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Spotlight on IRP Recipients: Vecova

[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]

Vecova is a charitable organization that has been meeting the lifelong and changing needs of persons of all abilities and the community since 1969 through programs and services, social research and innovation and enterprises. Vecova has a long history in operating social enterprises, which provide employment opportunities for persons with barriers to employment. Scott Bietz, Director of Employment Services at Vecova says:

“As a social purpose-driven organization we engage society to learn to think differently about our complex world and to work together in new strategic ways to create transformative change. Through social innovation we provide insight into the trends and forces that are reshaping society. We implement systems that bring about new ideas to design programs, services, products and processes that have a greater impact for persons of all abilities.”

Vecova has built strategic relationships with industry, government, nonprofit organizations, other charities, academia and local Indigenous communities to drive social innovation towards advancing the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Scott explains that through these relationships they learned of the Government of Canada’s Social Finance Fund and the IRP program:

“This program impressed us because it was a collaborative project between the Government of Canada and national organizations such as Community Foundations of Canada, Canadian Women’s Foundation and local foundations such as The Calgary Foundation and Edmonton Community Foundation. Having organizations such as those working in partnership to support organizations like Vecova is important. It will help Vecova access the necessary resources to scale-up or scale-out existing social enterprises, or design and launch new social enterprises to enhance our impact.”

The funding Vecova received from the IRP program is being used to support the re-envisioning of their social enterprises that have a recycling mandate into their Recycling Service social enterprise. In the long-term it will support Vecova to:

  • divert more waste from landfills
  • conserve more resources
  • save more energy
  • further feed a green economy, and
  • continue to contribute to a healthy Alberta.
“Vecova will not be able to compare and measures these impacts (e.g. # of kg of goods that have been diverted from the landfill, # of kg of greenhouse gas emissions that have been reduced, # of kWh of energy that has been saved etc.),” Scott says, “until Vecova has had an opportunity to assess and implement changes as a result of the work supported through the grant. This could be anywhere from 12-24 months.”

Their end goal is to assess new opportunities and grow their services so that it has greater social impact. Scott explains:

“The funds have allowed us to expand our capacity and to supplement our internal project team with additional skills, knowledge, technical expertise, capacity and experience in financial modelling, environmental sustainability and social entrepreneurship. These are crucial skills needed to finalize the new plan for Vecova’s Recycling Service social enterprise, so we can seek social finance investments.”

Ultimately, the IRP program is a key step towards Vecova’s long-term goal to continue to meet the needs of persons of all abilities and is crucial for social entrepreneurship in Canada. Scott shares:

“The concepts of social finance, social innovation, social enterprise and entrepreneurial thinking are not new in Canada. However, there has never been a common understanding, a coordinated approach or strategy, or a concerted effort to invest in these approaches to tackle social issues across Canada. This disconnect created challenges for Vecova and other community organizations in accessing the necessary human, financial and capital support to achieve positive solutions to persistent social problems, including issues faced by vulnerable populations. Now, with the introduction of the Government of Canada’s Social Innovation and Social Finance Strategy it has created a great initial start to bring together Canada’s social innovation ecosystem. It is diverse and has an immense amount of knowledge, talent and expertise.”
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