Social Purpose Institute is coming to Saskatchewan

Exploring Purpose in Business for Regina

By Robyn Edwards-Bentz, CEO, United Way Regina

Adapting to change seems perpetual and never-ending.  Digital disruption, increasing competition and changing donor needs have altered the charitable landscape forever.  While there is no arguing that United Ways need to modernize, the task can seem daunting for United Ways in smaller communities.  During uncertain times, it takes everything to fight the urge to be risk adverse or singularly focused on our own survival. One of those risks was taking on a Social Purpose for Saskatchewan.

Discovering the Social Purpose Institute

Last May, I had the good fortune to attend the global United Way conference designed to inform, inspire and foster relationships.  Just like many others, I was excited to learn more about how United Ways around the world are positioning themselves for the future and finding new ways to bring value to their community.  When selecting my sessions, I chose the session titled: ‘Social Purpose Institute:  Growing Business for Good’ presented by Michael McKnight, President and CEO and Mary Ellen Schaafsma, Director, Social Purpose Institute, both from United Way of Lower Mainland (UWLM). I never imagined just how much their success story would motivate me to do the same in my own community. 

UWLM found a unique way to re-define their relationship and bring value to their business sector – by creating the Social Purpose Institute (SPI).  Through the SPI, companies craving a deeper role in finding solutions to societal issues, can receive support and tools from UWLM to help them evolve and become a social purpose business.   A social purpose business refers to a company whose enduring reason for being is to create a better world.  It is an engine for good, creating social benefits by the very act of conducting business. To date, over 30 companies in Greater Vancouver are involved with the Social Purpose Institute defining and bringing their purpose to life, while creating social impact and growing their business.

We live in a world where our ability to change minds, increase awareness and start a movement can occur from a simple tweet.  More and more, we see business leaders taking center stage and making a real impact. In fact, Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, said in a tweet, “CEO activism is not a leadership choice, but a modern – and an evolving – expectation.” 

Social Purpose Business in Saskatchewan: An idea whose time has come

After the global conference, I knew that the concept of Social Purpose would resonate in my own community.  Small businesses make up 86% of total business in the Greater Regina Area.  Our local leaders know that their customers are more likely to shop local if the business reflects their own values and gives back locally.  I was eager for United Way Regina to play a similar role and strengthen relationships with our business community to create positive social change.  

When UWLM began to scale their impact by offering to partner on social purpose in business with United Ways across Canada, I knew our organization had to be part of it. 

It is a thrill to be the first expansion site in Western Canada.  Soon, I will welcome local leaders to the first SPI workshop offered outside of British Columbia.  UWLM has set the bar very high.  I look forward to generating the same level of interest and create a ripple effect of good in our community too.  

Robyn Edwards-Bentz

As the former Director of Community Impact at United Way Regina, Robyn led the design of the organization’s Community Investment Strategy, launching highly successful impact strategies to improve educational outcomes for Regina’s children and youth.

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