Stronger Together

Oct 27th, 2022

Susan White

Eight leading community organizations have formed a new coalition aimed at better preparing social purpose organizations to access government funding.

Mariana Jiménez Ojeda wears a blue and white striped shirt and has short brown hair.
Mariana Jiménez Ojeda represents Memorial’s Centre for Social Enterprise on a new coalition of community-focused organizations.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Social Enterprise and Innovation Coalition is comprised of the Centre for Social Enterprise (CSE) at Memorial University; Choices for YouthEnd Homelessness St. John’sFirst LightFood First N.L.; the N.L. Federation of Co-operativesSmartICE; and Stella’s Circle.

The coalition aims to promote social innovation, strengthen social enterprises, develop a social finance ecosystem and enhance social impact delivery throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

“There are many social purpose organizations that are looking for ways to engage in the social finance space or to build their capacity to access available funding,” said Mariana Jiménez Ojeda, social finance and impact investment project co-ordinator, CSE. “Others could likely enter this space with some more support. What the sector currently lacks is co-ordination and backbone support for exploring, planning and readiness.

“More broadly, how organizations may integrate social finance concepts isn’t widely understood,” she added. “The coalition aims to address all of these gaps.”

Diversifying revenue sources

Jen Crowe, manager of strategic initiatives at Choices for Youth, says there is a clear need for a co-ordinated approach in accessing government funding.

Jen Crowe has long brown hair and wears a black top.
Jen Crowe of Choices for Youth says sector collaboration is critical.

“We’re seeing that, from mental health to homelessness to food insecurity, the needs of young people have spiked over the past two-and-a-half years,” she said. “The story is the same for most non-profit organizations in our province: the need has gone up but the funding has stayed the same. The coalition aims to attract more diversified sources of revenue through social finance and social procurement.”

In 2020 Choices for Youth built five affordable housing units in St. John’s.

The project was funded by the R. Howard Webster Foundation, which provides grants for charitable organizations and projects that benefit Canadian society. Construction was completed by Impact Construction, a social enterprise of Choices for Youth.

“As a small province, we need to have a united voice when it comes to attracting government and private investment.”— Jen Crowe

It was a project that both offered employment and saved government spending, says Ms. Crowe, by employing 38 young people who may have normally availed of government supports.

“There is an opportunity to scale models like this across the province, but collaboration is critical,” she said. “As a small province, we need to have a united voice when it comes to attracting government and private investment through social finance and social procurement.”

Collaboration is key

Doug Pawson, executive director of End Homelessness St. John’s, concurs.

“With so many challenges confronting communities across Newfoundland and Labrador, it’s more important than ever that the groups tasked with supporting folks through these challenges collaborate,” he said. “We’re stronger when we work together.”

Doug Pawson smiles and stands in front of a colourfully painted wall.
Doug Pawson

The coalition grew out of informal meetings of community organizations initiated by CSE in 2019 to identify gaps in the sector, discuss common challenges and look for ways to develop solutions.

Inaugural Social Procurement Summit

One of the issues identified is a lack of awareness about social financing: what it is, how organizations can develop social procurement policies and how social purpose organizations can avail of such policies and access funding.

As such, the coalition will host the N.L. Social Procurement Summit from Nov. 1-3 at Memorial.

“We decided to facilitate this event to enable dialogue and collaboration between stakeholders, and ideally plant the seed to grow a supportive and inclusive ecosystem for designing and implementing social procurement policies in the province,” said Ms. Jiménez Ojeda.

Breannah Flynn, director of business operations for First Light, says the summit is a key step in creating a social finance ecosystem.

Breannah Flynn stands in front of a wall with screens and posters.
Breannah Flynn

“We’re excited about the impact that social procurement will have on the social enterprise sector,” she said. “It’s an incredibly effective tool for engaging with social purpose organizations, and the potential it has to make public dollars go even further is tremendous. Having discussions with policy-makers and sector leaders at the summit is an important step in designing processes that work for everyone.”

Interested in attending the N.L. Social Procurement Summit? Register here.