Impak Finance Diary on Winnipeg

December 23, 2016

INNOVATION ALLEYAfter 2 days on board the train – internet-less (much to the demise of Audrey-Anne who’s just about to breakdown) – we arrive at dawn in the surprising city of Winnipeg.

“The Peg” – as trendy locals call it – resembles a secret garden. Under a somewhat harsh allure lays an effervescent world about to explode. One finds delicious coffee shops (including The Forth and Fools & Horses, our home bases for a few days), delicious breakfasts, innovative start-ups, a social finance network unique in Canada, and dynamic entrepreneurs who want to make a difference in their environment. Our stay allows us to meet real change-makers who shape the image of their city.

Social Finance: A Booming Sector

On Tuesday, November 15, we attended the Social Finance Forum in Winnipeg. Organized by the Canadian CED Network (Community Economic Development), the Forum proved to be an excellent platform for understanding the realities of social finance in Manitoba. Good news: the sector is booming!

In recent years, the Manitoba government has turned to social enterprises as a “vehicle to reduce poverty through job creation”. The province “has also been undertaking structural changes to better align training resources with poverty reduction and social inclusion activity.”

Supported by a number of stakeholders such as CED, the growing ecosystem allows private companies, government bodies, NPOs and for-profit businesses to build on common values to promote social entrepreneurship in Manitoba.

The Forum allowed us to fully understand the existing models. But mostly, it has enabled us to validate Canadians and social entrepreneurs’ need for a bank that represents them. One involved in creating value and has a positive impact on people and the environment.

Meeting Entrepreneurs One-On-One

For the remainder of the week, we tried something different. After the Forum, we quickly realized we could not approach Winnipeg like other communities. Rather than engaging in our traditional workshops, we sat down with entrepreneurs, one-on-one. We wanted to understand their challenges and envision the ecosystem within a more global vision.

We met with entrepreneurs from all walks of life: Dan and Suzanne from North Forge, an innovation hub and the biggest FabLab in North America; David from Citi Grow, an urban agriculture endeavour; James and Wadood from the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce; Shaun from the Social Enterprise Center. Their thought sharing allowed us to identify important issues. The impak Finance team will consider these issues in the coming months to create an offer in support of young Winnipeg entrepreneurs:

  1. Establish a mentoring program and a project accelerator program for entrepreneurs.
  2. Ensure entrepreneurs’ financial understanding and stay in touch to safeguard their company’s financial health.
  3. Engage with the community at the very base rather than maintain lopsided power relationships between bank and borrowers.
  4. Promote capital for start-ups and young entrepreneurs with access to microcredit to start their business, and multi-source finance solutions between the bank, the entrepreneurs and their community.

We left Winnipeg with a head full of ideas, inspired by its entrepreneurs and by its vibrant, growing ecosystem. It is becoming increasingly clear that each place is different and we must not neglect an environment’s peculiarities if we wish to properly integrate. It’s a challenge! But we are ready to work with the different provinces to make our dream a real success. Now more than ever!

Originally published by impak Finance on November 30, 2016

Laurence Audette-LagueuxLaurence Audette-Lagueux is a Community Architect with impak Finance. She is also Connector/Community Manager with OuiShare Montréal and was previously Crowdfunding Campaign Manager with KissKissBankBank in Montréal.