We’ve Got to Work Together – Developing a National Conference as a Collaborative

July 24, 2017

ACEM Working TogetherCooperation, collaboration, community organizing, collective impact…whatever you call it, and however you go about it, the fact of the matter remains – we need to work together.

We need to work together because…

  • together we can get more work done, avoiding duplication of efforts, accessing a greater variety of skills and other assets, and tackling multi-faceted social issues from a variety of angles and in coordination with each other.
  • too many people are left out of the economy, left out of the community, left out of the conversation. The cost of inequality and exclusion are too great and we only end up losing out on human potential.
  • together we can hold each other accountable. By working in our own silos we might not recognize a need to change.

Community economic development (CED) emerged as a response to the failures of the ‘attract and retain’ model of economic development to address issues of local and regional economic decline and the systemic economic and social exclusion of marginalized members of the community. Central to the CED approach is having people within a community (whether one of place, identity, or organized around specific issues) work together to identify their collective strengths, find opportunities and collectively make an action plan. What a CED plan looks like and how it is developed in one community could be totally different in another community.

Intentionally, most of the work of the Canadian CED Network is collaborative in nature, working with and for our members and in partnership with other organizations with whom we share an affinity in mission. EconoUs2017 is a great example.

Every year we tender proposals from prospective co-hosts. With the successful co-hosts we identify strengths and opportunities at the local, regional and national levels, including other potential partners who could be involved in various aspects of the conference planning and program. As a result, each conference we’ve co-hosted has been different, reflecting the culture, mission, and networks of the local co-hosts.

Past National CED Conference Co-Hosts

Montréal | 2016
Winnipeg | 2009
Ka Ni Kanichihk and SEED Winnipeg
Saskatoon | 2008
Quint Development Corporation
St. John’s | 2007
Futures In Newfoundland And Labrador Youth! (FINALY!)
Vancouver | 2006
Fast Track to Employment
Sault Ste. Marie | 2005
Community Economic and Social Development Program of Algoma University and the Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition
Trois-Rivières | 2004
CDEC de Trois-Rivières

This year our co-hosts in Calgary are Thrive, Momentum, Calgary Economic Development, REAP, the Institute for Community Prosperity, and the Calgary Regional Partnerships (the table to the right shows who some of our co-hosts have been over the years). Planning EconoUs2017 has truly been a partnership between all 7 organizations, each bringing their own team, networks, resources, and unique perspectives to the table.

To help us develop a program reflective of the diversity of the CED field in Canada we also assembled a Program Committee charged with the difficult task of reviewing workshop proposals, making recommendations about what workshops are to be selected and where there might be gaps, and guiding the development of other program elements like speakers, networking time, special events, etc.

Of course, the program wouldn’t come together if not for the participation of workshop leads and plenary speakers. They provide the real substance of the conference, delving into a diversity of topics that include anti-racism, economic empowerment of women, indigenous leadership, local investing, co-operative renewable energy, microlending, agriculture, and so much more! At the time that I am writing this, we have 72 confirmed speakers, 51% of whom are women and 35% of whom are from the host province. A full third of workshops will have simultaneous translation, showing our dedication to inclusion of both official languages. The speakers also represent a wide diversity in types of organizations/professionals involved (co-operatives, social enterprises, SMEs, government, nonprofits, funders, researchers, etc.).

While we have a lot of experience working in collaboration with others (see other examples below) that doesn’t mean we’re perfect at it. Every new working relationship is different and demands an openness in everyone to learn from each other and to be called out when expectations aren’t met. At last year’s conference, ECONOUS2016, we were rightfully called out for a lack of racial diversity in both the program and the overall participation. Our staff team took it seriously and met for the full day after the conference to start a conversation as an organization about diversity: ‘what do we mean by diversity,’ ‘what kinds of diversity are we talking about,’ ‘what are we already doing well,’ ‘what we could do going forward.’

We know that this is going to take some time, that more relationships need to be built. In our values statement we say that “the Canadian CED Network and its members are committed to the values of inclusion, diversity and equity.” This is no idle talk. We are open to suggestions and continued feedback on how we could do better.

​We hope to see you at EconoUs2017!

Other Examples of CCEDNet’s Collaborative Work

The Manitoba Gathering

At the Gathering, everything is collectively planned by a team of about 15 representatives from as many of the kinds of organizations we hope to serve at our event. This includes United Way, health care, post-secondary, neighbourhood or place-based development, co-ops and credit unions, social enterprises, women’s/newcomers/Indigenous serving organizations, and others. This team starts meeting 9-10 months ahead of the event and starts with a review of the previous year, a high level brainstorm about themes, speakers, and program, and then moves into program planning and logistical support. They curate the program, suggest sponsors, promote the event, and are the key volunteers. They bring in new stakeholders and ensure we use the event to role model CED principles in every aspect possible. While staff operationalize and implement their vision, the event is theirs collectively and it shows in how our participants feel the day is theirs.

The Social Enterprise Ecosystem for Scale (S4ES) Project

In order to foster continued successful growth of social enterprises and connect them with new social finance opportunities, we need to strengthen the social enterprise development ecosystem to provide adapted and accessible supports for business skills, market access and financing that will support growth-ready social enterprises to scale up their activities. 

S4ES is a collaborative effort of four of Canada’s recognized leaders in the social enterprise ecosystem and an acknowledged, international evaluator.

  • Canadian Community Economic Development Network, CCEDNet, will be the SEES project contractor & coordinator (ccednet-rcdec.ca)
  • Buy Social Canada will lead the Brand & Social Procurement efforts (www.buysocialcanada.ca)
  • Chantier de l’économie sociale will be implementing the on-line Social Economy Marketplace
  • Social Enterprise Institute, SEI, will lead the Business Skills and Capacity building activities
  • Social Value Lab, an international hub for social enterprise policy research and evaluation, will provide methodological and design expertise on project-wide evaluation and learning exchange

Ontario Social Economy Roundtable

The Ontario Social Economy Round Table (OSER) is a collective of independent and connected organizations interested in growing Ontario’s Social Economy. OSER aims to be a focal point for social economy stakeholders, who intend to put resources together in order to improve the general quality of life and the well-being of our society as a whole. Based upon the principles of democratic governance, equity, equality, solidarity, inclusion, sustainability and cross-collaboration, OSER is a space for dialogue, exchanges and collaboration to promote the growth of social economy.

Matthew ThompsonMatthew Thompson is Communications Manager with the Canadian CED Network (CCEDNet). He has worked with CCEDNet since 2007 in a variety of capacities including research and knowledge mobilization, event organizing, and the coordination of the national internship program, CreateAction. Matthew also co-authored Assembling Understandings: Findings from the Canadian Social Economy Research Partnerships, 2005-2011 a thematic summary of close to 400 research products on the Social Economy in Canada.

*The opinions expressed in blog posts are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of CCEDNet