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5 Picks for Social Impact Holiday Gifts

By | Cooperatives Work, Social Enterprise, Social Impact | No Comments

Have a very merry social impact holiday5 PICKS FOR

It’s not too late for holiday shopping. By our count, there are still at least three evenings (not including the one on which this was published) to get out there and buy your loved ones gifts. But as you dash to the bus stop in the hopes of getting to the mall in time, we here at the Incipe Cooperative would love to encourage you to pick your holiday gifts so that they make a social impact.

After all, what better way to show your loved ones how much you love them than with products that are fairly sourced, fairly traded, and improve the life of people involved in bringing them to your family’s stockings, Christmas tree, or Festivus pole?

In the interests, though, of making your last-minute dash to the mall easier, we present to you our 5 picks for social impact holiday gifts.

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One key question to ask when your nonprofit is thinking social enterprise

By | Social Enterprise, Social Impact | No Comments

2200500024_33038620af_oThere’s something about December that leads many nonprofit organizations down the road of thinking about new plans with new energy. Maybe it’s the idea of January being a reboot moment – we know that feeling well!

One thing that lots of nonprofit organizations might be thinking about this time of year is starting a social enterprise. It’s a big and important question: the idea of a nonprofit launching a related business enterprise to bring in additional, non-grant revenue, while also supporting the nonprofit’s mission, vision, and values is something that is exciting — and something that can be world changing!

But there’s a key question that you need to ask: what can you, as a nonprofit do, that would be a successful social enterprise?

What’s your viable business idea?

This probably seems like a ridiculously simple question – but it’s one that a lot of nonprofits struggle with. Many times, when they come up with the idea to build a social enterprise, they cast about thinking about things that they can do to make money. And sometimes there’s a massive disconnect between what the organization is good at and what it chooses to do as a social enterprise. And that can lead to some significant challenges.

Here’s an example: imagine a seniors’ organization that arranges transportation, meal preparation, check-ins, and bulk grocery purchases. Imagine they want to build a social enterprise. And they come up with an idea of selling soap. Where’s the connection between what the organization is good at? Where’s the connection between the organization’s goals and what it can do for its target clients and audience?

There isn’t one – which means the nonprofit would likely need to bring on staff to handle soap production, soap delivery, and so much more. Then when it comes to assessing the potential of the social enterprise to build the success of the nonprofit, the assessment can come up lacking.

If your nonprofit is considering starting a social enterprise, you need to ask yourself a question: what do we do well that we could build into a social enterprise?

Here’s a chart that should help you consider this a bit more clearly:


That overlap between what you’re good at  and what can make money is where your nonprofit’s social enterprise can have the most impact.

Let’s take that imaginary seniors’ organization that arranges transportation, does meal preparation, and bulk grocery purchases. Imagine if, instead of starting a soap making social enterprise, they built on what where their already demonstrated strengths: food, meal preparation, and transportation, and if they leveraged something valuable they’re already doing: bulk grocery purchases. Could they build a social enterprises that uses these strengths? Maybe one that does catering? Maybe delivered meals? Maybe they could employ some of their seniors in this business.

Asking the simple question – what do we do well that we could build into a social enterprise – is a quick way to evaluate your potential social enterprise ideas and ensure that you’re going down the best possible path.

The path to building a social enterprise isn’t always easy. But if you want to engage a team to help you traverse that path, then we’re here for you. Get in touch.

We Need Cooperatives Now More Than Ever: A Reaction to BC’s 2015 Budget

By | Cooperatives Work, Government Relations | No Comments

Provincial policy could make an impact if it engaged cooperatives

Every year, the Province of British Columbia creates a budget – just like Thumbnail_BudgetSpeechevery other jurisdiction in Canada. And each year, when the Province creates its budget, it sketches out its policy priorities for the coming year.

This year, we were disappointed to find that the Province of British Columbia did not create policy opportunities to support cooperatives and community economic development in the budget. We need cooperatives now, more than ever, and we need the Province to support their impact in communities. In reading the Province’s budget, it’s our view that there are a number of places where government could invite cooperatives into their plans and projects and make real community impacts that have a long-lasting effect.

Since the economic crisis in 2008, British Columbians and Canadians want to find ways to support their local economies rather than subsidizing businesses that move that value out of communities and out of Canada. Cooperatives are a prime and valuable way to do that. If the Province of BC were to bring cooperatives into their planning, we’d make an impact.

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Community Investment Co-ops: putting your money to work locally

By | Cooperatives Work, Impact Investing, Social Enterprise, Social Impact | 2 Comments

Wind farms, coffee roasters, chocolates, and community investment co-opsJust Us! Coffee Roasters is a worker co-op supported by a community investment co-op

What do RRSPs, tax credits, wind farms, coffee roasters, and chocolates have in common? Well, in Nova Scotia, they’re all interrelated – and each one supports the other in powerful ways. In fact, Nova Scotia is leading Canada in doing something that the rest of the country should be doing – putting money to work locally. We can start in BC by building community investment cooperatives. Here’s how, and why. Read More

Choosing a form for your social enterprise

By | Cooperatives Work, Social Enterprise, Social Impact | No Comments

Does form follow function in social enterprise?

Our friends at the BCCA have a handy map that explains business forms.

Our friends at the BCCA have a handy map that explains business forms.

If you’re someone thinking about building a social enterprise, you’ll undoubtedly have to think about the form of the organization that you want to put together. Form follows function, to a certain degree, and form is really important when you’re thinking about what your social enterprise business will do.

In British Columbia, you have three (and a half) corporate forms that you can use to build a social enterprise. A corporate form is simply the kind of organization you build – don’t worry too much about the term ‘corporate,’ even though you might immediately think of corporations… a corporation is only one of the corporate form.

You’ll likely be quite familiar with two of the corporate forms, because they’re the kind you interact with all the time. The other one and a half forms may sound a little more unfamiliar, but they’re ones you should consider as well.

So, if you’re starting a social enterprise in BC, you can choose between a company (corporation), or a society (nonprofit), or a cooperativeThe final half option is a community contribution company.  I’ll explain a little bit about each of these below, but one thing I want you to really think about: form follows function.

I hear from a good number of people on a regular basis who have heard about one of these forms and who are really excited about them – and then want to build a business around the corporate form. This isn’t always the best idea. You should have your business idea, sometimes with your colleagues and collaborators, and then you should explore the form that fits it best. Going about this the other way around can cause some challenges.

This is important because each corporate form has a different kind of purpose. When you’re setting up your social enterprise, you’ll want to think about which one suits your purpose best. Read on to find out more.

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