Many leaders within British Columbia's disability sector are promoting and adapting a social finance strategy that parallels the seven recommendations of the Canadian Task Force on Social Finance released on November 30th.
They are doing it because they:

  • realize the days of increased government funding are over and they want to be prepared for more challenging times
  • know there will be more people with disabilities needing service in the near future and they want to make sure these people and their families are not ignored
  • want to improve the impact of existing programs.  For example, they want to create sustainable businesses that employ people with disabilities as an alternative to 'custodial' vocational programs or work experience                       
  • want to take charge of the agenda rather than waiting around for someone else (i.e. government) to do something
  • want to creative a supportive financial infrastructure for the creativity of people with disabilities, their families and non profits to tackle both existing and emerging challenges
  • want to move away from their social service silos and establish reciprocal relationships with businesses, government, arts and cultural organizations, environmental groups, neighbours, educational institutions…
  • want to become more disciplined and astute in how they lever their own organizational financial assets
  • realize they have to start thinking and acting like a movement rather than as individual organizations
  • practice solution based advocacy.

They are not looking to replace public money or to let government 'off the hook'.  However they do want to preserve the money they do have and make it go further and deeper.  They see social finance as a way to lever and mobilize existing resources of the sector as a whole and to attract new resources to improve social and economic justice for people with disabilities and their families.
Here are some of the things they are doing:

1) Challenging themselves, stepping outside their comfort zone, leaning the language and discipline of social finance, attending conferences on social finance and social capital markets, finding mentors and coaches and staying curious
2) Mapping all the financial assets of their sector not just annual government grants.  In consultation with Vancity and other corporations, non profits, government, individuals with disabilities and their families they are realizing they are richer than they thought.  Their untapped or under mobilized assets/equity include: an annual government allocation of Billions; group homes properties they own outright but don't leverage; discretionary trusts established by families; cash reserves sitting in GIC's and T bills; replacement reserve funds; social networks of high net worth individuals; donations and other charitable contributions; Foundation capital and income; the accumulated wealth sitting in Registered Disability Saving Plans; and their collective purchasing and procurement power (for example with 25,000 employees they can negotiate improved employee benefit packages along with jobs for adults with disabilities). 
3) Researching a Social Impact Bond that will benefit individuals with disabilities in British Columbia
4) Establishing a fund to assist non profit disability groups become more entrepreneurial
5) Creating a social finance fund to invest in scaling up proven social innovation in the disability sector
6) Tapping into generic resources to improve their entrepreneurial skills Ex: Enterprising Non Profits and the Business Development Bank of Canada
7) Establishing social purpose businesses – for example Tyze has a business/social ambition is to end the debilitating health, social and financial effects of loneliness while providing a return to their angel social investors.
8) Launching 'proof of concept' pilots to leverage their substantial organizational and sector equity to improve cash flow
9) Supporting the BC Government's consultation on establishing hybrid organizations which would allow limited investor returns similar to the UK's Community Interest Companies.

There are many leaders of this initiative.  Four of them are: Maggie Vilvang (mvilvang@shaw.ca); Richard Faucher (richard.faucher@gobaci.com); Brian Salisbury (Brian.Salisbury@gov.bc.ca) and Gord Tulloch (GTulloch@posAbilities.ca).  Contact them directly or through me if you'd like to participate or want to develop something similar in your jurisdiction or for your sector. 

NOTE: this links to my Tips for Solution Based Advocacy series.  You can access all previous posts here or by checking the right hand column of your screen.  You can access the working definition of Solution Based Advocacy here.

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