Social Purpose Institute Year in Review, 2021

By Mary Ellen Schaafsma

Dec 24, 2021

Here we are, at the end of 2021 – and didn’t it just fly by? It is always a great exercise to reflect on all the things accomplished in a year to feel that sense of momentum and growth; so here are the Social Purpose Institute’s (SPI) highlights of 2021!

SPI’s Innovators and Implementers Participation, Progress, and News

A cornerstone for building a Purpose Economy and a key component of how SPI is fostering one – is by ‘growing business for good’. SPI offers peer-based learning and tools to companies to companies that want a social purpose but don’t know how to get one or have a social purpose and want to embed it in all they do. SPI has already worked with 40 companies to progress their purpose.

  • Our third cohort of Innovators, ‘Purpose 2020’, – and the first to admirably and determinedly complete their Purpose work during COVID – wrapped up having defined, clearly articulated, and ‘stress-tested’ their unique Social Purpose statements.
  • Innovators Cohort 4, ‘Purpose Builders’, kicked off in the Spring; they will be our first entirely virtual cohort!
  • SPI’s very first Implementers Cohort, ‘Implemaestros’ wrapped up, all of them with a plan to embed their Social Purpose in every area of the business, ensuring their go-forward aligns with and advances their social purpose.
  • The second cohort of Implementers, ‘Purpose Pioneers’, also kicked off in the Spring, virtually.
  • The SPI Scaling Out Partner, United Way Winnipeg, kicked off their first Innovators cohort with nine Winnipeg-area businesses.
  • In partnership with Hemlock Printers, LGM Financial and Return-It, SPI published three ‘Purpose in Practice Case Studies’ and accompanying short videos, to give examples of what social purpose looks like in action and what benefits companies are seeing because of their Purpose.
  • SPI Innovators alumni and Implementers participant, Baker Tilly Corporate Finance, a mergers and acquisitions firm whose purpose is to unlock the societal and economic value of business in transition, published a White Paper (and hosted a webinar) called: ‘The Value of Social Purpose | How to Receive Value from Your Values’ – coming in strong as a champion for Social Purpose in Business!

Partnering and Collaboration

To make significant strides and accelerate the Purpose Economy, partnering and collaborating are essential. We are thrilled to be connecting more with others who share the Purpose Economy vision of long-term well-being for all and an equitable, flourishing, and resilient future. Here are some of them:

The 2021 Main Event: Propelling Purpose Summit

The United Way Social Purpose Institute is most proud of its watershed event – the Propelling Purpose Summit on November 17 and 18, the next step towards co-creating the Purpose Economy RoadMap 2.0. At the same time, we declared November 15 to 19 to be Purpose in Business Week – as did the Cities of Vancouver and Burnaby – creating dedicated space for our purpose allies to feature their work and commitment to Social Purpose, using the hashtag, #PurposeinBusinessWeek. Check it out on your social media!


  • 321 people took part over the two days
  • We had nearly 70 speakers from across Canada and internationally
  • There was an Opening Keynote, nine Panel Dialogues with breakout discussions, an International Insights session, and 4 Office Hours opportunities to learn.
  • Coast Capital was our Presenting Sponsor and BCLC, Junxion Strategies, Lafarge, Libro Credit Union, and Cooperators also supported. Much gratitude to them for helping make it all happen.
  • Participants said:
    • “Feeling inspired! Great to see many businesses leading by example in this space and motivating me to continue in this journey”;
    • “It was a rich two days that brought together leaders from across sectors to advance the purpose economy”; and,
    • “I loved the energy, the enthusiasm, the palpable desire in participants and speakers alike to help accelerate social purpose in business!”

Other Notables

  • Mary Ellen Schaafsma, Director of the SPI did two podcasts; one with Denise Withers called ‘How stories drive change’ and another with Lynn Fergussen of Social Impact Partners called ‘Growing Business for Good…brought to you by the United Way’.
  • Our Team changed and grew: Lauren Stanton-Nixdorf joined as Operations Coordinator and Tessa Vanderkop replaced Monika Marcovici (who is staying with us, as a contractor) as the SP Strategist for SPI.
  • SPI released several new tools and resources to help companies, Boards, associations and Business schools strengthen their contributions and over sight on purpose.

And Onward

What a great year! These hWhat an incredible year! These highlights are just some of the hard work and accomplishments sparked by the passion of the SPI team and its partners. As we take this time to rest, reflect, rejuvenate, and celebrate – we equally look forward to 2022 and all the amazing things it will bring. Happy Purposing, all; SPI is here to help and support if there is anything you need. We look forward to connecting with you in 2022!

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