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Social Purpose in 2019 — A Year in Review

2019 has been a year filled with milestones for Social Purpose and the Social Purpose Institute. Just 12 months ago, the Institute consisted of Mary Ellen Schaafsma and Coro Strandberg, running programs with limited time and capacity – all with the audacious goal of creating a Purpose-centered business ecosystem in BC and across Canada. Fast forward to the end of the year, and a lot has changed. Let’s look back together! 

Team Expansion

This year, we saw our team double and then some. We added talent from across the business community. SPI’s small but mighty team grew with new hires in 2019: Zaid Elbitar, Administrative Support; Monika Marcovici, Social Purpose Strategist; and Philip Manzano, Marketing and Communications Strategist. Their support has helped the Institute grow and reach more business leaders in Canada and beyond.  

Social Purpose 2019

Social Purpose Innovators and Implementers: Programs for Good

Our main ambition is to support companies to define and bring to life their core social purpose. We do that in cohort-based peer-sharing environments. To date nearly two dozen businesses have defined or are defining – or refining – their societal purpose through our unique Social Purpose Innovators series 

We are also prototyping a cohort of Social Purpose Implementers, our follow-up program designed for companies with a clear Social Purpose. These companies seek to embed the Purpose across their operations and in their relationships, building it as an authentic driver of their brand. Like Innovators, they value the peer nature of the program and seek to learn from each other and the SPI’s expert facilitators. 

At year end we are celebrating the fact that 26 businesses and over 50 business leaders have participated in these interactive strategy sessions advancing them on the social purpose journey, becoming a force for good in their markets, industries and communities. 

This may seem like a drop in the bucket – but we are steadily progressing and accelerating towards the SPI’s ultimate mission of growing business for good

Social Purpose 2019

Social Purpose Business Expands Across Canada

A year ago, we set the plan to accelerate social purpose in business by expanding through the United Way movement across the country. While we already have one Innovator business in Whistler, we took major steps to scale our vision this fall. In November, the Social Purpose Institute partnered with United Way Regina to deliver a Social Purpose in Business workshop, introducing the concept to twenty-five Saskatchewan-based business leaders.   

United Way Regina also signed on to become the first site outside of British Columbia to deliver SPI programs and services regionally. This model has been a huge success, and we look forward to continuing to grow the Social Purpose in Business movement throughout United Ways in Canadian communities.  

Social Purpose 2019

Our Cohort Community

The beating heart of the Social Purpose movement are the individuals on the front lines. Business leaders, social purpose advocates, and visionary executives have helped shape us. We’ve worked with companies in many sectors. From construction to software, from printing to car-sharing, from manufacturing to food service, from financial services to real estate – and much in between.   

Regardless of the industry or role – each of our cohort members brought something unique and valuable to the table.   

In no uncertain terms, the Social Purpose movement is in good hands with these pioneers:  

Hemlock PrintersInternational Web ExpressHollyburn Properties Limited, Novex Delivery Solutions, Lafarge (west coast operations)Mills Office ProductivityWestcoast SightseeingLGM Financial ServicesTraction on DemandSalt Spring CoffeeCoast OutdoorsRoyal PrintersRecycling AlternativeChandos ConstructionPlatinum Pro-ClaimEncorp Return-ItBrandLiveModoCGISABC RecyclingForecast Coffee, Inovatec SystemsKeela, Community Savings Credit Union

Social Purpose 2019

Looking Forward

Our 2020 vision is simple – we want to grow the Social Purpose ecosystem in British Columbia and beyond. Some of our high-level plans for next year include:  

  • Complete the prototype of Implementers with the graduation of our first cohort embedding social purpose in everything they do, and onboard another 8 Implementer companies for 2021. Contact us if your business has a clear social purpose and you would like to join this cohort. 
  • Scale social purpose in business through SPI’s programs to several other provinces in Canada. If, however, your business is based in Greater Vancouver, contact us if you’d like to join our next Innovators cohort to define, refine or uncover your social purpose kicking off in the fall. 
  • Attract partners such as municipalities and industry and business associations who see the value of social purpose in business and would like help introducing us to businesses they know. Stay tuned for the announcement of one of these partnerships in early 2020! 
  • We also have great research underway, to define the ROI and SROI (social return on investment) on Purpose, to determine the role of company boards in providing oversight of Purpose, and other topics. More on this in our next roundup. 

To sum up, we have a full schedule of cohorts, programs, workshops and presentations ready for 2020. 

Be sure to register for Social Purpose Institute updates so you don’t miss a thing – and to help us scale purpose in business wherever you are! While you’re at it, do you know a business you can send this article to? Please do! 


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