Building capacity for social enterprises in Saskatchewan
Workshops in two cities support connections among entrepreneurs
Saskatchewan social business ventures have been very entrepreneurial in their revenue-generating tactics, says Affinity Credit Union community development manager Irene Gannitsos. This is one of the highlights she notes from last week’s “Building your Social Enterprise Workshops” in Regina and Saskatoon with David LePage, team manager of Enterprising Non-profits (ENP) — a collaborative program that supports social enterprise development as a means of building healthier communities.
Each workshop provided a day of learning on the types, benefits, organizational readiness and development of social enterprises. Urban Systems, Affinity Credit Union, United Way Regina and United Way of Saskatoon and Area sponsored the sessions in an effort to build capacity in the region.
Social enterprises — business ventures operated by non-profit organizations — aren’t new to Saskatchewan. Workshop attendee Namerind Housing Corporation is a long-standing Aboriginal housing organization that is developing community enterprises to generate revenue for its safe, quality and affordable housing projects. As part of this effort, a landscaping/snow removal company was recently purchased.
Irene says she was struck by a number of organizations at the workshops who discussed their entrepreneurial tactics. Among them are the Saskatchewan Environmental Society which provides programming and services, including energy assessments to help clients identify ways to reduce energy use.
“What really came out of the workshops was the desire to learn from each other by bringing groups together,” Irene says. “Moving forward we’ll hopefully provide a forum for organizations to expand their enterprises, and strengthen their existing ventures.”
Several workshop participants echoed the benefits of learning from others in the field and connecting with what is happening across the country through events like these ones.
“There are a lot of strong organizations in Saskatchewan. This effort is about creating more support and helping enhance what’s going on,” Irene says.
She notes that social enterprises aren’t for everyone, as they require particular skills development, capacity and commitment. They are one tool in a toolbox for supporting community development, she says.
“We believe, and I believe, that social enterprise is one approach to supporting our goal and responding to community interest and needs. We’re committed to looking at innovative approaches and partnering with other stakeholders in the community to benefit nonprofits and the individuals and families and communities they serve,” she says.
Irene hopes the workshops offer one step forward in bringing new resources, whether educational, financial or infrastructural, to the region to support current and potential social ventures.
“I’m definitely energized by the amount of activity and intention in the community and the learning that can be had in Saskatchewan,” she says. “And also by the potential of continuing to work in partnership with Urban Systems and United Way and other funders and government to create an environment and tools and resources that can support nonprofits to build and strengthen social enterprises.”
Urban Systems’ sponsorship of the workshop comes as the company establishes a new branch in Saskatoon, led by Clayton Drewlo, to support sustainable community development in a new market buoyed by growth.
As well, Urban Systems has formed Urban Matters to help create sustainable solutions with greater impact for communities.