2016 is shaping up to be an exciting year for social enterprise in Manitoba. The latest development was announced last week: the Manitoba government has committed to supporting employment-focused social enterprises through the development of a $10 M loan fund, as well as developing a government-wide social impact procurement strategy.
Across the globe, the use of public sector purchasing as a means to address poverty is a growing trend. Locally, Manitoba Housing & Community Development has been a leader in purchasing from social enterprises who are providing employment opportunities for barriered individuals. This model has many positive impacts, including reducing crime, growing our labour market, increasing our tax base and decreasing the costs associated with health care, justice and social services.
But up until now this model has only been consistently used within Manitoba Housing. Developing a government-wide social impact procurement policy will result in more departments targeting appropriate work to social enterprises and creating valuable training and employment opportunities for individuals otherwise left out of the labour market.
Like any business, social enterprises need access to the right money at the right time, and the Manitoba government has committed to ensuring our growing social enterprise sector is supported with the appropriate capital. A new $10 M social enterprise loan fund will assist “employment-focused social enterprises access capital with flexible loan financing including start-up, operating or emergency loans and loan guarantees.” While the details are currently under development, this type of support could be key to meeting the needs of the social enterprise growth a procurement strategy will create.
Both the procurement strategy and the loan fund are recommendations from the Manitoba Social Enterprise Strategy, a suite of policy and program recommendations co-created by the Manitoba Government and CCEDNet – Manitoba.
The announcement itself was made at the sod-turning of a new affordable housing project in Winnipeg. The Austin Family Commons will provide 19 units of affordable housing, and will contract social enterprises for multiple components of the project. We are eagerly monitoring this model for how infrastructure investments can be leveraged to provide employment opportunities for barriered individuals.