Urban Matters Receives Community Contribution Company Certification
In 2013, Urban Matters was formed by parent company and professional community consulting firm Urban Systems as a means to create significant, sustainable impact into communities through a blended value business model.
Urban Matters was recently certified as a “Community Contribution Company” (CCC), a new hybrid between a non-profit and a regular for profit business. Having a C3 designation means that a company must legally conduct business for social purposes, not just for profit, and will be subject to a higher degree of accountability. These ventures are out to create profit but also to create real social change. “It’s all the same journey,” says Urban Systems Partner Ken Gauthier, “Just different channels. We don’t want to stay with the status quo.”
Today, NGOs have an increasing role and simultaneously face increasing financial difficulty. The role of government in community is decreasing and we are seeing a rise of citizenship and community responsibility. “A hundred years ago the government would be in charge of all of these problems, but today that’s not so,” says Ken.
When asked why now, Ken is reflective. “Because,” he says finally, “I feel like the place we’re providing our kids could be worse than the place that we grew up in. These issues festering in our communities are not going away, and if all everyone did was chase where dollars were flowing, we would be dealing with declining trends in all the communities we care about. I’m just crazy enough to think we can make a real impact, and even if we can’t, we have to try.”
A Unique Toolbox
Urban Matters has some secret weapons—its people, its connections and its way of thinking. One of the things that engineers do best is rethink problems from the ground up and pull people together to tackle them. Today’s social problems—everything from housing, social justice to health, isolation and inclusion—are desperate for that kind of analysis and action.
“Before we created Urban Matters we’d watch these problems unfolding in the headlines and kick ideas around at the water cooler,” says Ken “We’d have these great minds and systems thinkers who weren’t getting invited to the table to work on the problems because no one was convening everyone together.”
The folks at Urban Matters are keen to point out that they aren’t deep subject matter experts in all of our community’s problems, but rather critical thinkers with good connections and a solid understanding of how to find funding. Rather than subject specific expertise, the team, through their networks, provides energy, support, and technical expertise to help think through problems and to help organizations find their sustainable path.
Balancing Financial and Social Impact
And it’s not just about charity. For this kind of social/business hybrid to be sustainable, it needs to make money. “We need to keep the lights on and we can’t do that by giving our help away,” says Ken. “There’s a tug of war in that space between impact and profit. But because we’re a privately held company, we can make value based decisions instead of exclusively financial based decisions. That puts us in a unique position.”
It’s a brave new world, and Ken realizes that Urban Matters is just putting a toe in the water at the moment. “It’s very early days, but you’ve got to start. We’re out there to have an impact and change things for the better and we think we can. “
To learn more about C3 companies visit www.fin.gov.bc.ca/prs/ccc/
Read the Urban Matters manifesto here: www.urbanmatters.ca/about-us/