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Reflections on investing in Community Bonds and opportunities to improve the market

Quick disclaimer: I work for a mission-driven commercial lender that is privileged to work with many issuers of community bonds, some of which I’ve invested with personally. I manage these conflicts carefully and am not involved in lending relationships around these. This is also not financial advice, and if thinking about community finance opportunities you should receive advice relevant to your own situation.

My first real experience with community finance was in 2010 with the growth of the Community Economic Development Investment Funds (CEDIFs) program in Nova Scotia. Through the Farmers Market Investment Cooperative, I was able to invest directly in the redevelopment of the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market. It was an instructive example of a community coming together to build the economic infrastructure it wanted. It was also, sadly, a bust. While the market itself still continues as a beautiful space, some failures in governance and differing incentives between the tenants of the space (to naturally keep costs down) and the private investors (to see their investment returned with some profit) let ultimately to a wind-up and handover of the space to the port authority as a permanent owner. It appears the market is now being relocated to another part of the port, and the space the coop helped finance the improvement of turned into a “living lab” for the transportation sector by the port authority. Well, do hope they enjoy the green roof!

Since relocating to Toronto almost seven years ago, it’s been exciting to play witness to and support a growing community finance sector in Ontario. Through the leadership of organizations like the Centre for Social Innovation, community bonds have become much better understood by the coop and nonprofit sectors. The Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) programs in Ontario, while no longer offering new support, spurred the creation of a community-based renewable power coop sector that creates fertile ground for more work in driving the low-carbon transition. Now organizations like Tapestry Community Capital are helping professionalize the delivery of these tools and campaigns, so I certainly expect more to come.

I’ve invested in a total of 15 community bond or community share offerings, including the farmers market. For the purposes of this I’m excluding both broader based green bonds (for example CoPower and RE Royalties) as well as preferred share issuances by Credit Unions. While both can also be impactful investments, they aren’t focused to a given community project or projects, so I don’t think of them as the same. Here’s what that sub-portfolio looks like for me:

Overall, this constitutes about 11% of my investment portfolio, from which I exclude our home. I’m generally comfortable with this level, and would consider going up to 15-20% in the right circumstances despite the lack of liquidity because my partner and I are young and we’ve got good coverage of our fixed costs from our income. We’re pretty concentrated in an early investment in Zooshare, and while there’s been a couple of moments that have made me nervous with that, I’m excited about a virtual ribbon cutting on the project this Spring. When that investment matures later this year, I’m intending to try to reinvest towards other impact investments to hopefully diversify more. I’m satisfied with the yield we’re getting from these investments, and while there are concerns about inflation looming in general, there’s still a strong premium over lower risk fixed income options.

What do I like (sometimes love?) about Community Bonds and Investments?

  • They are a meaningful way for signature projects in the community to access additional capital, often at a greater risk tolerance than institutional investors or lenders would provide.
  • They help us realize the economy isn’t something that happens from the outside to us, but something we actually all actively create through our decisions on where to buy, invest, and work.
  • They aren’t strongly correlated with the broader investment market, and so can be value-adding as a stable fixed income tool.
  • They can allow for targeted investment in the themes we’re most passionate about.

What don’t I like as much?

  • There’s low liquidity or market for these investments. While there’s sometimes a bit of a waitlist an issuer can try to sell your investment into, that’s too much work for most.
  • There’s a lot of refinancing risk, as full redemption at maturity is often dependent on someone else coming in to refinance a projects or additional reissuance of more community bonds that others subscribe to
  • There’s a bit of a “first mover” risk in these investments, as a well subscribed campaign gives greater likelihood that these projects can be achieved than a more minimally subscribed campaign. Generally this risk is partially managed by having a trustee not release investor funds until after a minimum amount is reached, but there’s value in having greater confidence of a project’s success. I’ve observed that this leads to a bit of a momentum effect in these campaigns.
  • The flip side of targeted investment is that unless you’re willing to roll up your sleeves on a portfolio of community investments, you’re likely to not be particularly diversified.

One idea to improve the Community Bond Market: a “market making” fund

I wonder if there could be a benefit in a Canadian (or provincial if required) community bond fund that would invest exclusively in community bond and share offerings. This could do a few things that could strengthen this market for investors and offerings alike:

  • For investors: A turn-key mechanism to invest in a more diversified pool of community finance offerings.
  • For issuers – campaign momentum and confidence: The fund could commit to anchoring new community bond campaigns with an investment, that would be replaced by direct investors if the campaign is successful. For example the fund could commit to investing up to 20% of an offering (up to some maximum of the Fund’s own portfolio such as 5-10%), which is replaced as other community investors buy-in. This would give campaigns early momentum, fill in some gaps in capital access as a backstop, and give other investors a vote of confidence if the offering had undergone an anchor investors due diligence.
  • For issuers – a liquidity mechanism: For any approved offering above, the fund could commit to being willing to buy-out individual investors interests in the same offering, subject to the Fund’s own liquidity requirements and concentration limits. This could de-risk the ability for an individual to invest by providing a safety mechanism for unexpected emergencies.
  • For issuers – reducing refinancing risk: As a dedicated fund for the sector, such a fund could also ensure that unique market moments don’t heighten refinancing risk by providing the same backstop as for initial offerings.

As food for thought, there are some issues with the idea I recognize right away:

  • Investor interest: I wonder if I’m unusual in how I think about impact. I’m fairly embedded in this work, and care about these approaches as more economically democratic, so I feel comfortable with the idea of investing in a fund, that is investing in these offerings, vs. needing to see/feel the individual projects being supported. I wonder if there are enough investors who would similarly value the diversification and more turn-key solution to investing in these approaches?
  • Capital cost: For such a fund to work, it would have to operate on a very streamlined basis (and likely as a nonprofit) to keep costs down and operate viably. Ultimately the fund would need to invest in community bond offerings at a higher rate than what it could offer investors, and so the benefits to investors in diversification and simplicity would need to be greater than the financial delta they could achieve investing in offerings directly.
  • Capital deployment: While the community bond market continues to grow, the build up of a portfolio based on infrequent offerings (they’re pretty cyclical with the RRSP season generally!) would create a meaningful cash drag unless there were opportunities to act on right away. This could really damage the economic viability of the fund.

I’m curious what others experiences have been with community bonds and share offerings. Would this kind of fund have ever made a difference for you or the investors you’ve collaborated with? Are there other, better ways to improve this area so community investment can thrive?

About our guest author: Lars Boggild is a creative thinker working at the intersection of finance and social change. He currently supports new business relationships across lending and investments for Vancity Community Investment Bank, Canada’s first bank dedicated to social and environmental impact. Prior to VCIB, he worked at Rally Assets leading impact investing advisory projects that built practical strategies for asset owners to deploy more of their investments towards social and environmental good. Lars also sits on the Canadian Community Economic Development Network’s National Policy Council, the Investment Committee of the Evangelical Lutheran Foundation of Eastern Canada and is the Board Chair of Not Far from the Tree, Toronto’s urban fruit picking project.

How One Canadian City is Responding to COVID-19 With Community Investment

Overhead photo of City of Kingston

Last Fall, the City of Kingston reached out to our Social Innovation Specialist, Jo Reynolds, asking them if they would lead a process exploring community investment in response to the crises brought on by COVID-19. Having called Kingston home for the last four years, Jo didn’t blink. 

“Municipalities are under so much strain from the economic and social impact of COVID-19. There’s an openness and a leaning-in happening right now.” Jo explains. “Regions and municipalities are coming together in a new way to learn from one another, and in that process we start to surface social innovation. We find ways in which we can scale solutions for systems change.”

Kingston Community Investment Brief What does leading a community process and surfacing social innovation look like exactly? Kingston Community Investment has your answers here. This brief outlines their work so far, including key insights from community leaders about the impacts of COVID-19 on homelessness, housing affordability, and food insecurity.

Our favourite part? The Comparative Community Investment Models section, of course! Jo, alongside the City’s Innovation Analyst, Lakshay Raheja, and a team from Queen’s Social Investment Initiative, are bringing community investment to Kingston by drawing from examples happening across Canada. They know innovation happens when we choose to work across sectors and beyond silos. 

Kingston Community Investment is our network in action and as Jo reflects, the opportunity is far-reaching: “In small towns and regions, we can learn from one another to be able to adopt and adapt community-based solutions for long-standing issues that are intersectional and threaten the wellbeing of many vulnerable community members.”

What is Community Investment? 

To Jo, community investment means “we’re coming together with different perspectives, including people who are impacted by the issues, policymakers, and investors to design something that meets everyone’s needs.”

From the brief: 

“Community investment uses repayable financing and investment to support the start up or growth of a community-based project or social enterprise. Community investment models are created in response to an articulated need. Each community takes its own approach to develop a fund or a financial product that serves a shared goal. For example, some communities create partnerships to build new affordable housing, start a community food initiative, or support local social-economic development. Terms such as ‘social finance’ and ‘place-based investing’ are often used interchangeably to describe the practice of using financing and investment to achieve a specific community outcome.”

What’s Next? 

Community Investment Kingston is hosting a learning session online on March 25 for all community members. If you live in Kingston, lean in!

The learning session will break down the ins-and-outs of community investment, including different examples happening across Ontario. From there, if there is interest from Kingstonians in this kind of approach, the community will start exploring what types of community investment solutions they want to adopt and adapt for their local context. 

If You Don’t Live in Kingston, Why Should You Care?

The brief is a great reference guide for anyone trying to understand what community investment is and what a community-based approach to creating city-wide solutions can look like. 

When we talk about a community coming together to create change, we don’t always talk about how. This brief showcases that “how”, specifically: 

  • How someone can facilitate a community-based process through discovery, learning, and design phases 
  • How small municipalities and regions are exploring community investment, including different models from across Canada 
  • How municipalities are mitigating social and economic strain due to COVID-19 by reaching out and leaning in to social innovation 

As Jo emphasizes, this brief reflects an initiative in its early “learning stages.” With that in mind, have at it. We believe being part of the solution means sharing our work.

Want to learn more about community investment in action? Read about The CSI Community Bond. For more on how we are centring community-driven economies, check out our Community Wealth Programs & Projects.

New opportunities at the Centre for Social Innovation

Every One Every Day

Our Regent Park Community Manager, Denise Soueidan-O’Leary, wrote this piece for the February 2021 issue of the bridge, a community newspaper. We are republishing with permission.

The Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) has called Regent Park home for the past eight years, building deep connections with the community from the third floor of the Daniels Spectrum building on Dundas Street East. We have worked with the Social Development Plan and the Community Civic Engagement Collaborative, curating the Regent Park Community Newsletter, running the Regent Park Potluck, starting Regent Park Open Mic nights, and partnering in many neighbourhood initiatives. We are committed to making this vibrant community stronger every day.

Last October we launched the Every One Every Day: Toronto Our Neighbourhood Project, modelled after the British Participatory Cities framework for resident engagement. The purpose of the project is to grow, build and connect social ecosystems – especially important during this time of physical distancing and increased social isolation. Building social capital and linking with social ecosystems is the foundation of strengthening any community, and it is particularly true in Regent Park.

Our Neighbourhood Project’s first phase ran from October to December, with more than 100 residents signed up. With community partners like Art Heart, Green Thumbs Growing Kids, Just Vertical, WOSEN, and others, we ran 30 workshops in six weeks that engaged 130 participants in community mural painting, hydroponic growing, cooking together, yoga, tree planting and even entrepreneurial journaling! We were able to do a few workshops in person, observing social distancing, but also successfully moved much programming online to respect COVID-19 restrictions.

Collage of screenshots from the Every One Every Day workshops that were run in Fall 2020.

Phase 1 of the our neighbourhood project ran over six weeks:

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workshops
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participants

The second phase is currently under way. We have released four new project starter kits into the community:

  • Our Neighbourhood Pollinates: designing pollinator gardens to support natural ecosystems;
  • Our Neighbourhood Reads: sharing books and stories, and creating story installations, story walks, and book exchanges;
  • Our Neighbourhood Blooms: planning and planting beautiful gardens in public spaces; and
  • Our Neighbourhood Stories: building a living tour of Regent Park to connect neighbours and collect their stories.

We would love to have you join the project! For more information and to sign up, check out the Every One Every Day: Toronto project on the Centre for Social Innovation website. Send questions to everyoneeveryday[at]socialinnovation[dot]ca.

This opportunity is open to everyone, of every age and demographic, as long as you are living or working in Regent Park. Registration is open until the end of February.

The Community Bond in Action

In 2018, when SKETCH Executive Director Rudy Ruttimann saw that commercial rent was projected to rise 4.5% annually in Toronto, she knew it was time to act. If the rent increases continued SKETCH could no longer afford to stay in Toronto by 2023. That wasn’t an option: relocating would mean disrupting programs, uprooting from SKETCH’s central, accessible Artscape Youngplace creative hub location, and shifting far into the GTA. Pausing programs for the move would damage the solid, trusting relationships they’d formed with young people in the community over the past six years.

If you don’t know SKETCH, you should: it’s a community-arts nonprofit engaging diverse young people, ages 16-29, from across Canada, who live on the margins and navigate poverty. The organization operates out of a 7,500 sq. ft. multi-discipline art studio and a 1,500 sq. ft. administrative space at the Artscape Youngplace on Shaw Street. Their free programs are hosted in studios dedicated to visual arts, music and recording, culinary arts, ceramics, textiles, movement and theatre, digital arts, and industrial arts. There are few spaces available with the resources and support SKETCH provides in the downtown area: over 19,000 young people have come to SKETCH since it opened!

This November will be SKETCH’s 25th anniversary. With this milestone on the horizon and rent increases looming, Rudy began to look for other options. And when she came across the Community Bond, she knew it would be a perfect fit.

ABOUT THE COMMUNITY BOND

What is a Community Bond? You’re asking the right org! CSI invented the Community Bond in 2010 as a means to turn a nonprofit’s social capital into financial capital. We used the first Community Bond to raise $2M to purchase our first building, CSI Annex, in 2010. We used the bond a second time in 2014 to raise $4.3M from 227 community investors to buy CSI Spadina. In 2020, we used the Community Bond to invite our community of members and supporters to invest in programs that put people and planet first. Other organizations have used the Community Bond model for their own fundraising: our friends at Innovation Works in London, Ontario reached their $1,000,000 goal in October and have recently launched their 2021 campaign.

The Community Bond is an innovation in social finance that allows a nonprofit or charity to leverage its community of supporters to pursue its mission, build its resiliency, and create more vibrant communities. As, Rudy put it: “How can individuals support or invest in a community initiative and be a part of the impact for social change?” The answer is the Community Bond!

Quote from Marie Moliner: "I hope others are as happy to invest as I am. Your Series A Bond made it seamless to be an investor and a donor."

PROJECT HOME

SKETCH began their exploration of the Community Bond in earnest in fall 2018. It began with engaging the expertise of CSI Member Tapestry Community Capital to conduct a Feasibility Study to determine if SKETCH had the tools and resources for a campaign.

They liked what they saw, and in 2020 they launched their capital campaign, PROJECT HOME, with a goal of raising $4.1M to purchase their spaces from Artscape Youngplace on Shaw Street.

SKETCH, in many ways, is still a grassroots operation and we don’t have the kind of donor base where someone will sign a huge cheque and purchase the studios for us. Instead of borrowing the full amount from a bank, we asked the question: ‘what is the least expensive form of capital generation?’ The answer was to issue community bonds to the public.

“Bonds also allow us to reach a new audience beyond our present donor base. We have found that people are connecting with us for the first time through this campaign. Making a solid financial return on an investment may be more top-of-mind to them than making an impact.”

SKETCH’s four bonds have investment levels starting at $500, $5,000, $10,000 and $25,000 successively. This allows people with a wide array of available savings and investment knowhow to participate. They also had the opportunity to create a Canadian first. Their “Bond A: The Giving Bond” allows investors to donate their interest back to SKETCH in exchange for a tax receipt. 

Historically, Rudy says, during their annual fundraising campaigns, the organization would attract donations from their donor base and a small number of new donors who came across their social media posts. 

“With the community bond campaign, we’ve been able to reach an eclectic array of people we’d otherwise possibly never connect with. We’ve attracted investors from Montreal to Yellowknife to Halifax, and we have years now to get to know them better. We also have several familiar faces investing in SKETCH: staff, board members, our families, and even a former SKETCH youth artist have invested in Project Home bonds.”

So, how’s it going? Organizations and the public have invested over $854,500 in SKETCH’s bonds so far. That’s 61% of their $1.4 million investment goal. As well, they’ve reached 60% of their capital campaign fundraising goal over the holidays. Congrats!

LEARN AND INVEST

If you want to learn more about SKETCH’s campaign, visit their campaign page where you can  review bond terms and download investment packages. 

SKETCH is also hosting a free online Info Session on Friday, February 5th for folks who’d like to do a bit of a deep dive into their bonds, the investment process, and the impact they’ll have on the lives of marginalized youth.

We’re so excited about SKETCH’s campaign, and can’t wait to celebrate their success. If you’re thinking of using Community Bonds for your organization, and you’re a nonprofit, charity or co-op, a good place to start is with CSI’s guidebook. If you want more of a concierge approach, you should connect with our friends and long term partners at Tapestry Community Capital.

CSI Raises $1.9M in Record 41 Days to Build the Next Economy 

Wow! 

We launched the 2020 Community Bond on May 15th, and truly expected to be at it all summer: a summer full of Q+As, emails, webinars, and the personal, one-on-one conversations that make Community Bonds a community experience. After all, it took four months to raise to the original $1.4M we needed for Annex! It took over 200 days to raise the money we needed in 2014 to buy CSI Spadina. 

But here we are. With profound gratitude (and more than a little surprise) it is our great honour to share that, in just 41 days, we’ve raised more than $1.9M using Community Bonds to help build the Next Economy. These investors are our members, staff, neighbours, and community foundations; people like you and I who know this old economy is broken, and who know we deserve better.

The record success of this campaign, during this unprecedented time of hardship and activism, speaks to the moment: great challenges demand that we rise to meet them. As a society, we’re emerging from a time of quiet reflection, during which many of us have, for the first time in our adult lives, been given a moment to catch our breath and think about our work and our values. The potential we have today to reshape ourselves hasn’t existed since the post-war era.

What is a Community Bond?

For those unfamiliar, the Community Bond is an innovation in social finance that allows a nonprofit or charity to leverage its community of supporters to raise money, pursue its mission, build its resiliency, and create more vibrant communities.

CSI invented the Community Bond in 2010 as a means to turn a non-profit’s social capital into financial capital. 10 years later, the Community Bond is a household name in impact investing, having been replicated around Toronto, and the world.

We used the first Community Bond to raise $2M to purchase our first commercial office building at 720 Bathurst, CSI Annex, in 2010. We used the Bond a second time in 2014 to raise $4.3M from 227 community investors to buy another location: CSI Spadina.

Unquestionably, our tremendous growth over the past 10 years is linked to the success of the Community Bond.

10 Years Later the Community Bond is Still Evolving 

The 2020 Community Bond is focused on impact, which is itself an incremental innovation: Traditionally, Community Bonds have been used to finance infrastructure. They have been used for the past decade, by CSI and other organizations, to finance student loans, solar energy projects, food co-ops, biogas plants, and other large capital projects. But never before to finance investments in scaling programs. 

While we were structuring the campaign, this raised a few questions (and eyebrows). But the important thing to remember is that CSI invented the Community Bond, so in the Bonds case, ‘traditional’ really just means what we did for the first time, last time.

Programming for Impact 

Aligned through six Sustainable Development Goals: Quality Education, Gender Equality, Decent Work, Reduced Inequality, Sustainable Communities and Climate Action, the 2020 Community Bond builds on, and scales, CSI’s existing work in these areas, with the overarching goal to contribute significantly to building the Next Economy: one that puts people and planet first. 

Our community of impact investors are some of the most committed people in Canada. They saw the opportunity, CSI’s track record of doing the work and proving that big ideas are possible, and they wanted to be part of the solution. So they bought-in.

A Tool to Help Build the Next Economy

If you’re following our work you know that CSI is focused on building the Next Economy. We first wrote about it in the 2018/19 issue of our magazine, The Collider. Back then we were asking ourselves, what is the Next Economy? We knew that it had different names in many different sectors, and that its overarching goal is to unite these sectors in response to the world’s biggest challenges.

Over time we’ve come to this definition: the Next Economy is regenerative, inclusive, equitable, and prosperous for all.

But what does that really mean? How can we begin to make the policy, culture, and market changes necessary to achieve it? And how has the COVID-19 pandemic affected this movement?
These questions are top of mind at CSI.

The Community Bond is a concrete solution in the push to build the Next Economy. We have seen the power of the Bond to leverage community support and build financial capital with social purpose. It’s proof we can find market-based solutions while being socially and environmentally conscious. Using the funds raised this year for our impact programming we’ll take the movement further and build back better by catalyzing more ideas, tools, solutions that put people and planet first.

____________________

Kyle Shantz is CSI’s Director of Growth, and has managed CSI’s Community Bond portfolio through three renewal periods and two capital raises. 

 

Black-led Businesses In Toronto and the importance of Supplier Diversity

2017 saw the publication of Black-led Businesses In Toronto: Building Opportunities for Growth and Prosperity. The study was conducted by the Black Business and Professionals Council Advisory Body of the City of Toronto and co-sponsored by the City of Toronto. For #ThrowbackThursday today, we’re going to pull out a section of this report from three years ago:

The Black Business and Professionals Council Advisory Body was created to review and make recommendations on how the City can improve its outreach to the Black small business community. To get started on this work, the BBPCAB conducted a survey of the Black business community.

Among respondents, 23% had done business with the City of Toronto. Most of these firms expressed positive experiences working with the City. While a proportion of those who have not engaged with the City in the past due to firms not operating in sectors that would have this opportunity (such as various forms of retail), many entrepreneurs claimed they never viewed the City as a potential client or that they were not informed about the possibility of doing business with the City.

When asked about methods to improve the working relationship between Black-led businesses and the City of Toronto, some individuals called for contracts designated for visible minority businesses or to establish a quota for awarding contracts to visible minorities in order to encourage greater diversity in the City’s procurement processes.

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Also in 2017, the Canadian Government released a report called The Business Case for Supplier Diversity in Canada, which found that diverse supply chains may help:

  • better represent a corporation’s diverse customer base, thereby increasing customer satisfaction and revenues;
  • better reflect the diverse backgrounds of employees, thereby increasing their job satisfaction and retention;
  • build more robust supply chains by identifying a wide range of qualified suppliers and reducing the risk associated with streamlined supplier pipelines;
  • open new markets (e.g., in the United States), which can lead to economic development for the corporation and the local economy.

The City of Toronto Social Procurement Program aims to create jobs and drive economic growth in the city. It is comprised of two components: Supply Chain Diversity and Workforce Development. In the City’s Social Procurement Program, Supply Chain Diversity applies to Departmental Purchase Orders from $3000 to $100,000.

A diverse supplier is a business that is at least 51% owned, managed and controlled by an equity-seeking community or social purpose enterprise. City staff who are purchasing goods and services between $3,000 and $100,000 are required to invite at least one certified diverse supplier to submit quotations as part of the three-quote process. A monthly list is produced and circulated among City divisions.

If you are a Black business owner in Toronto, find out how your business can become a Certified Diverse Supplier.

To find Canadian Black businesses to support, check out the By Blacks Online Business Directory.

2020 – The decade of opportunity for Regent Park

The Community Benefits movement has empowered our Regent Park community with the tools to negotiate benefits to ensure that the main purpose of economic development is to bring measurable, permanent improvements to the lives of affected residents, particularly those in low-income neighbourhoods and communities of colour.

That process was informed by a vision and local voices, like the voice of thirteen year old Livity Hussey. In her deputation to our elected representatives at City Hall, she reminded everyone in the room that our efforts and advocacy is an attempt to impact the lived experiences of kids in the future.

Livity understands that economic tools are necessary to hold all stakeholders accountable to the investments necessary to make Regent Park a livable community in a livable city.

The Regent Park Community Benefits Coalition is driven by the community benefits movement and is supported by stakeholders and led by Regent Park residents. The Coalition encourages all stakeholders in the public sector to play a more strategic role in land use planning and urban development, and to leverage economic development subsidies toward the creation of good jobs, affordable housing, and neighborhood services that improve the quality of life for all residents.

The Coalition was formed by the Regent Park Neighborhood Association comprised of Toronto Community Housing Corporation and condominium residents, with support from community organizations and the Toronto Community Benefits Network. The Coalition’s purpose is to improve the redevelopment Request for Proposal process for strong community benefits and increased transparency for Phases 4 & 5 by negotiating a Community Benefits Agreement. The Coalition is working with community stakeholders to create long-term opportunities for residents to generate both social and financial wealth in Regent Park. Through these efforts, the Coalition wants Toronto Community Housing Corporation and the developer partner to set up key infrastructure that will continue to support the community for years to come and the means to hold them accountable through a community benefits agreement.

The Regent Park Community Benefits Coalition has devised a list of community needs contained within the Community Priorities Report that was submitted to Toronto Community Housing Corporation on October 15th, 2019. The Report builds off best practices, existing community benefits projects in Toronto and City of Toronto policies such as the Poverty Reduction Strategy (2015), Social Procurement Program (2017), and Community Benefits Framework (2019). The Report speaks on behalf of resident voices and is filtered through many community consultations, Social Development Plan working group actions and Regent Park Neighborhood Association consultations.

TCHC will use best efforts to negotiate the community benefits needs as identified in the Report during the negotiation period. During evaluation of best and final offer process, TCHC will have regard to the Report when evaluating how the developer partner will support conversations around community priorities in accordance with the appropriate rated criteria. After the BAFO is evaluated and the top-rated development partner is identified, TCHC will ensure negotiations are conducted to maximize the delivery of the community needs set out in the community priorities report document

In July 2019, city council voted to adopt a Community Benefits Framework to “co-ordinate and maximize the social and economic impacts of community benefits initiatives when the city buys, builds or provides financial incentives for construction or remediation,” as stated in a staff report. Residents of Regent park spoke in favour of investments in Regent Park through the social development plan and funding the priorities identified in the community benefits agreement through the coordination of all levels of government.

Members of the Regent Park Community benefits coalition met with elected representatives MPP Suze Morrison and staff of Member of Parliament Bill Morneau in January 2020 to secure support to fund the priorities identified by the Regent Park Community, We want developers to set up key infrastructure that will support the community for years to come and those priorities should be clearly defined.

Our community deserves better from the development of important public land that was designated to provide accessible housing and services. We can not afford a city for the homeless and millionaires. Through community action and by joining the community benefits movement, you can help us address the root cause of senseless violence that honors Ahmed Yakot and build a future that Livity Hussey and future generations can be proud of. A livable city, not a city of just millionaires.

Learn more about the Regent Park Community Benefits movement here.


It has been thirteen years since the Regent Park Social Development Plan was approved by City Council, yet there have been no financial investments in the Social Development Plan. Sign this petition to call on Toronto’s Mayor and City Councillors to support the call from community members to fund the SDP through the 2020 Budget process.

Are you looking to increase the capacity of your charitable organization?

Social Venture Partners is a unique partnership that brings together a group of professionals who invest their time and funds to help socially-focused organizations build capacity in order address the most pressing challenges facing the city. It is based on a proven venture philanthropy model that has attracted 3,200 partners working in affiliate chapters in more than 40 cities around the world. SVP believes that by pooling partners’ time, professional expertise and funds, they can create a greater impact beyond what any one of us could achieve alone.

Their mission is to:

  1. Connect and engage individuals:​ helping them make the greatest impact with their desire to become change-makers and their philanthropic giving.
  2. Fund and strengthen nonprofits:​ helping innovative and progressive nonprofits increase their ability to create positive change in Toronto through investment and deep engagement.

They are in search of a non-for profit organization to contribute their capabilities and funds towards helping build capacity. Since their focus is on engaged philanthropy, they are targeting organizations and projects with an opportunity for a high level of engagement and impact. In addition to strategy, leadership, technology, and digital marketing, SVP will also contribute a monetary donation ($2,500 – $10,000) to better drive the capacity building initiative.

Click here for more info, then contact raissa@socialinnovation.ca to find out if your org would be a good fit!

 

Toronto Vital Signs Report – Issue Nine: Learning

Toronto Foundation has just released Vital Signs Report 2019: Growing Pains and Narrow Gains. This report provides a consolidated snapshot of the trends and issues affecting the quality of life in our city and each of the interconnected issue areas is critical to the wellbeing of Toronto and its residents.

Vital Signs examines ten issue areas. We are going to explore highlights of each of these sections. Issue Nine is Learning.

Toronto is home to 55 language-training schools and 140 private career colleges. High-school graduation rates are improving, and more people are going to post-secondary schools. But far more students are saying they do not enjoy school, and the pressure to succeed is growing, while tuition is getting more and more expensive.

  • Graduation rates are improving across all demographics, while select overlooked groups still have much lower graduation rates.
  • Income is a strong predictor of high-school graduation.
  • Toronto elementary students are struggling in math, and the situation is getting worse.
  • More students are reporting they do not enjoy school, and the pressure to secure good grades is increasing, while mental health challenges among youth are growing very rapidly.
  • More students are obtaining a post-secondary education, with big improvements in many overlooked groups, though children in single-parent families are still lagging behind.
  • Tuition costs have increased well beyond inflation in Toronto.
  • International student numbers have doubled recently, as more students are coming to Canada.
  • Many newcomers with advanced degrees are working in jobs requiring no education.

CSI member Andrea Fanjoy is part of a project to design an independent secondary school that distinctly offers what students need to thrive at school and lifelong. It will invite them to leverage their passions and talents to enrich their learning. It will connect students with external experts and partner with organizations in the GTA for the value they bring to student learning. It will challenge students to exercise leadership in their learning, and support them as they begin having an authentic impact on their corner of the world.

A community investment in accessibility

Rowing team carrying a boat.

In 2010, 58 people collectively invested $2M in the Centre for Social Innovation, enabling us to purchase a 720 Bathurst — aka CSI Annex. The concept of Community Bonds was born. Four years later, 227 people invested $4M to allow us to purchase 192 Spadina — aka CSI Spadina.

Since then, we’ve inspired others to turn to their communities when they are in search of crucial capital. This summer, the Toronto Outdoor Picture Show launched their own Community Bond initiative to invest in the purchase of own Audio-Visual Equipment.

The Argonaut Rowing Club is the most recent organization to seek out community investment. A devastating flood in 2017 left the club dire need of repair. ARC Next — an ambitious $2 million club revitalization project — aims to support the next generation of rowers by offering a fully accessible space with a renovated event venue, new elevator, extended docks, new change rooms, and an increased capacity for both membership and youth programs.

In just over five months, the campaign has successfully passed $1.1 million investment mark from 79 investors. Interested in investing? Learn more about the project and check out the different bond offerings. With only 10 days to go, there is just under $100,000 left in bonds available for purchase before the September 15th deadline.

Want to know more about what a Community Bond is, and the impact they can have on your organization and your portfolio? Check out The Future Of Good’s informative primer: What’s a Community Bond, Anyway?

About the Argonaut Rowing Club
Founded in 1872, the Argonaut Rowing Club is one of Canada’s oldest and largest clubs with a history of supporting Olympic and Paralympic champions. Members at ARC include rowers of all ages, skill levels and abilities.

About Tapestry Community Capital
Tapestry Community Capital supports non-profits and co-ops across Canada to raise and manage community bonds. To date, Tapestry has facilitated $61 million in community bonds investment from 3,900 community investors.