Enterprising Non-Profits is driving social enterprise development in rural B.C.

May 8, 2013

Communities across central and northern B.C. are embracing the development of social enterprises across an array of economic sectors “We’ve seen a real change in the sector … we’re seeing a movement from wondering what [social enterprise] is to knowing what it is and wanting to implement it,” explained Kimberly Buksa, Social Enterprise Program Specialist, ENP. In partnership with Northern Development, ENP provided $360,347 in funding to more than 50 projects in central and northern B.C. since 2007. “We’ve had some really great projects and grants that have come out of the north … it makes us very proud to be in the region,” said Buksa. “The north was the first rural region we went to outside of Vancouver, it’s great to see all of that work pay off with the development of the sector.” Developing social enterprise in central and northern communities supports non-profits to become more financially sustainable, allowing them to better solve the social concerns in their communities. In 2012, in partnership with Northern Development, ENP has hosted seven social enterprise introduction workshops and funded 12 projects from non-profits in the north with close to $69,000.

In addition to facilitating learning and capacity building opportunities, ENP provides grants, up to a $10,000 maximum, to support organizations looking to strengthen and develop their operations. Feasibility, business and marketing planning are the typical areas of support requested from organizations. “A lot of other areas look to the north to see what’s being done to think about what they can be doing in their communities,” said Buksa. In the Nass Valley, the Nisga’a Village of Gitwinksihlkw is exploring the development of a social enterprise-style recycling program. Meantime, the Bulkley Valley Historical and Museum Society is creating a marketing strategy to widen its reach into B.C.’s cultural tourism sector.

In Prince George, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is looking at how a social enterprise catering company can benefit clients traditionally served by the CMHA. “The diversity and growth of social enterprise activity across northern and central B.C. is evident, but laying the structure for social enterprise to flourish is not without challenges,” said Buksa. “The hardest challenge is the travel, it’s hard for us to get out to the organizations, and for the organizations it’s hard to have the business resources they need. The remoteness of the [north] is the ongoing challenge.” To address these geographical barriers, the ENP team travels directly to communities to deliver workshops and provide support. For their celebration of Social Enterprise Day, the provincially recognized date of March 27, ENP used Internet technology and live streaming to reach northern communities who were not able to attend. In 2012, ENP worked with participants representing 19 communities and 52 organizations from across the north.