Notes from the Road: Brendan’s CED Adventure in Saskatoon

December 18, 2013

Notes from the Road: Visiting CCEDNet Members in Saskatoon
I recently had the opportunity to visit Rider Nation, well Saskatoon’s portion of it at least, to touch base with several of our amazing members doing so many great things. CCEDNet’s Saskatchewan members are involved in diverse activities to build community capacity, reduce poverty, and strengthen our local economies through co-op and social enterprise development.

I have a natural affinity for Saskatoon, a city that is in many ways a lot like my hometown of Winnipeg, with a strong arts and cultural scene and prairie agricultural and co-operative roots. Perhaps most importantly, each city has a strong spirit of community organizing to take on the tough challenges and make changes to improve the quality of life for those around them. Both Winnipeg and Saskatoon are also identified by their passionate football fans, with the significant difference this year being the on-field results between Riderville and the Blue & Gold. . . (to be settled in the 2014 Labour Day Classic & Banjo Bowl!). . .
Housing Opportunities & More
A key anchor in Saskatoon’s CED community is Quint Development Corporation, a founding member of the Canadian CED Network. With an initial focus on increasing housing opportunities for individuals in Saskatoon’s West-side core neighbourhoods, Quint’s Neighbourhood Home Ownership Program has helped 110 low-income families purchase or renovate homes since 1996 in addition to the 100+ families that now have access to affordable rental housing thanks to the work of Quint. Beyond just providing ‘four walls and a roof,’ Quint’s innovative housing programs integrate social, economic and environmental objectives into each housing project to maximize community benefit. Examples of this holistic approach are found in Quint’s Male Youth Lodge and Pleasant Hill Place, two supportive living environments which provide a variety of educational and life supports for young men and women, respectively. Quint also operates a dynamic Core Neighbourhoods At Work Program that provides career, employment and training services to hundreds of people each year.

Food Security
Another key partner in the inner city, poverty reduction, and food security work is CHEP. CHEP Good Food Inc. seeks to build stronger communities from the ground (or garden) up. This diverse organization works with youth and families to improve access to good food and promote food security. CHEP’s holistic approach has led them to create a wide variety of programs, which include community gardens, good food boxes, collective kitchens, and children nutrition programs.
Community Hub of Social Innovation
In the true spirit of cooperation, Quint and CHEP have worked together to create a major community asset with multiple benefits to the local community in Station 20 West. Station 20 West is a vibrant community enterprise centre that offers efficient and sustainable services to Saskatoon’s core neighbourhoods. This community hub provides a “one-stop-shop” for public health, food security, employment and housing services – from a library to, university outreach to  groceries. Every time I get a chance to visit Station 20 West, I am inspired by this monument to community vision and the dedicated and tireless perseverance that it took to realize this dream.
Community Finance
Like all great CED work, Station 20 West could not have been realized without strong financial support. This is where Affinity Credit Union comes in. Affinity Credit Union is one of the largest credit unions in Canada, with $4.5 billion in managed assets, and more than 140,000 members. But more importantly, in line with the co-operative principles, Affinity demonstrates a true commitment to building social and economic opportunities, and enhancing financial security in Saskatchewan communities. When over 3,000 individuals made financial contributions to Station 20 West, Affinity responded with $500,000 in support and provided the project with a $2.25 million mortgage. Along with other CCEDNet members Assiniboine Credit Union and Vancity Credit Union, Affinity rounds out the only three members of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values.

Co-operative Development
Another long time member of CCEDNet is Saskatchewan Co-operative Association (SCA). SCA is a provincial coalition of co-operatives and credit unions working to support and promote the co-operative model as a tool for CED. SCA achieves this mission by providing advisory services, information about the co-op model and training courses to enhance co-operative development. In addition to advancing policy objectives in support of co-operatives, SCA also operates a youth program which introduces young Saskatchewanians to the co-op model and provides them with key employment and career skills.
While I know these groups do amazing work in their own way, this Monday they came together with some other key stakeholders to explore the potential for social enterprise development in Saskatoon, and the broader province. The Enterprising Non Profits program that originated in BC is now spreading throughout Canada, and taking a close look to see whether this program could bring added value to the mission that these organizations are pursuing in Saskatchewan is important. Certainly, as I mentioned in a recent blog posting, social enterprises alone will never achieve the change we seek, but they absolutely have the potential to be one more mechanism to use in the pursuit of the world we want. Partnerships are key to successful ventures, and these key, grounded, effective members certainly have the capacity to do great things together.

In the afternoon, I was off to the University of Saskatchewan’s Centre for the Study of Co-operatives for a presentation by another CCEDNet member Dr. Monica Adeler, about creating supportive environments in which co-ops grow and flourish, with an eye on understanding the sector’s amazing success in nurturing environments such as Italy and Spain. The Centre has been a long-time member of CCEDNet as well, and a key partner in many research projects that we and our members have participated in. The folks at the Centre are a dedicated group of academics who work hard through a partnership model to create and advance knowledge about the co-operative model, the evidence of their impact in our lives and economies, and explore opportunities and challenges that we face. Dr. Adeler’s research, in fact, identified an Italian model of co-ops helping co-ops through building sector capacity that led to the Province of Manitoba creating the Co-op Development Tax Credit. Turning research into action, this model has already had a great impact on co-op development in Manitoba, and will continue to do so for years to come.
Saskatoon is a city with wonderful people, fantastic organizations, and great friends dedicated to making their home a better, fairer, more sustainable and inclusive place to live for everyone. I am inspired every time I have the privilege to see it first-hand.