Since 1995, United We Can has been operating self sustaining urban enterprises to create community, income, and job training for people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. As their extremely well chosen motto states, United We Can is a street charity that means business. I say this about their motto because the number of social enterprises they successfully operate is truly inspiring. And just as importantly, their business ventures have created hundreds of jobs for Vancouver’s inner city residents, while making a significant environmental impact through their various recycling programs.
Some of United We Can’s business ventures include:
- United We Can Bottle Depot: beverage container recycling centre built by and for binners (people who make a living collecting recyclable containers)
- Commercial Recycling Collection Service: customized container collection service
- Urban Binning Units: environmentally friendly, non-motorized carts used to collect beverage containers
- BikeWorks: bicycle and cart shop that provides service, sales, repairs and education
- BinTek: recycled computer equipment is rebuilt and affordably sold to low income residents
- Happy Plants: abandoned plants are rescued and sold at reasonable prices to the community
Operating one social enterprise is a daunting task for any non-profit organization. Being able to manage several business ventures, and for over 15 years, is a feat worth celebrating! I can’t be sure what they had in mind when selecting such a name, but United We Can has most definitely become a self-fulfilling prophesy of the best kind.
If you have a favourite Canadian social enterprise that you want to share with us, we would love to hear from you in the comments section!