Working Inside and Outside: Integrating on the Ground Projects within Networks
Ara Beittoei is a project manager at the LEDlab, working to support the lab community partners and the cohort of project coordinators. Ara has professional experience working on sustainability research, student development, community engagement, and designing experiential learning curriculum.
In the first two years of the lab the focus of the cohort of projects was to collaborate with the grass roots organizations and social enterprises that are directly working on creating viable low-barrier income generating opportunities for DTES residents. The project coordinators supported business development and capacity building with Hives for Humanity, ReBuild, the DTES Street Market, Binners’ Project, and Knack. We intentionally dedicated our efforts towards building the capacity of individual organizations that are supporting individual residents.
As the ecosystem around us evolved, we continued to listen for how the lab can continue to provide value in the system. We realized that our unique value proposition for this final year would be to build capacity within the existing and emerging intermediary organizations. That is, organizations that are working within and between community groups and facilitate linkages and relationships within the network of DTES actors, and work towards poverty elimination, social inclusion, and transforming the local economy. The intention is to build stronger relationships and working partnerships that can leverage resources more effectively, connect sectors, and bridge the activities between grass root initiatives, existing local networks, the city, as well as the province. As a result, we’re currently working with Buy Social Canada, The Hastings Crossing Business Improvement Association (HxBIA), and EMBERS/The Lux on projects that will facilitate creating stronger relationships (you can find further details on the projects in the above links).
In addition to managing the cohort of project coordinators I have been supporting the subcommittees of Urban Core, a local network of over 40 organizations, non-profits, businesses and individuals who deliver social services and support a continuum of economic strategies that provide a sustainable livelihood for DTES residents. As the lab projects have started out, it has been exciting to see how they fit into the various subcommittee work of intermediary groups like Urban Core as well as Exchange Inner City (formerly Community Economic Development Strategic Action Committee (CEDSAC)).
David has been working with HxBIA on building connections and partnerships between local businesses and social enterprises, whether that is through social procurement (e.g. a local cafe purchasing honey from Hives for Humanity) or social hiring (e.g. a local restaurant hiring a part time resident to help in the kitchen). He is currently planning a social procurement networking mixer as well as a workshop on social hiring. Both of these are upcoming projects for the Urban Core Social Hiring Action Committee.
Austin’s service and information design project with the Lux aims to build the necessary structure to support people to access a range of employment and self-employment opportunities. This also connects to the Social Hiring Action Committee as he his developing a database of social enterprises that train and hire residents as well as the Networking and Outreach Committee as they are looking to host a job fair in the new year. Austin has also been attending the Legal Vending Advocacy Committee to see how the Lux can play a role in creating the effective structures for micro-enterprises and vendors to sell goods.
Nicole is researching and developing a business case that demonstrates to governments and anchor institutions the importance of creating and implementing social procurement policies, strategies and frameworks, as well as the value of social procurement to businesses. A part of this is to develop a scoring system that rates how developers meet Community Benefit Agreement requirements. Through Exchange Inner City’s Social Procurement Roundtable she is receiving feedback as she works on both of these projects. Although this project is not directly connected to the current Urban Core subcommittee work, it operates more at the policy level to promote the hiring of local residents.
As the project coordinators dive deeper into their projects the aim is to continue to work with these intermediary groups and organizations and see where synergies can be made between the various actors addressing poverty and building a more inclusive economy.
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