Community building is part of comprehensive Saskatchewan practice
Urban Systems comes to province ‘not with our hands out but trying to help’
Urban Systems is supporting the sustainability and prosperity of communities in a number of ways with its new practice in Saskatchewan, as evidenced by its sponsorship of recent workshops on social enterprise.
“This is Urban Systems — this is part of how our organization wants to enter into an exciting and growing new market,” principal Ken Gauthier says. “We are looking to provide support through our professional practice, but also to reach out and look for other ways that we can add value to the community.”
Held in September, the workshops featured team manager David LePage of Enterprising Non-profits (ENP) British Columbia engaging representatives largely from the social service sector on how to build a social enterprise. The sessions, also focused on growing connections and sharing lessons learned, were presented by Urban Systems, Affinity Credit Union and the United Ways of Regina and Saskatoon.
With its connections to the social innovation movement in parts of Canada, Urban Systems can help support the development of sustainable models in Saskatchewan’s NGO (non-governmental organization) sector.
“It’s a competency we are interested in and can bring with our practice,” Ken says. “We come to Saskatchewan not with our hands out but trying to help.”
Urban Systems’ support of the Saskatchewan workshops complements ENP B.C.’s collaborative program to promote and support the development and growth of social enterprise in Canada as a means to build strong, nonprofit organizations and healthier communities.
Both Ken and David are members of the BC Partners for Social Impact, and Urban Systems has launched its own social enterprise, Urban Matters.
“We always look for ways to collaborate and here was this opportunity where both were looking to provide support in Saskatchewan, and we thought it would be great if we could do it together,” Ken says.
David says some amazing work is being done in Saskatchewan around growing social enterprise, and “whole new sets of collaboration” are emerging to energize the space, like the one with Urban Systems, Affinity Credit Union and the United Ways.
“Urban Systems is saying, ‘We’re a private sector business and we want to figure out how we integrate a social value,’” David says. “A credit union is saying, ‘We’re a lending institution but we’re about building community.’ And then United Way, traditionally on the charity side of things, is saying, ‘We’re looking at a bigger picture here, we want to look at social enterprise.’
“If you look at that example of what’s going on in Saskatchewan, that kind of partnership with the community-driven nonprofits is quite amazing,” David says.
As it continues to establish its presence in Saskatchewan, Urban Systems is exploring opportunities to build a comprehensive practice that supports sustainable, meaningful community development.
“Our core business is going to link to communities through traditional channels,” Ken says. “What’s exciting here is this plugs into another key element of community. By being a participant, a supporter, a sponsor around developing a social enterprise ecosystem, we’re going to connect with community movements and learn about who the change makers are and what organizations are trying to build for the future, and I think that just adds richness and complexity to the kind of community solutions we’re trying to provide.”