become a preoccupation for many and require a significant investment of time, energy, and resources. Strengthening personal, community, and ecological resilience close to home will only grow in importance.

These themes are explored in the 6th edition of “Towards Cooperative Commonwealth: Transition in a Perilous Century.” The MOOC features seven modules on land sovereignty, just food systems, energy democracy, sustainable livelihoods, democratizing care and financing a just transition. The key questions that frame this exploration are:

  • How can we meet our basic needs in ways that advance fairness and resilience where we live and contribute to the restoration of ecosystems and GHG reduction?
  • How do we shift the narrative from the mantra of endless growth to one of well-being, sufficiency, solidarity, and living within the natural limits of the planet?
  • How can citizens, communities, organizations, institutions, movements, and progressive enterprises co-operate to craft and execute strategies that affirm life and resist the status quo addiction to the pathways of death?
  • How do we diffuse and amplify the pathways that are generating durable results? 

If what you have read so far resonates with you, challenges you, and/or intrigues you, consider registering for the MOOC and join our global community of learners. The self-directed MOOC launched January 14, but spots are still available.

Click here to register for the 2024 MOOC!


Here are just a few of the scores of comments from among the 1,060 people that registered from 50+ countries in 2023.

Sense of Community

“Thanks to the real sense of community the MOOC provided me, I no longer feel as though I am just a voice in the wilderness when speaking out to support those whose voice has been muffled, ignored, and marginalized. This course has given me the confidence to converse with others regarding finding solutions for complex issues. … I feel I can see new avenues towards making real and sustainable change in my neck of the woods thanks to looking at things from a systems theory lens.”

An Amazing Resource

“I felt the authors and speakers were often the most highly respected and sought-after voices. …I teach college students, so I will integrate some of what I learned in my own teaching. It was excellent – such an amazing resource.”

Peer-to-Peer Learning

“The richness of this MOOC lies in the diverse knowledge and experiences of the community, comprised of practitioners, academics, activists, and students, who come together to share and exchange knowledge in the forums. Reading and engaging with these experiences and contributions … will allow you to gain perspective on your own experiences before presenting them.”

Tangible Alternatives

“I’ve been exposed to tangible alternative models & tools that have the power to enact systemic changes towards a regenerative economy. From agriculture, energy, healthcare, and finance, the threads of how these sectors can be interwoven have become much clearer. I can better see the whole picture, which gives me the ability to act on a select area and find my role tangibly.”

Study Circles

“The local study circles organized helped to deepen knowledge and bring it into the local context… I especially loved the small group sharing, as it allowed us to be in the questions together. The interaction was key for me. And I loved that we all brought our stories. It was deepening, for sure. I had done this course a few years back and hadn’t been part of a small group. It made a big difference for me in terms of impact.”


“The MOOC provided the time and space to have reflective conversations about systems that I encounter constantly and examples of how people have tried to change or move away from these systems.”


On November 29, the Honourable Rechie Valdez, Minister of Small Business, tabled in Parliament the 2010-2022 Business Development Bank of Canada Legislative Review Report by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada on the statutory review of the Business Development Bank of Canada Act (BDC Act).

The BDC Act requires that the Minister of Small Business, together with the Minister of Finance, conduct a legislative review every 10 years to ensure the BDC continues to respond to the changing needs of small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) and delivers the support businesses across Canada need. The BDC legislative review was a year-long process involving public consultations and meetings with stakeholders and businesses to evaluate BDC’s performance in fulfilling its mandate and to consider how BDC can continue to best support Canadian businesses.

Here is a joint response from CCEDNet, Buy Social Canada, and Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada:


This piece was part of CCEDNet’s most recent national newsletter. If you’re not on our mailing list yet, you can subscribe here.

People building the foundation of a building with text that says What’s here is something that we are still building. It’s something we cannot yet see, because we are part of it -- a quote attributed to Palestinian poet Mosab Abu Toha.

CCEDNet’s vision – sustainable, equitable, and inclusive communities directing their own futures – can be difficult to conceptualize. It gestures toward a delicate balance between interdependence and decentralization, autonomy and unity. What does that world even look like, and how will we know when we get there?

Maybe the word “vision” is misleading. In contemplating the future we’re building, perhaps we shouldn’t limit ourselves to one of our senses, but instead engage all of our sensory, creative, and imaginative faculties at once. Even if we can’t see the future, maybe we can feel it.

But how can CED practitioners develop and convey something as abstract as a felt sense of the future?

We can look to artists for guidance. For example, Gazan poet Mosab Abu Toha invites us to feel the future through his poem, “We Love What We Have.” For Abu Toha, who was recently arrested and beaten as he and his family fled the violence in Gaza, love is more than just a survival strategy. Love is the infrastructure of an imagined future where the bonds of community protect and nurture young life.

“We love what we have, no matter how little,
because if we don’t, everything will be gone. If we don’t,
we will no longer exist, since there will be nothing here for us.
What’s here is something that we are still
building. It’s something we cannot yet see,
because we are part
of it.
Someday soon, this building will stand on its own, while we,
we will be the trees that protect it from the fierce
wind, the trees that will give shade
to children sleeping inside or playing on swings.”

We are grateful to be in community with you, building toward peace, love, and joy, together.

This is Part 2 of our Ecosystem Building Blog Series.

Read Part 1 – Atlantic Ecosystem Building: Interview with Chelsey MacNeil

Read Part 3 – Weaving together small regional networks in Ontario: An ecosystem building story

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

“On the Cusp of Change”:

Laying the groundwork for the future through collaboration

How SEDA and the Saskatchewan Social Enterprise Hub are promoting a Social Enterprise Ecosystem in Saskatchewan

Interview With



Christopherson- Cote




Interviewer and Editor:
Melissa Sinfield, Regional Initiatives Manager 

Blog Summary

Read this if you are: 

  • Trying to define ecosystem building. 
  • Questioning the value of ecosystem building
  • Struggling to distinguish ecosystem building work from other community development work. 
  • Struggling with scarcity in your region.
  • Witnessing the criminalization of underemployed and labour class folks in your region.
  • Interested in the dynamics of prairies on network building. 

Blog Notes

Region: Saskatchewan

We spoke with Verona, Colleen, and Toby who are working on a collaborative ecosystem building project hosted by Saskatchewan Economic Development Alliance (SEDA) and the newly formed Saskatchewan Social Enterprise Hub. The project includes a province-wide Social Enterprise Needs Assessment and Ecosystem Engagement that promote business models that transcend public, private and non-profit sectors. This project is supported by CCEDNet’s Regional Initiatives Program

Joined by Sarah Leeson-Klym, Director of Regional and Strategic Initiatives, all five of us discussed ecosystem building in Saskatchewan.

Note: interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Promoting a Social Enterprise Ecosystem in Saskatchewan

Melissa: What is ecosystem building to you? 

Verona: In Saskatchewan (SK), in an ideal world, we would be engaging all these different networks in a common direction, which is not easy to do. 

Toby: In the SK context, all of us have way too many hats on. Ecosystem work can easily end up morphing back into basic community development. We are trying to find ways to mirror our ecosystem building work with the conventional community development people are familiar with. Little regional ecosystems are starting to stand up themselves, and you can see it developing in urban centers by process of scarcity: housing, health, food. The dream is where, instead of community coming together in response to scarcity, the ecosystem is strong enough to encourage community support all along the way.

Sarah: Who are the networkers, are they based on community groups? What are the different sectors?

Verona: I am interested in building regional ecosystems [throughout SK] that include industries, governments, and non-governmental sectors. I just came back from a small country that has the strongest ecosystem, but it is not transferable. In this context [of SK], social enterprise can be embedded in so many sectors that the community sector could be robust. Everyone should be part of the hub, everyone could engage. 

Colleen: I might be the only one who is slightly optimistic here. I don’t think it is impossible to build complex ecosystems, it is just unique here to SK. With the standard definition of ecosystem: “Ecosystem, the complex of living organisms, their physical environment, and all their interrelationships in a particular unit of space.” (Britannica)  By the very definition there is a strict relationship here – a set of rules. While community developers aren’t necessarily utilizing the definition in the same way as a biologist, we are relying on the rules and relationships that are embedded in the interconnectedness of people (living component) and public policy/programmatic response (non living component). Factoring in the final part of the definition – in a particular unit of space – means that these interconnected pieces are impacted by things like geography, time of year, or political landscape.

While community developers aren’t necessarily utilizing the definition [of ecosystems] in the same way as a biologist, we are relying on the rules and relationships that are embedded in the interconnectedness of people (living component) and public policy/programmatic response (non living component).

Ecosystem building is not a reactionary process, it is a long term investment designed to address outcomes.

In Saskatchewan, building complex ecosystems to respond to these interconnected and complicated needs is sometimes difficult. Oftentimes, relationships are emerging and trust isn’t forged. It takes time to build these systems and for those who are working in time sensitive sectors it can feel like the process is delaying actions. However, it is critical that the foundation is built and that the people involved understand the complexity of the system, create common language and set achievable goals together. Ecosystem building is not a reactionary process, it is a long term investment designed to address outcomes.

Colleen: All of the governance that I am in is embedded in this. How do you implement a collective impact? We don’t use the same language, but trying to figure out what that commonality is. Complex ecosystem work needs a collective impact framework. Understanding the common agenda, and coming to consensus about the language and commitments to that common agenda is a critical first step. Then any other baggage not directly connected to the common agenda being worked on, needs to be parked at the door. It’s not that the other work or issues aren’t important, but they aren’t part of this work, so allowing it at the table hinders the capacity to work on the common agenda work.

Sarah: Is that why social procurement features in your hub model? It’s a tangible thing that people can work with and find commonality in?

Understanding the common agenda, and coming to consensus about the language and commitments to that common agenda is a critical first step.

Colleen: Yes, that’s it. It’s tangible, it makes sense to folks. People need to buy coffee and they think ‘oh why would we buy coffee with Walmart when I could buy it from this social enterprise.’’

Structural problems sparking ecosystem building

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

Verona: Wouldn’t call it a spark. It was a long slow burn. A funding opportunity came up. The spark came out of the frustration from it. There was so much confusion around the funding. Total frustration over confusion and lack of social enterprise development. 

When I talk to other regions that already had some ecosystem building in place, their network connections made sure the funding advisory committees were aware of the field, 

whereas in regions where that ecosystem did not exist there were fractious experiences. 

Sarah: Was part of that frustration, because there is not always enough built to pull everyone together? You kind of know everyone in regions like SK but you’re not in charge. 

Verona: There were a couple [organizations] who [qualified but didn’t get funding] and didn’t apply again because it was so difficult to apply the first time. 

Sarah: When I talk to other regions that already had some ecosystem building in place, their network connections made sure the funding advisory committees were aware of the field, whereas in regions where that ecosystem did not exist there were fractious experiences. 

Coleen: Are we still talking about the spark? 

Melissa: We can be if you have more to add!

Colleen: As part of the Saskatoon poverty reduction work, social enterprise has been identified as a critical component. What we saw during COVID was how people supplement their incomes, particularly when they are underemployed, or connected to income supports. The reality is, that so many of us have “side gigs” and if you aren’t living in poverty, these lead to increased wealth and stability. When you live in poverty, and are connected to social services, side gigs are not wealth generating, and sometimes can lead to legal implications for the folks on assistance. Heaven forbid a person who is on income assistance is spotted selling something on Facebook by their case worker. They could then be penalized (with clawbacks) or even criminalized (reported as fraud) for it. This is a real problem.  It led us to think – how can we build social enterprise models that support folks, create space to lift them out of poverty and build capacity for social procurement from these enterprises?

Toby: Maybe we should have a podcast about this! 

“On the Cusp of Change”: Laying the groundwork for the future

Melissa: What are some of the unique dynamics of ecosystem building in SK? 

Toby: I think in SK we are on the cusp of change. I see systemic change coming. So in ecosystem building there are new voices all the time coming to the forefront. Sarah, what you mentioned [about how] everyone knows everyone, what I am noticing is that there are new names coming up, that is coinciding with data points. We are now getting to the point where you can hold them out and people are going ‘oh, that’s not good. That’s not right.” We are getting to that point where a little bit of change is on the way. We are not there yet, but ecosystem building puts this into a unique perspective. It is laying the groundwork for something happening in the future. 

Verona: You are seeing this in the rural communities too? 

Toby: A bit. People are getting sick of the ways things are, every time people get sick of the status quo you see this start to shift in these situations. 

I think in SK we are on the cusp of change… We are not there yet, but ecosystem building puts this into a unique perspective. It is laying the groundwork for something happening in the future.

[With an established ecosystem]… [people] already have a bit of a sense of what they want to do… and when… an opportunity, comes available they are ready to strike at that moment.

Sarah: In Manitoba, that is what I find is one of the things we do that is just so valuable. The routine of keeping people together in regular member meetings through so much change, politically and socially, 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. 

Toby: What I am seeing is people with affluence coming to the table with more than just money. They are coming to the table saying okay here is my money and then rolling up their sleeves and saying ‘okay how can we get engaged?’ They are seeing they can engage.

Summing Up

by Verona Thibault

Social enterprise as a bridge 

The ecosystem as a network of complex ideologies. “

“Either the ideologies
are at conflict, or not.”

Need the ecosystem

to create the ingenuity

that transforms economies.

– Verona Thibault

Thank you Verona, Colleen, and Toby for sharing your insights and experiences with ecosystem building in SK!


Atlantic Ecosystem Building: Interview with Chelsey MacNeil

For CCEDNet’s December communiqué, we spotlighted Common Good Solutions (CGS) a member organization based in Halifax. Melissa Sinfield, CCEDNet’s Regional Initiatives Manager, interviewed the president of CGS, Chelsey MacNeil. 

This interview is also the first in the series of blog posts on “ecosystem building” – a core focus of CCEDNet’s Regional Initiatives Program.

Read Part 2 – “On the Cusp of Change”: Laying the groundwork for the future through collaboration
Read Part 3 – Weaving together small regional networks in Ontario: An ecosystem building story

From September 25 to 27, 2023, approximately 170 social purpose organizations and change makers from across the Atlantic region came together in St. John’s NL to connect and work towards building a stronger regional ecosystem. The Inaugural Atlantic Social Impact Exchange Summit that brought these networks together was organized by one of our members, Common Good Solutions (CGS), and was supported by CCEDNet’s Regional Initiatives Program. The summit is part of CGS’s ecosystem building approach which is now moving into the next phase of the project, hoping to build off the momentum of over 170 participants to generate stronger lasting connections and shared vision. 

Why Ecosystem building in the Atlantic matters

Melissa Sinfield, CCEDNet’s Regional Initiative Manager: What does ecosystem building mean to you? 

Chelsey MacNeil: Ecosystem building in Atlantic Canada is a deliberate effort to cultivate interconnected relationships, resources, and opportunities within the region. This approach is crucial for constructing a bottom-up, generative strategy that addresses the unique challenges and opportunities in Atlantic Canada. By providing mechanisms for collaboration and coordination among diverse stakeholders, including NPOs, entrepreneurs, investors, government entities, and community organizations, ecosystem building creates an environment where initiatives can take root, blossom, and make a lasting impact.

In the Atlantic Canadian context, a bottom-up approach underscores the importance of community-driven solutions, leveraging the strengths and insights of individuals and organizations within the region. This not only enhances the region’s resilience and self-determination but also ensures that the ecosystem reflects the diverse needs and aspirations of its communities, contributing to sustained growth and positive impact. An ecosystem can challenge traditional power structures, democratize access to resources, and promote collaborative decision-making, thus generating a more inclusive and equitable ecosystem.

 A project sparked by pressing challenges

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

CM: The spark that ignited this project was the recognition of opportunities amongst challenges within Atlantic Canada. The motivation is the desire to address the pressing challenges facing the region, including aging populations, healthcare issues, housing and homelessness, economic stagnation, demographic shifts, and limited philanthropic resources. The project’s driving force is the commitment to create a coordinated, inclusive, and innovative ecosystem that empowers individuals and organizations in Atlantic Canada to access the resources, capacity, and support necessary to drive positive change. This project is grounded by the belief that by strategically working together and addressing the unique needs and aspirations of the region, Atlantic Canada can achieve sustained growth and make a significant positive impact.

On Pan-Provincial ecosystem building in the Atlantic 

MS: Your ecosystem building project is a bit unique in that it involves building a Pan-provincial ecosystem network. Can you speak a bit more on this? 

Our ecosystem building project takes a unique approach by focusing on building a pan-provincial ecosystem network within Atlantic Canada. While many ecosystem-building initiatives concentrate on a single city or region, our project seeks to unite all four Atlantic Canadian provinces (Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island) into a cohesive ecosystem. By breaking down provincial silos and creating the conditions for collaboration at a regional level, we can address shared challenges and leverage common opportunities.

The network is intended to facilitate the exchange of knowledge, experiences, and learnings among provinces. It allows stakeholders to benefit from the successes and innovations of their counterparts, leading to a more comprehensive and effective approach to ecosystem building.

By pooling resources and expertise from multiple provinces, the pan-provincial ecosystem network becomes a more powerful force for advocating for policy changes, attracting investment, and driving social impact. This collective strength enhances the region’s capacity to address complex challenges.

Navigating challenges

MS: Are there any challenges you have encountered so far?

CM: During the early stages of our ecosystem-building project in Atlantic Canada, we have learned a lot. Coordinating efforts across four distinct provinces with varying policies, priorities, and politics requires ongoing communication. Ensuring inclusivity for all regions and communities, including underserved or remote areas, poses difficulties that demand additional planning and resources. Mobilizing the necessary resources, both financial and capacity, is an ongoing challenge, as building a sustainable ecosystem requires consistent investment and a long view.

We also recognize that engaging diverse community organizations and building trust necessitates time and effort. An iterative approach that allows for adaptation and flexibility is essential to overcome these challenges and refine the ecosystem-building strategy.

Naming the Atlantic Social Impact Exchange Summit

Editor’s note: One component of this project has been the inaugural Atlantic Social Impact Exchange Summit designed to bring together actors from across the region. 

MS: I know you were very intentional when naming this Summit, choosing to title it “Social Impact” even though this year’s Summit was heavily focused on social finance. What was the significance of this choice?

CM: The choice to title the Summit as “Social Impact” while focusing heavily on social finance carries several layers of significance. First and foremost, it underscores the broader mission and purpose of the initiative. While the immediate focus of the Summit may be on social finance, the goal is to drive positive social impact in Atlantic Canada. It highlights that social impact is the ultimate point, the “why” behind the entire effort. Finance, while important, is a means to an end – a powerful tool for achieving social impact and addressing the region’s pressing challenges.

Additionally, the choice of this title reflects a commitment to the process to develop the ecosystem with the why in clear view. It emphasizes that the Summit is not just about finance but about generating meaningful and lasting change within the region. It acknowledges that social impact is the focal point, and it can only be achieved when there is a supportive and strategic ecosystem in place to build the culture we want. This ecosystem encompasses capacity building, policy development, and community engagement, all aimed at nurturing a culture of social impact.

Moreover, this title reflects the intention to bring together a diverse range of stakeholders from various sectors, including government, non-profits, businesses, and social enterprises. It signals that the Summit is a platform for collaboration and knowledge sharing, where all participants can contribute to the broader goal of creating positive social impact in Atlantic Canada, recognizing that finance alone won’t achieve the desired outcomes. It’s the collective efforts within the ecosystem that will drive the cultural shift towards social impact.

Early learnings on ecosystem building

MS: Based on this early stage, are there any learnings or discoveries you could offer others trying to build ecosystems? 

CM: Even at this early stage of ecosystem-building, there are some valuable learnings and discoveries that can offer insights to others embarking on similar journeys:

  • Collaboration is Key: Collaboration among diverse stakeholders is the foundation of a successful ecosystem. Encourage open dialogue, active participation, and shared ownership among all players, including government, social finance actors, institutions, and community organizations.
  • Inclusivity Matters: Ensure that your ecosystem-building efforts are inclusive and accessible to all, regardless of geographic location or organizational type. Prioritize diversity in participation to create a more vibrant and innovative ecosystem.
  • Leverage Existing Resources and Networks: Identify and leverage existing resources and initiatives within the region. Collaborating with established organizations and networks can accelerate ecosystem development.
  • Focus on the Ultimate Goal: While specific initiatives like social finance are important, always keep the broader goal of achieving social impact in mind. Recognize that finance, capacity building, and policy are means to an end, and the end is a positive, lasting impact on the community.
  • Learn from Others: Study and learn from other successful ecosystem-building initiatives, both within your region and globally. Adapt best practices and tailor them to your specific context.
  • Flexibility is Key: Be prepared to adapt and pivot as needed. Ecosystem-building is an iterative process, and your strategy may evolve as you gain insights and experience.
  • Be Patient: Building a robust ecosystem takes time. It requires patience, persistence, and a long-term commitment to the region and its goals.
  • Measure Impact: Develop clear metrics and evaluation methods to measure the impact of your ecosystem-building efforts. This will help you track progress, make data-driven decisions, and secure future support and investment.

How it is different from other organizing work

MS: What sets this project apart from perhaps other organizing work?

CM: The uniqueness of our ecosystem-building project lies in its ambition to create a pan-provincial ecosystem network that unites all four Atlantic Canadian provinces, promotes collaborative governance, inclusivity, shared learning, and the collective strength needed to address the region’s challenges and seize its opportunities. This approach recognizes that regional integration is essential for building a resilient and impactful ecosystem.

What sets this project apart from other organizing work is its focus on building a self-directed ecosystem specifically tailored to the needs of Atlantic Canada by those in Atlantic Canada. While many organizing efforts address individual challenges or projects, this initiative takes a comprehensive, long-term approach to create an interconnected network of capacity, capital, and policy that works in concert. We hope to support the continued development of an ecosystem that moves our economy away from extractive approaches to stronger, more sustainable futures for our communities that prioritize people and planet

MS: Recently, we have been talking a lot about finding ways to push the needle for deeper change. Can you speak a bit on this? 

CM: The recent discussions surrounding the need to push the needle for deeper change signify a collective recognition that incremental progress may not suffice in addressing the complex challenges in Atlantic Canada. The focus is on achieving transformational impact by adopting innovative approaches and strategies that go beyond surface-level improvements. There needs to be recognition that achieving deeper change is a long-term commitment, demanding sustained effort and collaboration over an extended period to bring about lasting and meaningful transformation.

Thank you Chelsey for sharing your insight and experiences in pan-provincial organizing!


The Investment Readiness Program (IRP) is a Government of Canada grants and contributions program designed to support social purpose organizations (SPO’s) contribute to solving pressing social, cultural, and environmental challenges across Canada. CCEDNet has been the IRP Partners Convener for IRP 2.0 funding (2022-2024). Unfortunately, this funding is coming to an end on March 31, 2024.

CCEDNet is joining fellow IRP Partners, including Catalyst Community Finance Initiative, to advocate for a subsequent round of IRP 3.0 funding. Particularly on the heels of the launch of the Social Finance Fund, now is the time to ensure that we strengthen the bridge between investment readiness and the wider social finance ecosystem in Canada. 

The letter below has been signed and sent to Jenna Sudds, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance. Please contact Wayne Miranda (wayne (at) if you’d like to get involved and sign another/ amended letter.


On November 15th 2023, Boann CEO Derek Ballantyne and Jeff Cyr, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Raven Capital Partners, took to the stage at the Raven Outcomes Finance Summit to announce Boann’s pioneering investment in the Raven Indigenous Outcomes Fund.

The Raven Indigenous Outcomes Fund (RIOF) is a first-of-its-kind fund (C$50M) that manages outcomes-based financing instruments to address priority issues in Indigenous communities.

Read the full press release here.

“Indigenous Peoples and communities have long deserved a higher level of wellbeing and the ability to shape how human services are provided. We are at a unique moment in history where we have the social finance fund and the work of our wholesaler aligning with community priorities and government objectives,” said Jeff Cyr.

“Outcomes finance operates at this unique nexus aligning public, private and philanthropic capital. However, most importantly it actions UNDRIP to create self-determined services, this collective action will reshape the landscape of social finance and, more importantly, improve the lives of countless individuals and communities. I invite investors to really put their capital to work in this unique opportunity. Together we will do great things.”

This is the first investment through which Boann Social Impact will help advance social finance in Canada. RIOF was selected by Boann’s Investment Committee, an independent body with exclusive responsibility over investment decisions. This investment affirms Boann’s commitment to fostering positive change by nurturing a strong social finance sector in Canada and modeling what investing for impact can look like.

To learn more about Boann Social Impact, our investment process, or to reach out with an opportunity for investment, visit

Read more about the Raven Indigenous Outcomes Fund from Raven Indigenous Capital Partners’ website here.


Susanna Redekop

Susanna Redekop is the Engagement Manager for the Investment Readiness Program (IRP), part of the Regional Initiatives team at CCEDNet.  As part of the Investment Readiness Program team, Susanna builds and maintains relationships and communications between the various partner organizations involved in delivering and supporting the IRP to ultimately support a stronger Social Finance / Social Innovation ecosystem for Social Purpose Organizations (SPOs) and communities across Canada.

Check out the Manitoba region newsletter for November 2023 here.

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


A new co-operative federation called the Banker Ladies council is based within a Black feminist cultural tradition called a Rotating Savings and Credit Association (ROSCA).  This groundbreaking group of Black women are redefining what it means to establish their own economic systems rooted in the systems of trust, reciprocity and cooperativism their ancestors have used for generations.  

In New Minas, Nova Scotia, a social enterprise called The Flower Cart Group has been serving persons with disabilities and complex barriers to employment for 53 years.  This year they’re realizing their dream of building a new facility to meet the increased demand for their services and expanding their capacity.

In the face of the affordable housing crisis, New Market Funds and New Commons Development’s Small Communities Initiative works with small, rural BC communities to create and preserve affordable housing for vulnerable populations, retrofitting and constructing new builds that are in line with community needs while prioritizing environmental sustainability.

What do these three stories have in common?

They’re all using forms of social finance, a term that encompasses a wide range of organizations, businesses and services that also serve a breadth of community needs and are redefining economic power within a community-based context.  If your business, co-op or social enterprise has a mission to improve the social, cultural and/or environmental sustainability within your community, your region, or the sector you’re in and you’re interested in exploring finance options that include the social impact you’re creating – you’re likely considered to be a Social Purpose Organization, and also you’re part of the social finance ecosystem whether you know it or not. 

The Investment Readiness Program and what comes next

The  Investment Readiness Program (IRP) was designed to be a funding program to directly provide Social Purpose Organizations with non-repayable capital to get them business development support, and was based on recommendations in Inclusive Innovation, the report guiding the federal government’s initiatives to strengthen social innovation and social finance in Canada.  Here at CCEDNet, our IRP team have been leaders in the social finance ecosystem, supporting the creation of collaborative processes thanks to the federal Department Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).

As the IRP Partnership Convener, we bring the program partners, including ESDC, together to share learning, insight, and action as we work to support Social Purpose Organizations and the broad social finance ecosystem to enable more social finance across the country.  However, now that this second round of funding has ended and we have no confirmation of a future round of IRP funding, we are working together to figure out how best to continue the momentum we have built.

Social finance is one of those concepts that folks seem to generally agree upon as a good thing but it’s perhaps still a bit mysterious, difficult to define and can be confusing because it’s all around us yet it’s hard to put your finger on.  Part of the issue is that it’s hard to find a succinct go-to resource for understanding social finance in Canada, and another part of the issue is that the language that’s been developed for this sector has been developed by government and funders on the “supply side” of providing capital, instead of those on the “demand side” who need and are applying for this funding, such as Social Purpose Organizations and those that serve them.  Often this kind of work is known by different names and labels from within grassroots organizations and communities doing it themselves.  

CCEDNet is leading a project to do just this – to bring folks together from various sectors, regions and communities to define what social finance means on their own terms.  This Demand-Side Social Finance Info Hub will be a place to find easily downloadable, shareable content explaining what social finance is and what the impact in Canadian communities has been.  It will also be a place to figure out where any given organization fits within the social finance ecosystem, whether social finance is for them.  Finally, it will display data from this ecosystem and provide pathways to connect with Social Finance Fund intermediaries when this information becomes available and Social Purpose Organizations can access repayable capital through these intermediaries for the Social Finance Fund.  Social finance has been in the spotlight lately, particularly with the federal announcement of the $755 million Social Finance Fund earlier this year in May and we are pleased to be working towards a community-based pathway for access to this capital when it becomes publicly available.

The Sustainable Finance Forum

On November 1-2, 2023, over 600 social finance practitioners, community leaders, elected officials and policy makers came together for the second Sustainable Finance Forum. 

Based on the success of the previous Sustainable Finance Forum in 2022, CCEDNet volunteered to support the coordination of the event. MP Ryan Turnbull, a long-time CCEDNet member prior to being elected to represent the riding of Whitby in the House of Commons of Canada, spearheaded this initiative to engage policy makers and create cross-party support for social and sustainable finance. CCEDNet saw this as an opportunity to raise awareness around social finance to policy makers and elected officials, and to connect them with community-led social finance models and leaders across Canada.  Last year’s inaugural Sustainable Finance Forum was a closed, invite-only event on Parliament Hill, and CCEDNet’s Executive Director, Mike Toye, advocated that this year’s Forum take place “off the Hill” so that non-government actors including community leaders and Social Purpose Organizations could access the event and take part in these important conversations.  Part of CCEDNet’s organizational goals are to advance policy change, and this opportunity is an example of connecting communities and engaging directly with policy makers.

CCEDNet helped convene more than 40 industry leaders as part of the advisory committee for the Sustainable Finance Forum, who informed the program and helped frame the conversations. We are incredibly grateful to Advisory Committee members who supported the planning of the Forum and for the sponsorship of values-aligned credit unions, co-operatives and impact investors such as Desjardins, Vancity, Co-operators, and Addenda Capital who made the event possible. 

The 2 days of the Forum were full of rich discussions that included conversations on social finance from different perspectives and across industries, including Sustainable Food Systems, Greening Finance, Indigenous Social Economy and Reconciliation and Affordable Housing. Including both the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of Finance, the Forum mobilized an unprecedented lineup of speakers and spoke to a wide range of stakeholders who don’t often get the chance to connect to each other – from Members of Parliament to grassroots organizers and community leaders. Bringing together such a diverse variety of speakers and stakeholders also meant that these conversations were coming from many different points of view and lived experiences, and we heard some painful anecdotes, inspirational stories, as well as pledges that are full of hope and promise.  

It is a unique position CCEDNet is in as an intermediary, working with government and working with communities on the ground, that led us to organizing such an event.  It is equally a privilege and responsibility to the communities we serve for us to push these conversations forward into action, and to continue to hold ourselves and each other accountable to promises made in creating and maintaining an economy that reflects truly sustainable and inclusive development.  We heard multi-party commitments to creating sustainable, climate friendly finance solutions, as well as pledges of making social finance a more central part of our economy.  After such an event, we all know that the real work is yet to come in figuring out how to build and strengthen relationships that sustain these actions and propel us forward into new territory towards a more sustainable, socially conscious economic system.  


Susanna Redekop

Susanna Redekop is the Engagement Manager for the Investment Readiness Program (IRP), part of the Regional Initiatives team at CCEDNet.  As part of the Investment Readiness Program team, Susanna builds and maintains relationships and communications between the various partner organizations involved in delivering and supporting the IRP to ultimately support a stronger Social Finance / Social Innovation ecosystem for Social Purpose Organizations (SPOs) and communities across Canada.

Marisol Fornoni

Marisol Fornoni is the Partnerships Manager for the Investment Readiness Program (IRP), part of the Regional Initiatives team at CCEDNet.  As part of the Investment Readiness Program team, Marisol convenes and maintains important partner relations to build a thriving IRP Ecosystem embedded in the Social Finance Social Innovation sector for Social Purpose Organizations (SPOs) and communities across Canada.

Rupert (seated) and the CCEDNet Board, 2008

CCEDNet is sad to share the news that former Executive Director Rupert Downing passed away on Nov 2. 

Rupert was key in the development of CCEDNet’s early years.  He was appointed Executive Director in 2002, less than three years after the Network’s incorporation in 1999.  Over the next six years until his departure in 2008, Rupert was fundamental in the organization’s initial growth and structure. 

But his history in social, economic and environmental efforts stretched back to the beginning of his professional life.  He was involved in managing sustainable development policies and programs for more than 40 years in rural, urban and Indigenous communities across Canada, in the UK, and around the world.

While leading CCEDNet, he helped to establish and directed the Canadian Social Economy Research Partnerships, editing one of the capstone publications on Canada’s Social Economy.  Prior to his time at CCEDNet, Rupert helped to establish and lead the Ministry of Community Development in the Government of British Columbia. 

Most recently, Rupert was named to the Government of Canada’s Social Innovation Advisory Council, a recognition of his expertise in social enterprise financing and development. 

Rupert (in orange) with staff, 2008

He also ran an international consulting firm specializing in sustainable community development, research and public policy development, and he owned and managed a Fair-Trade Social Enterprise operating on Vancouver Island, “Lalocal”.

But it was Rupert’s character and compassion that made an impression on many people.  Whether it was his background in theatre, his love of animals and nature and the world, his willingness to have fun, or his feathered friends that joined many virtual meetings, his passion for life, and social and economic justice, inspired people around the world. 

I learned so much and was inspired by Rupert. His ability to frame complex ideas, visions, and strategies into language that would command the attention of a room full of decision makers was impressive and I observed this skill attentively.

There was also a lot of fun and laughter, as his wit and intellect were accompanied by a theatrical humour and sense of adventure that created so many legacy stories.

Brendan Reimer, former CCEDNet-Manitoba Regional Co-ordinator

The poem below, which he posted on Facebook this past March, reveals a bit about what made him so endearing.

A celebration of Rupert’s life was held on Saturday November 18 with family and close friends. Budd Hall, Co-Chair of the UNESCO Chair in Community-Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education at the Centre for Global Studies at the University of Victoria, and friend of Rupert’s, wrote this poetic reflection for the celebration.

Every day brings a smile
When I get up and sit on my patio the Steller’s Jays cackle at me and I cackle back to their delight. And we smile.
The Ravens nesting in my conifers croak at me to which I reply and then they bring their fledging onto my deck to explore and steal baubles. And we smile.
The Eagles bring their fledgling to the beach to experience their first incoming tide, and we enjoy their first experience of the ocean. And we smile.
The rabbits bring their young out to nibble on the Camas sprouts and I fell them to mow the lawn. And we smile.
The squirrels cavort in the trees and search for their hidden stash in the raised beds. And we smile.
The stags rut in the backyard and sometimes gallop down to me and stand face to face, and we smile. Their families then curl up in the Spring sunshine in their safe place, and we smile.
My raccoon clan has been here way longer than any human. I have related to the matriarchs all my time here, through thick and thin, and they always introduce me to their successors. I’m now sitting on my bench every day with our current Mama chatting, and then dividing some food for the family. We always smile.
My dogs take me out to play every day, and tell me to not be so serious. And we smile.
My neighbours probably think I am crazy for all the talking I do to animals, but what the heck, I smile.
My cockatiel spends every moment he can on my shoulder, nibbling my ear, and singing. We always smile.
My wife and family bring me great joy and we smile.
Smiling is good, and talking to animals


The Gathering was a significant day to anchor our local community and social economy to a larger movement for change. Over 350 participants, presenters, and volunteers came together at St. John’s high school to learn, laugh, and experience Community Economic Development in action. 

The day began with a blessing from Elder Mae Louise Campbell from the Clan Mothers Healing Village, followed by a panel from the project exploring their  new models of existence that are deeply anchored in community and connection to the land. They are embodying the heart and spirit of CED. Their social enterprise, Mother Earth Construction, creates family and feeds hope. Val, Jamie, Tia, Danny, and Amanda spoke about their experiences in this sisterhood. 

Christine Clarke, from Freedom Dreams Cooperative Education, explored the concept of economic justice: anchoring in community through the cooperative model to transform our workplaces towards care and have agency over our own work When we deeply care for each other in our organizations and enterprises, they can be sites of personal and community transformation.

After a shared meal, participants came together for the Gathering Afternoon Plenary. Anny Chen and Laura Tyler led an exercise to solidify learning about collaboration and immediately put it into practice. 

Our collective knowledge and experience grew with two workshop opportunities during the day. Workshops were presented by local community builders on topics like intercultural storytelling, creating inclusive spaces, rural CED, cooperatives, and social enterprise. Participants learned from panels and presentations, from small group sharing, and through community building networking games. 

Throughout the day, greater collaboration was facilitated, solidified, and propelled toward a collective vision for change. The Gathering continues to serve as an anchor for community builders. 

Photos by Travis Ross

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