Local chapter of national CED organization shows how community-driven economics can lead to success.
Community economic development (CED) is a movement that’s all about grassroots initiatives intended to create resilient and sustainable local economies.
But often those working to build better communities need a little help making connections or finding their footing. That’s where the Canadian Community Economic Development Network (CCEDNet) and its provincial chapters such as CCEDNet Manitoba come in.
Founded in 1999, CCEDNet is member-led and committed to improving communities by fostering economic opportunities that make for improved social and environmental conditions. It strives to build links between like-minded organizations and help them gain the skills needed to function and grow. Both CCEDNet and its members are committed to the values of inclusion, diversity and equity.
The Manitoba chapter of CCEDNet also works on policies with governments of all levels to promote CED. They encourage support for sectors like social enterprise and more equitable access to employment and housing.
CCEDNet Manitoba’s membership includes organizations of all types and sizes, including ACU, Mother Earth Recycling, Manitoba Green Retrofit, SEED Winnipeg, Jubilee Fund, numerous neighbourhood organizations from around the city and beyond, IRCOM and the West Broadway Community Organization, just to name a few.
Moving community development forward
Sarah Leeson-Klym is Regional Director of CCEDNet Manitoba and has been with the organization for nearly eight years.
Her team works hard to grow the field by offering workshops, training and other opportunities to help community organizations build their practice. They’re also involved in policy development, public engagement and advocacy, especially with the provincial government, and they work with a broad range of community organizations, co-ops and businesses.
CCEDNet Manitoba works to promote their vision throughout the community. “We’re at conferences, talking to student groups and other non-profits to build awareness of community economic development,” said Sarah, who studied social justice theory at The University of Winnipeg.
Assiniboine Credit Union has long been linked with CCEDNet’s Manitoba chapter, both as a member and by supporting many of the organization’s initiatives. In fact, CCEDNet Manitoba’s first Regional Director, Brendan Reimer (who held the position for 11 years), is now ACU’s Strategic Partner for Values-Based Banking.
How do we define CED? Better, fairer, sustainable, more inclusive communities and economies,” Brendan explained. “CED fundamentally acknowledges and recognizes that to accomplish sustainability, inclusion and fairness, there has to be an economic aspect to sustainability, to fairness and to inclusion.”
Gathering community builders in annual event
The Manitoba chapter of CCEDNet received important early funding from both the United Way and the provincial government. “Member strength, the provincial government, local foundations and supporters like ACU really helped establish us here,” Sarah said.
To this day, the organization remains focused on connecting members of the community. Its largest annual event called The Gathering brings together more than 500 participants every autumn, normally at St. John’s High School in Winnipeg’s North End. It features speakers, workshops and a chance to network.
This event is an opportunity for a wide range of groups devoted to CED initiatives to connect and make new relationships. “It’s the largest annual CED conference in Canada, as far as I know,” Brendan said.
The 2018 Gathering will be held on October 19 with the theme, The Edge of Change: Where We’re From, Where We’re Going. Entry is on a pay-what-you-can basis, so no one is excluded. “It’s open to absolutely everybody,” Sarah said.
Providing a spark for social development
CCEDNet Manitoba offers year-round programming to help support its members. “Our Strengthening Non-Profits Workshops focus on topics generated by our members,” said Sarah.
On the skills side, there are two general areas in need. “On one hand are things organizations can learn in house — like proposal writing, strategic planning, good governance and project evaluation,” Brendan said. “So that’s where a lot of the workshops come in — providing opportunities for members of the network to learn the skills they need.”
Sometimes, member organizations need more specialized help — like legal assistance or the services of an engineer or graphic designer. That’s where CCEDNet Manitoba’s Spark program comes in, which connects organizations with volunteers willing to offer their professional services — pro bono.
Spark supports organizations that have a capacity challenge by connecting them with a professional who will get them through that challenge,” explained Sarah. A number of ACU staff members have taken part in Spark, including Kim Champion Taylor, ACU’s Vice-President, People Solutions.
“Members of the ACU human resources team will get matched with an organization through Spark and help them with developing their compensation policies or updating their job descriptions,” Kim said. “Smaller organizations often don’t have the resources to hire or contract out for that.”
Public policy and future work
Policy work has also been a big focus for CCEDNet from day one. “We recognized there needed to be a voice to advocate for this development philosophy,” said Brendan.
CCEDNet also led the way in co-creating the four-year Manitoba Social Enterprise Strategy in partnership with the provincial government, providing leadership and advocacy to develop and support the sector. “We’re hopeful we’ll see the province come forward with another strategy,” Sarah explained of the partnership wrapped up this spring.
She has seen a growing interest in the social enterprise model. “We’ve seen strength in Winnipeg for years, but now we’re also seeing a lot of interest from northern and remote groups. Those communities are realizing that community-based organizations are so crucial to their communities and they’re not as well linked as groups in the south. I think there’s a real opportunity for us to do the kind of organizing work we’ve done in the south.”
CCEDNet Manitoba has supported the work of a number of initiatives in line with its core values. For example, it’s played a significant role as part of the Right to Housing Coalition to get the Province to create Rent Assist, which helps thousands of low-income Manitobans access affordable housing.
CCEDNet’s legacy includes policy initiatives such as the Community Enterprise Development (CED) Tax Credit that Peg City Car Co-op is using these days,“ Brendan said. Peg City has leveraged the CED Tax credit program to expand its fleet and improve its technology.
CCEDNet Manitoba also helped connect the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM) to develop partnerships with SEED Winnipeg Inc., the United Way of Winnipeg, ACU and the province to develop an asset-building program to help newcomers to Canada learn how to navigate financial processes and establish themselves.
CCEDNet Manitoba has a long relationship with Assiniboine Credit Union. “We work together on a number of our programs and they are long-time supporters,” said Sarah.
In addition to Brendan being CCEDNet Manitoba’s first staff member, the founding national CCEDNet Executive Director, Garry Loewen, is also an ACU board member.
ACU has been a sponsor for most of the Manitoba Gathering conference’s history, is involved on our planning team and often provides workshops as part of the content of the conference,” said Sarah. “When policy work aligns with ACU, they’re also a big voice in the community. They’ve been a vocal supporter of some of our policy mandate.”
Why has Winnipeg been such a hub for CED?
Even before the founding of CCEDNet Manitoba, ACU was an early advocate of the CED philosophy.
ACU was already a key player building the language of CED back in the 1990s when SEED Winnipeg and the North End Community Renewal Corporation were starting, as were other organizations that used the language of CED,” Brendan said. “ACU was right there.”
“There’s an interest and a need for collaboration that’s really deep-rooted here,” said Sarah. “In terms of the modern work of CED, I think Winnipeg just had the perfect storm of organizations that were doing important work early on to show the way forward.”
Here’s a Manitoba not-for-profit that offers free assistance to job-seekers.
Photos via Sarah Leeson-Klym.