By Kenzie Love
CWCF reprised its successful pre-Conference session on Business Conversions to Social Purpose Organizations for Equity-Denied Groups on February 9 in the form of a webinar which over 30 participants attended.
The webinar began with a land acknowledgement by CWCF’s JEDI Business Conversion Project Coordinator, Janielle Maxwell. Janielle invited participants to look at a series of pictures of the Canadian landscape which she shared and reflect on how we interact with the natural world around us. She also noted that CWCF recognizes a land acknowledgement alone is not enough, which is why it has launched the Racial Justice Action Plan, including the JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) Business Conversion Project of which the webinar was a part.
The first presenter, Daphane Nelson of CoActive Developments Canada, reviewed the need for social investment and social finance in Canada, observing that society will be best served when all sectors work together. Daphane pointed to the importance of small businesses as an economic engine within Canada, one that is facing a challenge with the impending wave of retiring baby boomers, and how small businesses are particularly important in rural communities. Daphane noted that when small businesses close in these communities, it has a wide-ranging impact, affecting not only the owners and employees but also consumers. However, she provided some inspiring examples of small businesses that had been saved through conversion into Social Purpose Organizations.
The next presenter was Juliet ‘Kego Ume-Onyido of Black Women Professional Worker Co-op. Juliet observed how co-operation has a long, often undocumented history within BIPOC communities, citing as examples the Inuit concept of Atautsikut (leaving none behind) and the African concept of Ubuntu (I am because we are). Juliet made clear that the co-op sector isn’t immune to the challenges that come with being more inclusive, but that an awareness of these challenges can lead to greater success. She also spoke of the need to amplify the good things that are happening in the sector as well. Juliet concluded that while there is a lot of work to be done, this work is easier when we co-operate to strengthen the ecosystem.
The final presenter was Mohammed Zaquot of LightWork Consulting Co-op. Mohammed focused on the need for workplaces to better foster justice, decolonization, equity, etc, and noted the importance of using the term “equity-denied” groups, as opposed to “equity-seeking” or “equity-deserving”. He also spoke of the importance of co-operation within his own culture, noting that in Gaza many of the businesses were co-operatives without even knowing it.
Daphane concluded the presentation by recapping why businesses should consider converting to a social purpose organization, noting how the pandemic had brought issues of inequality to the forefront and that social purpose organizations are well-positioned to address these, providing examples of ones that are already doing so. There was then time for a question and answer session.
Janielle ended the session by thanking everyone for the heartfelt discussion that had occurred, and invited participants to stay in touch with her and the presenters if they were interested in pursuing conversion to a social purpose organization.