Setting an Irreversible Direction: Community Benefit Agreements & Social Procurement

June 4, 2013

Change Toronto brought together three dynamic speakers on May 23rd to share their experiences in developing community benefit agreements (CBAs) from a community, government, and international perspective. CBAs are a way of integrating social benefits into procurement processes and development agreements.   

Guled Warsame, Unite here Local 75 presented about CORD (Community Organizing for Responsible Development) and rooted the audience in the effort and tangible outcomes that come from knocking on neighbours’ doors. Rexdale’s community buy-in led to incorporating good jobs, affordable housing, training, and childcare into the proposed Woodbine Live development.

Karen Wilson shared key lessons from her work at the City of Toronto Employment and Social Services in using city building initiatives to connect with the city employment programs. The positive results have led to exciting news – the city of Toronto will now embed social procurement in policy.

CBAs set an irreversible direction of travel according to Gerry Higgins, CEiS (Community Enterprise in Scotland) and he underscored the importance of raising the capacity of social enterprises to be ready for upcoming work opportunities. Gerry cited some local examples to explore CBAs – namely with Metrolinx and the 2015 Pan Am games. Since both will necessitate significant investments in infrastructure, there are opportunities to increase employment and training opportunities for local residents, and to support social enterprise.

Key take-aways from the session:

  • Identify champions and early adopters in different sectors who will support CBAs.
  • Prepare social enterprises to be at the right place when an opportunity for social procurement comes.
  • Tell the story of CBAs well – engage media partners.
  • Continue to work off the side of the desk and have unusual conversations.
  • Build off the shoulders of our ancestors.
  • Get going! Break down silos!

Change Toronto will be hosting more events about the future of Toronto and efforts that can be made now to address social challenges, click here to find out about the next opportunity.

On the same day, a member of CCEDNet – Social Enterprise Toronto (SET) invited Gerry Higgins, CEiS, to present on key strategies for the social enterprise sector from a global perspective. Gerry assisted the Department of Trade and Industry to create the first Social Enterprise Strategy for the UK in 2001 and was a founding director of the UK Social Enterprise Coalition (Social Enterprise UK). Setting the stage for the development of social enterprise in Scotland alone has led to the creation of 509 social enterprises in 2012.

Gerry highlighted the positive growth of the social enterprise sector in Canada and proposed a partnership between SET and CEiS to keep the sector moving forward. SET welcomed two interns from the CreateAction program whose research projects will focus on gathering information and practices that are of use to new and existing social enterprises, as well as organize a Greater Toronto Area social enterprise conference scheduled for October 2013.

All attendees were encouraged to think of at least two action items to move this sector forward – what will yours be? Bring them to the Calgary Social Enterprise World Forum where CCEDNet is looking forward to building on the important dialogue that resulted from the events on May 23rd and re-connecting with Gerry Higgins, host of the inaugural Social Enterprise World Forum in 2008.

Thank you to Out of This World Café for providing the tasty treats that helped keep ideas and questions flowing late into the afternoon.