Break The Divide (BTD) is an international non-profit organization that connects youth worldwide in a conversation on climate change to break down divisions between communities. BTD’s patent “apathy to empathy to action” framework seeks to build ways in which young people can connect and learn from one another in an increasingly polarized world, allowing them to build empathy for realities that they have never faced, and empowering them to transform that empathy into concrete actions that advance the creation of harmonious and abundant futures.

Break The Divide is currently preparing to launch a new project engaging international students and immigrant youth in Downtown Toronto through an open online course on climate change and building resilience to take local climate action. The online course focuses on providing newcomers with the necessary knowledge and skills they need to understand and respond to challenges posed by climate change during their time in Canada. 

The online course will explore the theme of alternative systems for an eco-friendly society and cover topics such as (1) cooperative and community forms of land ownership, (2) intersections of precarious employment, climate, and technology, and (3) democratic and cooperative financial systems, etc.

Through our established dialogue framework that encourages young people to share and build an understanding of diverse knowledge perspectives and foster empathy for one another, the program will nurture a sense of belonging in Canada, build a sense of community through sharing space with youth who hold similar lived experiences, as well as empower participants to address climate-related issues collaboratively. Our staff team will also use in-person meetings to facilitate “climate cafés” – a space for exploration of thoughts, feelings and experiences on climate change where participants can safely share emotional responses and reactions related to the climate and environmental emergency. 

You can learn more information about the program by visiting the BTD website: https://breakthedivide.net/our-programs/climate-skills-community-building-fellowship/

As we are currently in the process of recruiting participants for the program, we ask that you kindly share information about the program with your network & refer us to anyone who suits the criteria and might be interested.

To register for the program, you have to be a new immigrant or international student in Canada, between the ages of 18 and 30. You can apply to take part in the program by filling out this Google Form (https://forms.gle/YQSyYoKnkEnBPagu8).

If you have any questions about the program, you can contact Aria Kani (Program Manager) at . You can also schedule a Zoom meeting with Aria to further discuss what the program entails here.

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CCEDNet turns 25 this year! And because generations are typically defined in 25-year periods, we are reflecting on the concept of generational movement. How does the wisdom of previous generation shape not only the present, but also the way we move into the next?

This question is especially alive during Black History Month. Community economic development (CED) in Canada and around the world has always been shaped by Black people. From historical credit associations and mutual aid societies to the contemporary social solidarity economy and beyond, Black-led CED is not only resistance to economic oppression — it is a pathway toward collective liberation. 

We wanted to think more about all of this through the lens of generational movement, and so we asked our networks to share their insights into the past, present, and future generation of Black-led CED.


Looking back on the past generation of Black-led Community Economic Development, what are some of the accomplishments, challenges, and learnings that inform your work today?

Ryan O'Neill Knight
Ryan Knight

Ryan Knight, Executive Director of the Afro Caribbean Business Network Foundation Canada; CCEDNet Board member:

The Black community has unsuccessfully attempted to fund its way to Black Empowerment (consciously or subconsciously) for the past 60 years, [and has tried] to combat anti-Black racism without institutionalizing solutions at the highest level of corporate engagement. More importantly, the lowlevel community organization’s approach is a definitive setback to creativity and innovation, creating further setbacks.

This realization has come from our research looking at past funding and strategies in our commissioned work The Black Empowerment Manifesto written by Errol Gibbs. Excerpt is below…

“symptomatic statistics” drive “symptomatic-oriented responses” instead of changes that address “root causes.” Root causes are generally less apparent than the effects. Case-in-point: The consequences of violence are visible and alarming to society, yet the deep and underlying causes that confront society every day, in homes, workplaces, communities, corporations, and deep within the human spirit often evade keen observation and analysis. Root causes are less understood, less emphasized, and are less “statistically measurable” and analyzed to “fix” problems “before the fact,” but where do the real solutions lie? Could the solutions be as simple as equity, equality, empathy, fairness, and justice? It may be challenging to rise to such virtues in thought and practice because the human condition underpinning such solutions may not be the subject of quantitative and qualitative solution analysis?


Looking forward to the next generation of Black-led CED, what are some of your concerns, hopes, and dreams for the future?

Dr. Caroline Shenaz Hossein

Dr. Caroline Shenaz Hossein, Canada Research Chair for Africana Development & Feminist Political Economy; Associate Professor of Global Development at University of Toronto; founder of Diverse Solidarity Economies (DISE) Collective:

For students, for young people, for the generation coming up behind us, to definitely explore what’s not seen. What has been purposefully erased? What is it that [has been] silenced and [how can you] try to make visible those who are invisibilized? I think that’s the key.

That’s hard work; it takes time. It means you have to hang out and incubate with folks, bring a kind of humility to the work you’re doing to recognize that people together are figuring out solutions that are not driven [by] a ‘rational actor,’ but more [by the question of] ‘how do we co-operate and get together?” …

Right now the time is so urgent that we need to start uplifting the collective [in the forms of] democratically controlled institutions, co-operative, self-help, mutual aid, associational life, both in the informal and formal, that often are hidden or ignored, pushed to the background because there has been a deliberate intention to make commercial, corporate industry seem like that’s the only alternative.

And when we start to see through that, then it’s our responsibility to start emphasizing what co-operative membership institutions look like – take inventory of them, document them, promote them in every way we can.

You don’t have to be a scholar or academic to do this work. If you are working in the nonprofit sector, if you are a donor, if you are a policy maker, the time is now for you to make space, create those budget lines, new programming, that starts to think about collective membership-type of institutions that can be vested in real transformation.

Because when we abide by donor requirements that want to specify individual ways of working…then we lose sight about what transformation looks like for more of us. That’s where we’re at – membership institutions that are locally grounded, situated in your own backyard is where we start. Make sure those institutions are democratic and collective and really do value principles such as reciprocity and voice from the community.

Note: Dr. Hossein shared these insights in a fantastic interview with Serena Bahadur on the Diverse Economy Conversations for Youth Podcast. Quote shared here with permission.


How can the CED sector decenter whiteness and embrace Black liberation as a core part of everything it does?

Beatrice Anane-Bediakoh

Beatrice Anane-Bediakoh (she/her), CCEDNet Program and Engagement Manager:

This question is interesting. When considering the CED sector and Black liberation, the emphasis should shift towards an ideological transformation rather than solely focusing on decentering whiteness.

Imagine a paradigm shift where racial logics and harmful predilections of antiblackness are inverted, where blackness is conceptualized and understood in totality. What if every human question and possibility centred on Black life? The world’s lack of imagination for Black being is evidenced in its brutal enactment against such being. The fundamental issue is that there is no outright assumption of Black humanity in the world –this is further evidenced in the resounding call, Black Lives Matter, where Black life incessantly needs to be legitimized and argued for over and over again. So, when asked how we decentre whiteness from the CED sector—what is needed instead is an assumption of being. A world-making that thwarts our current ways of reading Black life. It requires a framework that restores a broader picture of Black life. Once we get there—and only then, can begin having meaningful conversations about liberation.

Ryan Knight:

Listening and supporting initiatives that achieve holistic, permanent, macro-level, job creation, wealth creation, digital and physical infrastructure to engender real and inclusive “Black empowerment” over the next 50 years.


What are some resources that you wish everyone in the Canadian CED sector would read/ watch/ listen to/ etc?

Gina Malaba

Gina Malaba (she/her), Program Coordinator, Community Action for Workforce Development Program:

Beatrice Anane-Bediakoh:

Ryan Knight:

What are some Black-led CED initiatives that you would like to promote (your own included)?

Beatrice Anane-Bediakoh:

I’d like to highlight Black-led CED initiatives that have participated in CreateAction including:

Gina Malaba:

I recently co-founded the Black Students Association Alumni Network (BSAAN) which is an alumni organization dedicated to supporting the professional development of Black postgraduates from the University of Alberta. Through coaching workshops, career panels, and postgraduate spotlights, BSAAN leads proactive efforts to connect Black postgraduates to a centralized realm of community resources and a global hub of potential employers. These activities are created with the goal of increasing networking, addressing anti-Black racism and bringing awareness to the lack of resources afforded to Black youths in sectors of employment and social services.

By connecting professionals to postgraduates, BSAAN creates a platform whereby previous alumni can contribute their time and resources to younger generations determined to succeed in continuously changing industries.

Interested in volunteering? Sign up to our Mailing List!


Thank you to everyone who shared their insights with us. Happy Black History Month!

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This is Part 3 of our Ecosystem Building Blog Series.
Read Part 1 – Atlantic Ecosystem Building: Interview with Chelsey MacNeil
Read Part 2 – “On the Cusp of Change”: Laying the groundwork for the future through collaboration
Stay tuned throughout the winter for the rest of the series!
Ecosystem building is a core focus of CCEDNet’s Regional Initiatives Program.

Weaving Together
Small Regional Networks
in Ontario:

An Ecosystem Building Story.

How ONN is trying to strengthen Ontario’s ecosystems by hosting small community wealth building events in rural and small community regions

Interview With

Candice Zhang
ONN Policy Advisor

ONN

Melissa Sinfield
(Interviewer)

CCEDNet

Interviewer and Editor:
Melissa Sinfield, Regional Initiatives Manager 
 

Blog Summary

Read this you if you are: 

  • Trying to bridge the rural/urban gap in ecosystem building
  • If you are in a region with smaller pocket ecosystems or multiple hubs. 
  • Questioning logistics of engaging rural communities.
  • Curious about some of the aspects that set rural ecosystems apart.

Blog Notes:

Region: Ontario

We spoke with Candice Zhang, a Policy Advisor for Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN), about how ONN is working to support building a stronger Ontario ecosystem using a community wealth building frame. 

Note: interview has been edited for length and clarity. 


Overview

Social economy ecosystem building in Ontario is challenging in part because of a significant urban/rural divide in the province.

This dynamic will likely sound familiar to folks in many provinces and territories. It is particularly felt in a province which houses the large, densely populated, urban centre of Toronto and the rapidly growing Ottawa Capital. Yet, smaller cities, towns, and rural communities comprise the majority of the geographic region of Ontario. These dynamics have at times led to regional frustrations, rural/urban tensions, and general confusion when trying to build various social economy ecosystems throughout Ontario.

What has naturally resulted is a number of pocket ecosystems forming in various parts of the province. 

Aware of some of these complex dynamics, ONN decided to take an alternative approach to ecosystem building from some of the larger event based strategies, to instead focus on holding five small convenings using community wealth building as a frame. Two were to be in-person convenings held outside of larger urban centres, and three are planned to be virtual. ONN has centered their strategy around intentional outreach and engagement to prepare the ground before convening, as well as careful meeting design to ensure groups often left out – like small rural organizations – are more likely to have an impactful voice during the convenings. While it is too early to have a full picture takeaway of this approach, there are a number of early stage learnings that Candice has generously shared with us. 

ONN has thus far hosted two in-person convenings focused on community wealth building. 

  1. The first) was hosted in the Belleville and Prince Edward County region, with 30 participants
  2. The second) was held in Kitchener, with 45 participants

In the text below, Candice provides insights into the organization’s approach and what she has learned so far about hosting smaller convenings in semi-rural regions of Ontario. 

Melissa Sinfield


Going to Smaller Communities Means a Lot

Melissa: Tell us about your project. How have things been going? 

Candice: In person gatherings are so valuable for people. Regional small gatherings don’t happen very often. We were asked in each place we went, why we chose that area to meet, because people often automatically assume such events would take place in cities like Toronto or Ottawa. We explained to folks we wanted to go out of the big centres and to the smaller regions. Going into communities is really appreciated.

We explained to folks we wanted to go out of the big centres and to the smaller regions.

Editor note: Candice and I have previously discussed the challenges of ecosystem building in provinces like Ontario where there is such a dramatic difference between large densely populated urban centres like Toronto from that of the rural regions and ‘rural cities’ that comprise much of Ontario. 

“I think I have figured out this ecosystem building thing!” Candice jokingly told me in laughter. In more seriousness she added “What would work the best is to build stronger place-based ecosystems within Ontario and then bring them all together.”

Candice: Some of these regions already have strong local ecosystems. For instance, in Belleville they have Thrive PEC, Bloom Local Food Fund and Upper Canada Equity Fund. In London Ontario, there is Pillar Nonprofit Network, who runs programs like Innovation Works London, Social enterprise incubator and Socialpreneur Chats, as well as a social finance program called Verge Capital. When different regions have their own ecosystem, bringing them together is much easier.

Going into communities is really appreciated.

When different regions have their own ecosystem, bringing them together is much easier.

This also resonated with many participants of the gathering. When asked about their vision of a strong social economy ecosystem in Ontario, many participants said it would be great to build small place-based ecosystems across Ontario and then bring these small ecosystems together to share learnings and collaborate. Participants also suggested that in order to make this happen, peer learning is crucial. For example, it would be really helpful if places where strong local ecosystems already exist (such as Prince Edward County) can come together and share their experiences and learnings with other regions, so that others can learn about how they can get started. 

Melissa: What you mentioned about going into communities, I know in conversations with Sarah she has said similar: that going to areas where events rarely happen and ‘meeting people where they are’ means a lot. And that makes sense to me, I grew up in a rural community and always have had to travel to one of the bigger cities like Toronto or Ottawa for events. I have no idea what it would feel like to have someone come to my region.

“[We are] rethinking doing one more in person one,” Candice added, referring to possibly altering their original plan of hosting three online convenings moving forward, “but at the same time it is going to get colder now, and logistically [the event] would probably be in January.” (original conversation was in Nov. 2023)

Winter can create an added obstacle for organizations trying to access in-person events in Ontario, particularly rural communities, making this a big question of whether people will want to or even be able to travel the winter roads for another in-person event. 

This led me to reflect some more on how as a sector, we rarely gather during spring and summer months. In the past, I have attributed this to summer vacation habits, but following this conversation I also realized how much project cycles make it difficult to meet in warmer seasons, when the cycle often ends at the beginning of spring. Even if another funding cycle starts around the same time, it would not provide much time for spring or summer event planning. 

The importance of of being invited

You mentioned once how important it is to be invited into a community, that it’s best not to just go in without first establishing a connection or local partnership. Could you expand on this? 

Those folks who reached out all were really connected in their respective regions… so they all had a sense of what’s going on in their communities and that a regional event would be a valuable opportunity.

Candice: Yes! This is actually a great learning from ONN’s regional events. To increase engagement and diversity of ONN’s network, we host regional events across Ontario. To ensure we are being invited into local communities, ONN shared in our e-bulletin that we were doing regional events and encouraged people to reach out to us if they thought it would be valuable to have something like this in their area. Those folks who reached out all were really connected in their respective regions (e.g. local workforce planning board, volunteer centre, community development corporation) — and so they all had a sense of what’s going on in their communities and that a regional event would be a valuable opportunity for people. Building on this interest and existing relationships, it made sense to me to also host the community wealth building events in these communities we’ve already been invited into. Organizations in the communities also made recommendations to us about who else to reach out to or invite to our community wealth building event. This approach helped us establish trust and strong relationships with local communities. 

Travel costs and relationship building. 

Candice shared with me how helpful and important it is to have a dedicated budget to support participating organizations’ traveling from surrounding rural regions to access these in-person events. There ended up being many more requests for travel reimbursements than they typically see.

Candice: We have participants coming from Sutton, Uxbridge, and Stone Mills. They all bring in unique experiences and insights, sharing their work and the barriers they face. Without the travel reimbursement, many of them wouldn’t have been able to come to the community gathering. As public transit is not as accessible in these areas, many of these participants either had to drive for hours or rent a car, so providing travel reimbursement definitely helped. That is a great learning, that it is worth having.

[M]any of these participants either had to drive for hours or rent a car… That is a great learning, that it is worth having [travel reimbursements].

Candice added also that travel costs for bringing local organizations from nearby surrounding regions are not very expensive, so offering this type of support can go a long way when the budget allows. This reflects some of the different realities rural nonprofits face compared to urban ones including barriers to accessing events. 

Not only does traveling to nearby communities and offering reimbursements for travel costs support rural access to the growing ecosystem, but also is such a valuable approach to  relationship building by working towards removing barriers. 

In rural communities “information spreads so quickly.”

Another major challenge is that in some cases a rural region may not have a strong nonprofit infrastructure, yet at the same time informal community systems may be more robust.

Candice: In some areas, there are not as many nonprofits in a community, and many of them have a very small team. For instance, as ONN was building connections with some towns or villages, many only had two organizations with 1 or 2 staff. Everyone is stretched thin.

Even so, the community connections in rural regions create different possibilities for ecosystem building. 

[In] rural/smaller communities, you really just need one or two champions to lead the work… to kick start building a local ecosystem.

Candice: A strength in rural/remote or smaller communities is how information spreads so quickly. 

Melissa (Laughing): Yes, that is very true. I swear in the village my family is from, information travels faster than social media ever could. People really underestimate it.

Candice: This also means that in rural/smaller communities, you really just need one or two champions to lead the work, raise awareness about the social economy, and organize the community to kick start building a local ecosystem.

Reflecting on this makes me wonder if the way everyone feels interconnected in rural spaces may make building ecosystems feel more natural in some rural regions?

For another upcoming blog, I had the opportunity to talk with our Newfoundland partners and a similar conversation came up around how in rural spaces–in their case a historical fishery city– building connections seemed almost baked into the culture because of economic survival strategies and community. Now talking with Candice about rural communication channels in Ontario, this is another really fascinating layer that may contribute to making ecosystem building different in rural communities. Word-of-mouth may help bypass information overload a bit.

Word-of-mouth may help bypass information overload a bit.

Capital is there: Need Capacity building for investment readiness

Melissa: Any surprising learnings?

Candice: There is more capital available and ready to invest in nonprofits and charities than organizations that are ready to take on these investments.

Further investment readiness support is needed… [organizations want] to further build their capacity so they can become more confident in their ability to take on debt.

Candice: In fact, what we heard at the community gathering in Belleville was that currently many social finance investors  specifically wanted to invest in nonprofits and charities. But the challenge is that there is only a relatively small group of nonprofits that are investment ready. Further investment readiness support is needed to help more nonprofits become investment ready. Many organizations said that they need to further build their capacity so they can become more confident in their ability to take on debt. Funding is crucial for nonprofits to hire consultants and staff to prepare the organization to become investment ready.

Melissa: What are your plans for this next phase? 

Candice: We kind of identified the philanthropic sector as a key target. The Nonprofit, social enterprise and SPO sector needs more money to get investment ready. We need funders to understand the importance of that community wealth building side to get folks ready. It is a gap they can fill.

Paradigm shifts: where we fit in social finance ecosystems

Another obstacles noted was how nonprofit employees are trained to think in terms of the activities and services they provided, it can sometimes be challenging to think beyond that to how we fit in the wealth building ecosystem more broadly

“They still think in terms of ‘what we do, what services we provide’.” Candice explained, “and many nonprofits who run social enterprises see the social enterprise more as another program that they run, rather than something that is investable.”

It is a reminder that systems building requires us to envision a community in ways that exist outside of our routinized systems of operating, and how we view our relationships with the world and each other. That is not a perspective shift that is easy to make rapidly. I have been hearing a lot recently of how ecosystem building has to occur at the speed of trust. Perhaps it also has to occur at the speed of paradigm shifts in how we relate to our jobs, sectors, and labour? 

Thank you Candice for sharing your insights and experiences with ecosystem building in smaller regions of Ontario!

Photos Provided by ONN


Check out Blog 2 and Stay tuned throughout the winter for the rest of our Ecosystem Building Blog Series!

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Recommendations for a more inclusive and sustainable economy in Manitoba were shared with the Government of Manitoba recently through CCEDNet Manitoba on behalf of the Network’s over 95 member organizations in the province.

Clan Mothers Healing Village, a CCEDNet member organization, speaks at the 2023 Gathering of Community Builders.

Our Network stands behind these recommendations as contributing to key priorities for our province:

  • an inclusive economy & economic reconciliation
  • Manitoba jobs for Manitobans
  • making life more affordable with energy efficient social housing
  • community benefits for big projects
  • safer & healthier communities. 

The public policy solutions presented are based on the innovative Community Economic Development model. This approach involves place-based, community-led action that strengthens local ownership and control and engages the assets and capacity of community members.

Our members believe that when these solutions are scaled up, implemented, or enacted, they will serve to build fairer and stronger local economies, reduce poverty and homelessness, tackle climate change, and ensure sustainable and inclusive communities. 

How the Network’s mandate is set

Our public policy mandate is the result of a democratic decision-making process. Every year, members of CCEDNet Manitoba work together to create a pragmatic, wide-ranging, and solutions-focused set of public policy resolutions. At our annual policy summit, members gather to discuss and ratify these ideas after completing consultations and drafting resolutions.

What’s a budget submission and how do I participate?

A budget submission is a written document shared with the government that includes priorities for the government budget. It is an advocacy and lobbying tool, articulating a set of ideas, recommendations, and principles that the group submitting wants the government to adopt.

CCEDNet has been sharing budget submissions on behalf of members at multiple levels of government for many years.

Any Manitoban can get involved and share their opinion about what to include in Manitoba Budget 2024. You are welcome to share and uplift the ideas below. Find out the ways to get involved at this link: as simple as a survey or poll, or join a telephone town hall or meeting, or send in a submission of your own!


Summary of Recommendations

An Inclusive Economy & Economic Reconciliation through Community Economic Development

  1. Create a Manitoba Social Enterprise Strategy to spur the development and scaling of the sector.
  2. Create a Manitoba Co-operative Development Strategy to spur the development and scaling of the sector.
  3. Activate the Community Economic Development Committee of Cabinet through a staffing complement with specific positions to implement CED.
  4. Strengthen and utilize the Community Enterprise Development Tax Credit as a financing tool for Manitoba community groups, cooperatives, and social enterprises.

Manitoba Jobs for Manitobans

  1. Stabilize and increase workforce training funding for organizations and/or social enterprises who work alongside low-income communities/individuals with barriers, including organizations providing long-term supports for Indigenous job seekers.
  2. Provide additional grants to not-for-profit business and enterprise support services so that low-income people, including those living in rural communities, people with disabilities, and others can receive robust and timely services for accessible business, cooperative and social enterprise development training and consulting supports.
  3. Expand the core funding for the Youth Employment Hub and First Jobs 4 Youth programs to Neighbourhood Renewal Corporations and other community-based organizations across Manitoba through the Department of Families, learning from the successful model at Spence Neighbourhood Association.
  4. Establish a streamlined and non-stigmatizing fee waiver system that enables low-income Manitobans to obtain or replace a birth certificate free of charge. Ensure that incarcerated individuals are provided with necessary identification, either entering or exiting incarceration, as well as youth exiting Child and Family Services prior to transitioning out of care.

Community Benefits for Big Projects

  1. Enhance government procurement by intentionally generating economic, social, and environmental outcomes, including creating meaningful employment opportunities, by:
    • Requiring social, environmental and/or economic community benefit outcomes when purchasing goods and services by including them in the bid evaluation process, with a particular emphasis on employment and training outcomes
    • Creating set-asides in purchasing for access by social enterprises, cooperatives, and/or non-profits, building from the Manitoba Housing model
    • Purchasing the social, environmental and economic outcomes directly as a program (for instance, purchasing the services of a social enterprise training program that also provides goods and services to government)

Making Life More Affordable with Energy Efficient Social Housing

  1. Increase the social housing supply by supporting the capacity of community-based organizations, social enterprises, and cooperatives to build and own more affordable and energy efficient housing through better government and sector alignment, support for organizations to leverage funding, and direct government support. Prioritize retrofitting existing social and affordable housing stock while creating employment opportunities in the green economy.

Safer and Healthier Communities

  1. Renew a community-led development, neighbourhood renewal program, particularly targeting places facing higher rates of poverty and social exclusion.
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From an interview with Laura Pelser (current staff) and Katie Daman (co-founder)

Fireweed Food Co-op is a multi-stakeholder cooperative consisting of producers and consumers. Since it’s inception in 2016, this co-op has been a member of CCEDNet. 

Katie and Laura shared how CCEDNet has been there for Fireweed Food Co-op, building connections and relationships that have helped the organization grow and flourish.

Fireweed Food Co-op is a multi-stakeholder cooperative consisting of producers and consumers. Since its inception in 2016, this co-op has been a member of CCEDNet. In an interview with Cate Friesen from The Story Source, staff member Laura and co-founder Katie share about the benefits of CCEDNet membership and the connections that it brings. 

photo of woman next to pink wall with fireweed logo

If CCEDNet wasn’t there, what would be missing would be the connection between Fireweed’s work and local policies. That’s a big focus of the We Want To Work meetings that I’ve attended. I didn’t study anything to do with policies or politics, it’s a completely new area for me, and it’s been very clearly facilitated by CCEDNet.” -Laura Pelser, staff member

Learn more about CCEDNet Manitoba’s Advocacy and Government Relations work, and support for community coalitions.

“CCEDNet’s commitment to increasing education around social enterprise was important for getting a handle on it for our own sakes, but also for communicating it externally to funders, stakeholders, and community partners.”– Katie Daman, co-founder

Learn more about Manitoba Learns programming on our website.

“I’ve attended member meetups and it feels really great to go to an event where someone from CCEDNet will say, “oh, you’re from Fireweed. Come meet this person.” We’re able to see other social enterprises that are more established and that helps put our challenges and opportunities in context — like there’s blueprints laid out to being a more established social enterprise, and our connections through CCEDNet help us see that.”– Laura Pelser, staff member

Learn more about CCEDNet Manitoba, connect with the Manitoba team, and ask us about membership

CCEDNet has been an incredible advocate for Fireweed, celebrating our and encouraging us to keep up the work that we’re doing. And, I think, helping other organizations get behind what our vision is of this alternative food system.” – Katie Daman, co-founder

Photo of farmers market sale and a quote from Fireweed Food Co-op co-founder

Thank you Cate Friesen from The Story Source for interviewing Laura & Katie!

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Check out the Manitoba region newsletter for January 2024 here.

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

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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!

Testimonials

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.”

Reflection

“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.”

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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:

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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.

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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

Verona
Thibault

SEDA

Colleen
Christopherson- Cote

Toby
Esterby

Sarah
Leeson-Klym

CCEDNeet

Interviewer and Editor:
Melissa Sinfield, Regional Initiatives Manager 

Blog Summary

Read this you 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!

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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!

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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) catalystcommunityfinance.ca) if you’d like to get involved and sign another/ amended letter.

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