Social profits are the backbone - a platform and a practice

Election platforms are usually ripe with ideas, initiatives and, at times, platitudes that speak to the burning issues of the day.  We may see candidates emerge that decide to plant their flag on one specific agenda item.  We've already seen others tackle systems-wide things like zero-base budgeting and access to more birthing options.  Platforms are the fodder to fuel the election fire.

One of the pillars of my platform is providing SUPPORT AND ADVOCACY FOR THE SOCIAL PROFIT SECTOR, or what people in other regions call the non-profit or voluntary sector.  The nomenclature began to change for us over the last year, perhaps beginning during the successful Convergence YMM event or as part of the Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo project.  Now, when you hear leaders like Mayor Blake talk about the sector that includes over 300 organizations, the term you hear consistently is "social profit", because that is what they generate.

On the "Platform" side of social profits, I will continue to advocate for continuing conversations around developing a framework for creating shared spaces and delivering shared services.  As we continue to grow, the need for space for social profit organizations is going to rise.  Adopting a multi-stakeholder model to develop, operate and maintain shared spaces is the best way to maximize financial resources, reduce unnecessary duplication and waste, and create collaborative, innovative environments so our social profit organizations can thrive.

We have a number of shared spaces right now.  The Wood Buffalo Community Village in Gregoire is home to a number of organizations including Volunteer Wood Buffalo, 868Air Cadets, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and several others.  The Redpoll Centre, home of the United Way of Fort McMurray, is a successful professional office environment for several nonprofits made possible thanks to the generosity of the Suncor Energy Foundation.  And MacDonald Island just issued an RFP (Request For Proposal) looking for an anchor tenant for the shared space that will be located in Shell Place.  But as we've discovered going through the City Centre Area Redevelopment process, many social profit organizations reside in and around areas in our downtown that are prime spots for development. Some have already been successfully relocated, others wait for the shoe to drop and wonder where they will be able to find a home in the future.

ENCOURAGING A PROCESS FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF A SHARED SPACE/SHARED SERVICE MODEL will go a long way to ensuring that this vital sector can remain healthy, effective and sustainable.  Lots of work has happened already through the Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo project and the various shared spaces that have been created.  With an extra push, working collaboratively across organizations and sectors, we can shift from being reactive to proactive, planning today to be ready for the needs that will emerge tomorrow.

As a personal practice and passion, I have been involved with social profits since moving to the community in 1996.  I intimately lived the life as volunteer president of interPLAY for over a decade.  I was in the inaugural class of Leadership Wood Buffalo and spent the years that followed on its board. More recently, during my first term in office, I began utilizing my skills to help strengthen the sector through a series of workshops and seminars.  Working closely with Connie MacDonald from Nonprofit Sector LINK we delivered well-attended sessions on communication, marketing, social media and advocacy.  I even tried my hand at graphical note-taking during the successful Convergence YMM event creating a series of drawings that were included in the final report.

On Saturday morning I was honoured to be the keynote speaker for the Community Registration Day breakfast, sharing some lessons learned about effective networking with great people in the social profit sector.

I spent the morning with Allison Pardy and the fine folks from CHOICES Fort McMurray, learning about the great work they're doing in removing barriers to employment and sharing some ideas on how Twitter can help them raise awareness and understanding about their services.  What wonderful, passionate and caring people.

As part of the United Way's Seeing is Believing tour, I gained firsthand knowledge of four important social profit organizations, reminding me yet again how much more there is to learn.  I wrote a blog all about that amazing learning experience which you can read here.

The social profit sector is fundamental to our strength and vitality as a region.  I'm proud to be a candidate with a platform and a practice that focuses on strengthening and supporting the thousands of people who work and volunteer with these organizations and the many more thousands that they serve.


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