One of the challenges of trying to keep track of community economic development (CED) in a country like Canada is that there is so much going on in disparate places and diverse sectors that it's easy to get the impression we aren't making much progress on the whole.
So for the year end I wanted to compile my own top 10 list that would pull together some of the most encouraging developments in the last year. Naturally, this list is far from exhaustive, but it serves as a good sampling of the promising progress being made in different places and areas of activity.
- Co-ops: The bilingual apex organization for the co-operative movement in Canada, Co-ops and Mutuals Canada, was officially launched in April, providing a new, united voice representing and supporting co-operatives in Canada. The federal all-party caucus on co-ops met for the first time, and the 2nd International Summit on Co-operatives held in Québec City was an even bigger success than the first. A very positive year for Canadian co-operators!
- Social Enterprise: Enthusiasm for social enterprises continues to grow across the country. In particular, procurement strategies are getting increasing attention, with the first Buy Social Canada Summit in 2014 and the introduction of the Buy Social Canada mark, which is expected to be officially launched at the 2015 Canadian Conference on Social Enterprise.
- Finance: In September, Canada's National Advisory Board to the G8 Social Impact Investment Taskforce launched their report, which is a tour de force on the regulatory and fiscal situation for impact investing in Canada. Provincially, New Brunswick became the fourth province to create CED Investment funds, and the Community Social Planning Council of Greater Victoria published an excellent guide for creating community-sourced financing tools.
- International: The Social and Solidarity Economy is getting increasing attention at the United Nations thanks in large part to RIPESS and the Inter-Agency Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy. Civil society organizations internationally are focusing on getting social and solidarity economy included in the UN's post-2015 development agenda, which will guide international agencies' development priorities and trajectory for years to come.
- Research: One of the last products of the Canadian Social Economy Hub was a special issue of Canadian Public Policy on the social economy that came out in 2014. Cross-Canada research on the value of co-ops and social enterprises continues, with the publication of a New Brunswick report on their economic impact. The Rural Development Institute at Brandon University was awarded a major new research grant, and the journal Community Development announced a special issue on Collective Impact for Community Development, co-edited by Tamarack's Liz Weaver. In 2015, in addition to the always stimulating CASC and ANSER meetings, watch for the CU2 Expo at Carleton University.
- CED with Official Language Minority Communities: CCEDNet members RDÉE Canada and CEDEC carried out the fieldwork for the first ever economic plan for official language minority communities which should be launched in 2015.
- Enabling Policy: Manitoba and Québec continue to lead on the policy front: Manitoba introduced a very positive budget in the spring, and has been involved in the co-design of a social enterprise strategy that will be launched in early 2015. Québec formed an Advisory Committee of Social Economy Partners to implement the province's 2013 social economy framework law, and Nancy Neamtan from the Chantier de l'économie sociale gave the keynote at our Manitoba Gathering, sharing insights on Québec's success. CCEDNet's Policy Council has proposed an update to our Policy Priorities, which will be discussed at our upcoming webinar. With the impending federal election, policy will be a big priority in 2015, so consider attending if you can.
- Thought Leadership: I know I'm old school, buying real paper books, but I'm going to need a new bookshelf soon for the amazing work being produced by smart people around the world. I'll mention just three publications from Canadians here: Sonja Novkovic and Tom Webb's Co-operatives in a Post-Growth Era is an marvellous edited compilation with insights for a more environmentally sustainable and equitable economy. The tireless and joyful CCEDNet founding member Paul Born shares more of his leading insights in Deepening Community. And a little book you may have heard about, This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein, is remarkably aligned with the ideas and analysis articulated in The Resilience Imperative, co-authored in 2012 by CCEDNet founding member Mike Lewis.
- Supporting a New Economy: Last June, the New Economy Coalition held their first conference and member meeting in Boston, with many Canadians soaking up the rich connections being made. An active NEC member, CCEDNet promoted New Economy Week in Canada and partnered with One Earth on a blog series that explores how to build an economy that works for people, place and the planet.
- Building a Movement: We are always looking for opportunities to build bridges and make connections with people who share our vision and values. This year, a key opportunity was at the People's Social Forum, where over 5,000 people gathered to identify strategies for change.
Although this list is far from complete, and it can sometimes be hard to see, I hope this review illustrates some of the many ways we are making progress. And the upside of being such a diverse movement is that there are always places doing innovative things, improvements to celebrate and terrific people to learn from.
So that is what we'll continue to do in 2015, thanks to our members (who also, you may have noticed, happen to be many of the people doing the fantastic work mentioned above).
What was your 2014 highlight? Login to comment below.
My best wishes for the year ahead.
Michael Toye is the Executive Director of the Canadian CED Network, having worked in various other capacities with CCEDNet since 2000. Michael has also taught courses on CED and social enterprise at Concordia University and has written a number of articles and other publications on CED and the social economy, including co-editing the book, Community Economic Development: Building for Social Change.
Read Michael's blogs