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Spotlight on IRP Recipients: Calgary Counselling Centre

[box] The Investment Readiness Program is a Government of Canada program. As the Government of Canada explains: “The Investment Readiness Program (IRP) is a 2-year $50 million pilot program designed to help advance Social Innovation and Social Finance (SI/SF) in Canada by building on existing supports to help catalyze community-led solutions to persistent social and environmental challenges. The pilot will provide a learning opportunity to inform future direction on how best to support and mobilize the social finance sector.” Learn more here.

This blog series by the Trico Charitable Foundation spotlights successful grant recipients of the first IRP round of grants who reside in Alberta or have received the Social EnterPrize. The goal of this series is to help inspire, inform, and nurture the ability of social entrepreneurship to close the gaps in Canadian society. [/box]

Since 1962, Calgary Counselling Centre (CCC) has been improving the well-being of individuals and families and strengthening communities by delivering best practices in counselling, training and research. In Calgary alone, 1 out of 5 Calgarians develop an emotional challenge and with so much in our lives that is out of our control right now, mental health struggles are on the rise.

Robbie Babins-Wagner, PhD and Chief Executive Officer of CCC has completed various Innoweave training and modules and heard about the IRP process through them. The IRP funds that CCC received are being used to support their contracting with MaRS Discovery District to continue developing a Social Impact Bond for Depression (Mental Health).

“What we really liked about this process is that it was a four stage gated process. Meaning, that we could finish up a gate or a stage and then have a conversation with our senior leadership team that is involved with this project.” Robbie says, “We can take our learnings, share it with the board and make some decisions together about whether we want to move to the next stage.”

Robbie believes that this is a very mindful and cautious approach to seeing if the Bond will be feasible:

“It really allows us to do this in a context of both learning and exploration at the same time, and gives everybody some confidence and security about the process for it.”

Robbie shares that many funders financed preparation for innovation and for social finance, but there were few willing to take the plunge and support a project. She explains it has not been an easy process:

“We were thrilled that we were chosen for the IRP funding. But we went about eight years trying to find funds for social finance projects.”

Ultimately, CCC wants to offer a bond in mental health. If they are successful with this bond, then it gives them more opportunities for other bonds:

“As a social enterprise, this gives us the opportunity in the future if we’re successful, to continue building bonds as a way of supporting the development of programming in the social sector, and potentially taking more risks with programming as we move forward.”
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