Young People Are the Largest Voting Group. Will They Decide the Election?

Young people are the largest voting demographic, making up 40% of the population. Their votes could decide the election. What’s at stake? Climate. COVID-19 recovery. Reconciliation. Affordable housing and healthcare. Their vote matters. The question is: will they use it? 

The story sometimes goes that youth don’t care about politics. It’s a narrative that enables politicians to, at times, disregard this demographic as a major voting pool and in doing so, disregard the issues they care about. But as we’ve seen in the last few years vis à vis Gen Z climate strikes, anti-racism protests, and online activism, youth apathy is a myth (it’s part of why groups continue to advocate for lowering the voting age to sixteen).  

Still, voter turnout was relatively low in the 2019 federal election with 54% of Canadians aged 18-24 voting compared to 79% of people aged 65-74. And there are new challenges: we’re living in a pandemic during a short election cycle with election day approaching at a time when many young people are focused on returning to school. This year, Elections Canada decided not to continue its on-campus voting program. Analysts are already projecting these challenges will hold young people back – something advocates, including CSI Member Apathy is Boring, are working to mitigate through online voting campaigns. So, will Gen Z’s online activism translate to the polls? 

It will if Future Majority has anything to say about it. 

Future Majority is “focused on mobilizing young Canadians to go out to the polls,” says Communications Director, Camelia Wong. “That shows we have political power and when we show we have political power, politicians and parties and everyone involved in the political sphere has to care about what we are concerned about.” 

With their core team working out of CSI Annex in the lead-up to September 20, they’ve engaged over 60,000 members and have hundreds of volunteers on the ground in different ridings across Canada canvassing, phone banking, and talking to young people. 

What Makes young people vote?

The default answer seems to be social media, and while there’s some good evidence to show for it (Jagmeet Singh tik toks and all), it may be a bit of a caricature assumption.

Future Majority says nothing is more effective than a good conversation with a friend. As Cam puts it: “are you going to be more convinced by a random political party putting up an ad on your instagram feed (…) or are you going to be convinced by someone you really trust that’s in your life who’s telling you: ‘hey, there are a lot of issues that are at stake in this election and it’s important to vote for x, y, z reasons and that’s why you should go to the polls’?” 

It’s called “relational organizing.” It’s what their research showed determined the 2020 US federal election – an election that had the highest voter turnout in the country’s history and which many analysts attribute youth voter turnout to as the deciding factor. Relational organizing looks like “voters talking to their friends and family in a language that they understand about why it’s important to vote and what issues that are important to them,” Cam explains. At Future Majority, that looks like throwing house parties. 

Well, sort of. They use the term loosely. Volunteers run covid-safe events, inviting their friends to do something they would normally do together, like watch a movie, bake a cake or play an online game. In the last fifteen minutes of the hang, the volunteer asks everyone to take a political action. It could be tweeting at a politician, writing an email, pledging to vote, or texting three friends asking them to vote (a tactic known as vote tripling). 

Research shows these touch points matter. It’s why Cam says the decision by Elections Canada to remove on-campus voting stations is “damaging to democracy”: according to her, decades of research show a positive early-age voting experience has the power to turn a whole generation into lifelong voters. “When I voted for the first time, it was [at] one of those on-campus voting stations,” Cam describes. “It was all of my friends saying, ‘we’re going to vote’ so we all went. It made voting a social thing.”

“House parties” invoke that same social power. Cam often meets Future Majority volunteers who say they joined after attending a friend’s “house party”. Some of them are not yet voting age but at sixteen, they are informed about politics and want to do what they can to support their future inside a healthy democracy. 

What Issues Do Young People Care about? 

“We talked to thousands of young Canadians over the past few months. We hosted some digital town halls in the spring and we were like, ‘what are the issues? Talk to us about what you’re concerned about and talk to us about what you want to see politicians do about it,’” Cam explains. 

Climate Change 

“Regardless of who I am speaking to – volunteers from BC or volunteers from Ontario – everyone has a climate change story,” Cam says. “For me, I was living in BC this summer. That’s where I’m from. We had a massive heatwave. We broke the record for the highest temperature recorded for three days straight. Every single time I talk to a volunteer they are like, “yeah, massive heat waves or rising sea levels or forest fires. 91% of Canadians polled indicated that they were concerned about climate change. Right off the bat, that’s a big issue for us.” 

Affordability 

“Over the course of the pandemic, young people have been the group that’s been most impacted by economic concerns brought on by covid. We saw 1 out of 6 [young people] lose their jobs in the pandemic. People are having a hard time finding a job. We are in a gig economy where lots of people have unstable work; they don’t have benefits or are well-paid,” Cam explains. “That’s another issue we’ve been hearing a lot about from young Canadians.” 

Racial Justice 

“In the past year and a half, we saw the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter Movement. We saw the unmarked graves of Indigenous children,” Cam says. “We’re going through a reckoning as a generation where there are so many wrongs that have to be [made right] and we’re also seeing issues like climate change and economic instability are impacting people at the margins, whether it’s racialized communities or the queer community or people with disabilities. They are impacting them disproportionately.”

Mental Health 

Future Majority also cites mental health care as a major concern for young Canadians. On their website, VoteTube, a video platform “where Canada’s party leaders respond to youth issues directly,” the CSI member asked candidates: “20% of Canadian youth are affected by a mental illness or disorder, but [less than] 1 out of 5 youth receive the mental health services they need. What’s your plan to improve access to mental health care for all Canadians?” Four major party leaders responded.

Clearly, there’s a lot at stake. But, there’s an opportunity. Cam puts it simply: “We’ve got the most voting power of any other age group in the country. (…) If we come out and vote, we will decide the election.”

What Our Members are Reading to Make An Informed Vote

It goes without saying that our members are a highly engaged and resourceful bunch with expertise across sectors, provinces, identities, and social impact issues. We’re lucky to learn from them every day. So with that in mind, we asked what they’re reading (and writing) to make an informed vote in the lead-up to the election. From housing to health to climate, here’s what some of them had to share: 

Health

Cassie Barker, Executive Director of Women’s Healthy Environments Network (WHEN), said, “Indigenous health and rights are so important to federal jurisdiction and accountability, and need more focus from the media coverage of the election and platforms.” They suggest reading: What You Need To Know About The Biggest Indigenous Issues This Election

CSI Member Jack.org (a charity empowering young leaders to revolutionize mental health) has  been keeping up on health-related issues, including child care, public health and pandemic preparedness, by comparing platform promises through Maclean’s platform guide:  2021 Election Platform Guide 

Housing

CSI Member Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA) wrote a comprehensive piece comparing the four main federal parties’ platforms on housing, homelessness, financialization of housing and more: 

Federal parties’ housing platforms in the 2021 election 

Climate

WHEN Executive Director, Cassie, also suggested a National Observer article by Seth Klein, author of A Good War and a leading climate expert (you can catch Seth here in one of our Climate Venture Conversations). He analyzes the Liberal and NDP climate platforms: 

If you want your vote to help the climate, here are the questions you need to ask 

Our network is reading: 

Election 2021: how the four main federal parties plan to tackle the climate crisis 

Arts

CSI Member Ontario Presents cited the Canadian Arts Coalition as their go-to resource for arts and culture party promises: 

Election 2021: Federal Parties Release Arts and Culture Platforms 

Our network is reading: 

Election 2021: The Major Parties on Arts and Culture 

Disability Rights

CSI Member Access Now shared these resources: 

Canadians with disabilities say they’re missing from the election discussion 

Disability advocates grade party platforms ahead of Election 44

2021 Election: Canada’s National Policy Platforms & People with Disabilities 

Indigenous Rights and Reconciliation 

Our network is reading: 

What are the major parties promising Indigenous people this election? Here’s a look at the platforms 

Complete list of promises made on Indigenous reconciliation

We will continue to update this list throughout the week in the lead-up to the election! Check back here throughout the week as we have more to share.  

Building Inclusion From the Ground Up: A Next Economy Conversation with Kalen Taylor

Movements across the globe are calling for systems change to build a world that is sustainable, equitable, and prosperous for all. But what will that world look like, specifically? It’s easy to get lost in the jargon or talk vaguely about broad topics. What tangible policies, models, and actions will create the world we want to see?

Next Economy Conversations, our monthly tête-à-tête with industry leaders, brings the people building systems-level solutions to the table to break down their approaches, provide key insights, and learn from their successes and failures. Building the Next Economy requires all of us. Welcome to the conversation.

Kalen Taylor is a social entrepreneur and co-founder of three successful social enterprises, as well as the President of Winnipeg’s Social Enterprise Centre and a founding board member of the Social entrepreneurship Enclave in Winnipeg’s north end. Since 2018, Kalen has served as the Executive Director of Purpose Construction, a social enterprise that combines social housing development and rehablitation with trades training and employment run by and for people underrepresented in the skill trades.

For our latest Next Economy Conversation, Tonya sat down with Kalen to discuss how they are “building circular systems from the ground up,” integrating affordable housing, employee social enterprise, food systems, and social finance into a multi-pronged approach to building the Next Economy. We’ve broken down their key insights and you can watch the full conversation here:

After 16 Months, the CSI Team is Taking A Moment To Breathe

It’s been an overwhelming year and a half, to say the least. That’s why, from July 19 to August 13, the CSI staff team is taking time to recharge and reflect before we reopen (when it’s safe to do so). We’re calling these four weeks CSI Breathes

What is CSI Breathes? 

CSI Breathes is an opportunity for our staff team to collectively slow down a bit. We have all committed to lower the intensity of our work, mitigate Zoom fatigue by limiting internal meetings, and for many of us, to take that long-awaited vacation without coming back to Sunday scaries and an overflowing inbox (you know the one – that dreaded pile of emails that can quickly max out any energy you may have recouped while away). 

We aren’t closing up shop by any means. Carving out time to, on the surface, do less will actually give us a chance to do a lot more: get outside, be in nature, see our families and friends, and of course, prepare to ramp up for a (hopeful) September reopening of our buildings! 

Why are we telling you this? 

Rest is key to doing transformative work. In fact, mental breaks increase productivity. As we co-design the future of work, exhaustion from overwork will not be something we take with us, nor will it be a point of pride we hold up to the world as a marker of productivity, success, or virtue. We understand that not everyone can take a breath right now, that it’s a privilege to be able to slow down and recharge. The nonprofit sector and business world are often saddled by cultures of burnout, stress, and precarious labour. It’s time to change that.

Building the Next Economy – one that is regenerative, equitable, and sustainable – requires that we strengthen local economies through community wealth; create workplaces that allow us to bring our whole selves to work; and implement models that empower quality employment, so that prioritizing rest is no longer considered risky, privileged, or lazy (and isn’t something we feel the need to write a blog about). It’s the standard of a healthy economy as any basic human need should be. 

Building this kind of economy requires us to live out these values now. It’s why CSI is proud to be a living wage employer; why we took the last year to review and bolster our compensation plan; why we created the Community Rent Pool to support our members through crisis; and why we did not lay off a single staff member due to Covid and instead, got creative reassigning roles. It’s also why, from July 19 to August 13, our team will be doing the most transformative thing any of us could be doing after sixteen months of profound grief, loss, and uncertainty: we are going to rest. 

What does this mean for you, our members? 

Honestly, nothing major! Other than the fact that you’ll be receiving a re-energized staff team ready to welcome you back, we are up and running as usual and all member supports remain here for you. You may notice our CSI events calendar is a little less full and our newsletter is on pause, but otherwise, our community team is doing what they always do in the summer for our members: preparing for a jam-packed September! 

In fact, in the spirit of CSI Breathes, our CSI Annex Community Animator, Tara, collaborated with CSI Member, Challenge Factory, to bring you a three-part curriculum-based program designed for people looking to make a stronger connection between their values and the work they do, and to help them learn to communicate these goals in a collaborative way with their employers. 

Crisis is a profound teacher. Throughout the pandemic, our CEO, Tonya, has reminded us, “COVID is Mother Nature sending us to our room, and asking us to think about what we’ve done.” As our team takes some time to reflect on what the pandemic has taught us, Ignite Your Career is your chance to learn how to navigate uncertainty, identify the supports you need, and communicate your goals to your employers.

What are our staff members getting up to during this breather? 

Part of the fun leading up to these four weeks has been swapping stories with coworkers about what we are most looking forward to. Here are a few CSI staff members on what they are doing with their CSI Breathes: 

“I am excited to use the hot tub and brick oven pizza stove that my partner and I were building from scratch,” CSI’s WOSEN Senior Programs Manager, Mitalie, exclaims. “Looking forward to making gourmet pizzas and experimenting with various ingredients.” 

Our Community Animator, Tara, is “looking forward to disconnecting from my laptop, pulling out my paints, and staring at the blue and green wherever I can find it. […] It’s a little time to reflect and reconnect with myself and my purpose.” 

And like most of us, our Membership Animator, Andrea, says she is “looking forward to the opportunity to reconnect with friends and family, and embark on some short day trips. Where I end up? Not too sure yet, but I am thrilled to be out in nature more, take a dip in a lake, hug a few hundred trees, and play some sports — volleyball anyone?”

And when September comes? She says, “I’m excited to meet CSI members, old and new. I will take time to connect with more members, support their transition into the space, and welcome new members to the network.” 

We can’t wait! Until then, we breathe. 

Celebrating National Indigenous History Month

June is National Indigenous History Month in Canada – a time to recognize the vast contributions of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. 

To celebrate and honour the month, we’re sharing some of our favourite stories of Indigenous-led innovation over the last year, as well as a spotlight on some of CSI’s Members and Alumni whose work centres Indigenous knowledge, promotes cultural awareness, and often supports reconciliation. 

Before we do, it’s important to recognize that this year National Indigenous History Month comes as unmarked graves continue to be found on the grounds of former residential schools. While horrifying, these discoveries are not surprising. Residential school survivors and their communities have long been speaking out about their existence and about the systematic oppression orchestrated by the Canadian government. As we recognize the many contributions of Indigenous people, we must also recognize that Canada’s colonial legacy persists not out of a lack of answers – Indigenous communities have long been providing solutions and sharing a path towards reconciliation – but due to government inaction and public indifference. Reconciliation must begin with truth. Today is a day for those of us who are settlers to read the 94 calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, educate ourselves on the true history of Canada (including its ongoing legacy), and demand action.

Stories from Our Network 

headshot of Jeff CyrCreating a Platform for Indigenous Innovation: A Next Economy Conversation with Jeff Cyr 

After a decade working in Canadian government, Jeff Cyr founded Raven Indigenous Capital Partners as a means of empowering Indigenous innovators and their communities through social finance. In this Next Economy Conversation, he speaks on a range of topics, including barriers to innovation in government, closing gaps faced by Indigenous social enterprises, and an exciting social finance model that puts solutions back into the hands of communities.

Bear Standing Tall is Bridging Relationships Between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Peoples 

CSI Member Bear Standingheadshot of Bear Standing Tall Tall created an Indigenous awareness course to fill in the gaps in Canada’s current education system. For too long, the history of Canada’s Indigenous Peoples has been ignored, omitted, or sanitized in the classroom. It wasn’t until 2015 that the topic of residential schools was added to the curriculum across the country. But even today, the history being taught is not standard, nor is it mandatory. Bear Standing Tall designed a self-directed program detailing 500 years of history from an Indigenous lens in order to change that. 

Towards Energy Sovereignty: A Climate Ventures Conversation with Melina Laboucan-Massimo 

Melina Laboucan-Massimo standing in front of solar panelsFounder of Sacred Earth Solar, co-founder of Indigenous Climate Action, and host of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network’s (APTN) series Power to the People, Melina Laboucan-Massimo is a climate justice powerhouse. In this Climate Ventures Conversation, she speaks about the experiences that motivated her to become an advocate for clean energy, how we need to rethink the way we teach energy systems to our children, the importance of truth-telling in a time of reconciliation, and the energy revolution happening in Indigenous communities across the country.

CSI Members, Past and Present 

Ojibiikaan 

CSI Annex Member, Ojibiikan Indigenous Cultural Network, is an Indigenous-led nonprofit offering land, food, and cultural-based programming in Toronto and the surrounding area. Their programming centres on ceremony, song, storytelling, and offerings, and includes opportunities to connect to the land through activities like medicine walks, traditional cooking, sugarbush tapping, and snowshoeing. 

Anwaatin 

CSI Alumni and 2017 Agent of Change, Anwaatin, believes addressing the climate crisis and  revitalizing treaty relationships go hand in hand. As Anwaatin’s CEO Larry Saul explains, “when you’re battling climate change, you need warriors. We are those warriors. Our weapons are not guns. We’re armed with wisdom and love for the natural world. We are stewardship warriors.”

Anwaatin supports these warriors. They work to ensure Indigenous communities are front and centre in the movement to address the climate crisis by equipping individuals with the technical tools and knowledge to participate in emerging climate actions. They do this through a range of services, including building partnerships and facilitating agreements between Indigenous nations and policymakers at the municipal and federal level, and supporting Indigenous-led carbon sequestration projects by educating communities on the biodiversity and carbon sequestration potential of their traditional territories. 

Toronto Inuit Association 

Established in September 2016, CSI Member Toronto Inuit Association (formerly iTUK) is dedicated to fostering connections and amplifying the voices of Inuit in Toronto. Their mission is to “create a community in Toronto for Inuit from all regions, where [the Toronto Inuit Association] can provide support in language learning, culture awareness, family services, employment and health services to Inuit and their families.” 

The Indigenous Curatorial Collective

The Indigenous Curatorial Collective is an Indigenous-led organization that strives to build community and reciprocity among Indigenous curators, artists, academics, and writers through programming, critical discourse, and professional opportunities. This CSI Member launched in 2005 “as a response to the authority afforded to the non-Indigenous curatorial and academic community within the discipline of Indigenous arts in Canada.” For the last sixteen years, the organization has worked tirelessly to support Indigenous artists and curators in claiming space, maintaining agency, and broadening opportunities offered to Indigenous creators in and beyond institutional frameworks.

Next Economy Primer: Employment Social Enterprises

Movements across the globe are calling for systems change to build a world that is sustainable, equitable, and prosperous for all. But what will that world look like, specifically? It’s easy to get lost in the jargon or talk vaguely about broad topics. What tangible policies, models, and actions will create the world we want to see?

Next Economy Conversations, our monthly tête-à-tête with industry leaders, brings the people building systems-level solutions to the table to break down their approaches, provide key insights, and learn from their successes and failures. 

In the lead up to our Next Economy Conversation with Kalen Taylor, Executive Director of the employment social enterprise, Purpose Construction, on June 24, we’re explaining all things employment social enterprises (ESE) so you can enter the conversation in the know. Building the Next Economy requires all of us. Here’s the breakdown before we build. 

What is an Employment Social Enterprise? 

According to the Toronto Enterprise Fund, employment social enterprises are “businesses that create training and employment opportunities for people facing systemic barriers to entry into the mainstream labour market.” 

At an ESE, People often bring their whole selves to their work because their whole self is supported: ESEs provide guided training, skill development, and wraparound support, such as transit, housing subsidies and other assistance, to empower people to attain and maintain employment. Taking a holistic approach is necessary to overcome the direct and indirect employment barriers facing various communities. 

Employment social enterprises exist all over the world and across Canada, For context, over seventy employment social enterprises take up residence in the Toronto region. 

Why Employment Social Enterprises are Fundamental to Building the Next Economy

ESEs are fundamental to creating an inclusive economy. Employment social enterprises create viable employment opportunities for those experiencing systemic employments barriers, including: 

Quality, long-term work transforms lives and strengthens community wealth. According to the Toronto Enterprise Fund, ESEs have “demonstrated success in increasing employee’s income, increasing attachment to the labour market, improving health, increasing housing security, and keeping people out of the criminal justice system.” 

Case Study: Purpose Construction

Purpose Construction is an employment social enterprise construction company. But they aren’t just any construction company. Purpose Construction is a “company that feels more like a family than a job. A company that believes in people.” 

244 employees make up this family. Senay Mosazghi is one of those employees. After being wrongfully imprisoned for practicing Christianity in his home country, Eretria, he fled religious persecution, travelling to Sudan where he eventually became sponsored as a refugee and moved with his family to Canada. A lack of Canadian job experience and developing English language skills might have proved a barrier to employment elsewhere but not at Purpose Construction. Senay received trade skills training, experience, a long-term job and deep community relationships that enabled him to strengthen his English language skills and raise his family in a supportive environment. 

Purpose Construction is a good example of how employment social enterprises harness the power of the market to create social change. According to their website, Purpose Construction is “reducing government social assistance costs, reducing recidivism rates, bringing families back together and helping people build stable, healthy lives.” Based on an independent third party social impact analysis, “for every $1 spent on services at Purpose Construction, [Purpose Construction] returns $4.29 in positive social impact.” 

Further Resources

Why Canada Needs Employee Ownership: A Next Economy Conversation with Peter Deitz

Movements across the globe are calling for systems change to build a world that is sustainable, equitable, and prosperous for all. But what will that world look like, specifically? It’s easy to get lost in the jargon or talk vaguely about broad topics. What tangible policies, models, and actions will create the world we want to see?

Next Economy Conversations, our monthly tête-à-tête with industry leaders, brings the people building systems-level solutions to the table to break down their approaches, provide key insights, and learn from their successes and failures. Building the Next Economy requires all of us. Welcome to the conversation.

For our latest Next Economy Conversation, serial entrepreneur and old friend of CSI’s, Peter Deitz, took us on a deep dive into Employee Share Ownership Plans (ESOPs). We’ve broken down his key insights below and you can watch the full conversation here:

Over the past two years, Peter Deitz has championed and helped oversee the formation of an Employee Share Ownership Plan for Grantbook, the organization he co-founded. Started out of CSI Annex in 2012, Grantbook has grown into a twenty-five person philanthropic advisory firm that helps foundations operationalize mission and vision by leveraging technology. 

Peter actually began looking into ESOPs as an effective and ethical continuity strategy for Grantbook so he could mindfully exit the company to pursue other interests full-time. His pursuits quickly grew into Unwrapit, a social purpose business that provides companies with digital alternatives to traditional corporate and event gifting practices in order to reduce waste destined for landfill and create meaningful, personalized connections. 

With that, let’s get into it. 

What is an ESOP? 

As Peter explains, due to current Canadian legislation, “there’s no simple answer to what an ESOP is.” Right now, unlike the US and the UK where clear frameworks exist, converting to an ESOP is a bespoke endeavour, making a hard-and-fast definition a little difficult to come by. 

According to ESOP Builders (the Canadian consultancy firm Peter worked with to customize Grantbook’s plan), ESOPs are “stock equity plans that allow employees to acquire ownership in a company, heightening employee buy-in and investment, while fostering accountability and an ownership mentality. They may include stock options, stock purchase, phantom-stock ownership or a combination of alternatives. Employee ownership can range from [less than] 1% to 100% of the company. As employees become owners, they share in the risks and rewards of the company.” 

At their core, ESOPs are one way to enable employee ownership. ESOPs differ from worker co-ops in ownership and governance structure. Today, we’ll be covering Grantbook’s version of an ESOP (a version Peter mentioned could also be called a “Shared Purchase Plan.”… It can get confusing. Stick with us!). 

Why should you care about employee ownership? 

Before we get further into the nitty gritty, let’s skip straight to what really matters: why should this matter to you? Well, wealth equity for starters. 

Employee ownership builds community wealth. As our CEO, Tonya, explored, “I see ESOPS as a fundamental strategy for the redistribution of wealth to those who have not otherwise had it historically. It’s a powerful tool for reconciliation and for inclusion in our economic systems.”

And there’s more. ESOPs also improve business performance and create economic resilience. As Peter emphasizes: 

“It generally has bipartisan support [in the US] and there is a strong financial case for this model. There is actually no limit to the positive systemic effects [ESOPs] can have. Whether with respect to economic opportunity and growth, racial discrimination and justice, building businesses that take into account what environmental and social effects they have, ESOPs and employee ownership can have a big impact across all of those realms.”

Why should an organization embrace employee ownership? 

Peter explains: 

“Why would I, the person who controls the founder’s shares, decide to do this? Because it was the right thing to do. Just at the most basic level. Employees create the [company’s] value, especially in a professional services firm. They have, in my view, every right to be in the ownership mix and to own a portion of the business. Ethically and morally, I was on board, and that’s why I started looking into it. 

Then I found out it’s the right answer to multiple questions, like how do you achieve greater retention in your organization? How do you create greater growth and margins? Employee owned companies generally perform better on traditional financial metrics of success.

How do I exit and preserve the culture? How do I exit and achieve some liquidity from this investment of these shares I own, but do it in a way that is going to create the most benefit for Grantbook and its employees? 

The same journey that brought me to [building] social purpose businesses is the journey that brought me to employee ownership as a continuity and exit strategy that makes sense.”

Breaking down Grantbook’s ESOP structure 

When it comes to Grantbook, an Employee Share Ownership Plan means “employees have the opportunity to buy an ownership stake in the business.” 

Peter breaks it down further: 

How do employees acquire ownership? 

“Specifically, employees own outright shares that they’ve either earned into or purchased. The difference [between earning and purchasing] is that a certain number of employees who […] saw Grantbook through an especially difficult periods earned a portion of the shares set aside for employee ownership. Everyone else, including those employees, have had the opportunity on an annual basis to buy additional shares at fair market value (as an independent third-party determines it to be). 

Anyone who works at Grantbook for more than a year is eligible to participate in the ESOP. Everyone can participate equally. There is no differentiation based on seniority (meaning no one can purchase larger portions than someone who is new to the business or earlier in their career). Everyone can buy equally each year. 

Each year employees receive dividends on the shares they own. That’s a unique quality to the form of ESOP we have. [My understanding of other ESOPs is they typically] don’t pay dividends [and there is no payout] for employee owners until they leave the company.”

What does governance look like? 

“Right now, Grantbook is at about 21% employee ownership and we have a pathway to at least 30% ownership over the coming years.These are voting common shares. They are not proxy shares and they are not non-voting shares. So if there’s ever a decision that goes to shareholders, anyone who is an employee owner can vote using their common shares. 

The ESOP group can nominate a director to the governing board of Grantbook. That was actually just triggered when the ESOP group surpassed twenty percent so we’re in the process right now of figuring out how [that process will work] and who will sit on the board as a full [ESOP-nominated] director. It could be an employee owner or the employee group could choose to have an independent director represent them at the board level. That is their decision. 

For decisions that go to shareholders, the number of common shares you hold will determine the votes. Not many decisions will go to shareholders. For decisions that go to the board, employees will be represented through the director [they appoint].”

When a staff member leaves, what happens? 

“When any staff member or employee leaves, their shares in the company can be bought out by any other shareholder. What that means in practice is any other ESOP employee owner has an opportunity to buy those shares at the current valuation. If no other shareholder will buy those shares, the corporation is obligated to buy them back. An employee that is no longer an employee is also no longer a shareholder. That’s how we’ve designed our ESOP.” 

How do employees feel about it? 

Sara Saddington, Grantbook’s Content Lead, jumped into the conversation to say, “I’ll be eligible to buy in the next round. The B Corp ESOP was a big part of why I joined the team. [There are] definitely some great cultural benefits to this structure.”

That’s right. Grantbook also has B Corp status (another topic we deep-dived into for a Next Economy Conversation with Kasha Huk of B Lab Canada). Peter mentioned how Grantbook’s B Corp ESOP structure empowers all shareholders – employees and directors alike – to take on multiple stakeholder perspectives, including the planet’s. This feature contributes to a values-aligned culture and governing model employees can thrive in: 

“Over time, our B Corp status and employee ownership feature will become the cultural centre of gravity for Grantbook. I think what they do for employees is create a psychologically safe workplace. They create a workplace that has deeply rooted values and they create economic opportunity.”

If ESOPs are so great, why isn’t everyone doing it? 

As this report from Social Capital Partners outlines, implementing an employee ownership program in Canada is a very difficult process. For Peter, the journey was slow and often tedious. We need policy to change that because as he explains, ESOPs have the capacity to radically disrupt the way we do business for the better: 

“There are trillions of dollars in wealth currently held in ownership of business that will be transferred over the coming years because baby boomers who hold a lot of that are retiring or enlightened owners of business who want to move onto something else don’t have an easy button to embrace what we are talking about. It was exceptionally hard work to get to where we are with Grantbook’s ESOP. If a group can make it easy to turn any kind of company into a partially or fully owned employee company then the impact on Canada’s economy and on the global economy would be unlike any other intervention that could be made in the capital markets. This is an immensely powerful tool.”

Want to hear more from Next Economy leaders? Subscribe to our weekly newsletter so you can be the first to RSVP when we host our next conversation.

Celebrating Canadian Innovation Week

Social Innovation Matters 

It’s right there in the name: we believe in the systems-changing power of innovation, particularly social innovation. It’s the keystone to all we do: social innovation breathes life into new ideas, awakens old ones, and is essential for unlocking the solutions for an equitable and sustainable world for us all. 

This Canadian Innovation Week, we’re celebrating the innovations and innovators doing the work to bring the most promising and transformative models, enterprises, and solutions to the world.  

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Next Economy Trends in the Federal Budget

The federal government announced the budget this week, and if you haven’t had a chance to read the 724-page document, well, that’s understandable!

Shifting systems towards a people and planet first world requires market, policy and cultural change. We’ve always felt this in our bones, known it in our hearts and understood it intellectually. This budget has the potential to push on key market and policy levers, and it is no doubt influenced by the cultural changes afoot. Yes, there are critical pieces missing and plenty of room for improvement (notably, we’re missing the inclusion of a Universal Basic Income strategy and this budget needs to do more to support climate action), but this is an important budget that we believe holds potential for creating a more people and planet first world with some promising Next Economy trends.

 

The Next Economy is
equitable, sustainable, and prosperous.

We know you have all been a part of pushing for the changes and solutions our communities, economies, and planet need, and we’re proud to continue working with the incredible CSI community, pushing forward for a better today and tomorrow. Here’s a roundup of some budget highlights:

Equitable

Ending the She-session
This budget proposes supporting women entrepreneurs with $146.9 million over four years to increase access to affordable financing, increase data, and strengthen capacity within the entrepreneurship ecosystem. It looks to strengthen the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy, Women Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Fund, and the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub. We know that women have been hit hard by the pandemic “she-session”—we’ve heard firsthand from our Women of Ontario Enterprise Network (WOSEN) participants how its affected them—and we’re eager to see these funds support more women as they return to the workforce and flourish in the years ahead.

Supporting BIPOC Entrepreneurs & Economies
Covid-19 has disproportionately affected Black Canadians and they’re more likely than other Canadians to experience layoffs because of it. These issues stem from systemic anti-Black racism. This budget proposes providing $100 million in the next year to the Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative as well as $200 million to Employment and Social Development Canada to establish a new Black-led Philanthropic Endowment Fund which intends to “create a sustainable source of funding, including for Black youth and social purpose organizations, and help combat anti-Black racism and improve social and economic outcomes in Black communities.”

The budget also proposes expanding the Aboriginal Entrepreneurship Program by investing $42 million over three years to directly support Indigenous-led businesses. The National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association’s Indigenous Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative will also be granted $22 million over three years to provide tools, services, and resources to increase the number of Indigenous women entrepreneurs.

Creating Accessible Communities & Workplaces
For our physical spaces to be truly equitable, they must be physically accessible. The budget pledges to provide $100 million over two years to triple funding for the Enabling Accessibility Fund which provides support for renovation, construction, and retrofit projects that make communities and workplaces more accessible for persons with disabilities. This fund helped CSI install a wheelchair lift and pave the laneway at 192 Spadina!

Surfing From Far and Wide
Unless a very kind and thoughtful friend printed this blog post out and mailed it to you, you’re probably using the internet to read it. In many rural and remote Canadian communities, inaccessibility to broadband internet creates a barrier, not only to reading the CSI blog, but to participating in the economy. This budget proposes providing an additional $1 billion to the existing $6.2 billion already in the Universal Broadband Fund over six years, to support a more rapid rollout of broadband projects. 

Regenerative

Getting to Net Zero
The budget earmarks $5 billion over seven years for the Net Zero Accelerator, a program launched in the government’s climate plan last December to fast-track decarbonization projects. This funding would provide up to $8 billion of support for jobs and projects that will help reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions. The plan is to reduce the general corporate and small business income tax rates by 50 per cent for businesses that manufacture zero-emission technologies (starting in 2022, gradually phasing out starting in 2029, and eliminated by 2032).

Financing Clean Tech
As we’ve seen through our EarthTech program, Canadian Clean Tech has a critical role to play in tackling the climate crisis and ventures from coast to coast are working harder than ever to ensure a flourishing future for people and the planet. This budget suggests making up to $1 billion available on a cash basis, over five years, to help draw in private sector investment to the Canadian clean technology sector.

Greening Our Bond Options
You already know we’re fans of innovative bonds. The government plans to issue its inaugural federal green bond in 2021-22. Through green bonds, investors have the opportunity to finance projects such as green infrastructure, clean tech innovations, and nature conservation in an effort to combat climate change.

Prosperous

Recovering From Covid
Last year was hard for the nonprofit and charitable sectors, and this year hasn’t been easier. By way of some relief, the government plans to provide $400 million to charities and non-profits through the temporary Community Services Recovery Fund in 2021-22. It also plans to extend Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) and Lockdown Support beyond June, with both programs extending until September 25 and CEWS eventually replaced by the new Canada Recovery Hiring Program.

If approved, this budget will also see the Canada Small Business Financing Program expand its borrower eligibility to include non-profit and charitable social enterprises, lending against intellectual property and start-up assets and expenses, and a new line of credit product. It also proposes to increase annual financing by $560 million, supporting approximately 2,900 additional small businesses.

Investing in the Social Finance Fund & Investment Readiness Program
Social finance helps mobilize capital to bring about public good for people and planet. The government is planning to release up to $220 million of the $755 million Social Finance Fund over the next two years and proposes to renew the Investment Readiness Program (IRP) with $50 million over two years. This program supports charities, non-profits, and social purpose organizations in capacity-building activities such as business plan development, expanding products and services, skills development, and hiring. We’ve seen firsthand what this funding can do: over 20% of the 48 projects funded by the IRP were existing and former CSI accelerator program participants and members! Thanks to the IRP, Social Innovation Canada has been deepening and broadening the capacity of Canada’s social innovation ecosystem to apply Social R&D practices that can help strengthen programs and improve organizational investment readiness.

Spending for Good
If you’re a charity, you’ve got to spend a minimum amount on your programs or gifts each year. However, in Canada we’ve got a gap of at least $1 billion in charitable expenditures! The budget proposes launching public consultations with charities on increasing the disbursement quota beginning in 2022. According to the budget, “this could potentially increase support for the charitable sector and those that rely on its services by between $1 billion and $2 billion annually.” That’s ‘billion’ with a “B”.

Digitizing Our Businesses
More important than ever, the new Canada Digital Adoption Program will help small and medium-sized businesses adopt new digital technologies through micro-grants and access to zero-interest financing to help offset the costs of going digital. The budget proposes providing $2.6 billion over four years on a cash basis to the Business Development Bank of Canada to help small- and medium-sized businesses finance technology adoption.

Securing Housing
In 2019 Canada declared housing a human right. Good thing because right now, the country is in an affordable housing crisis which is only showing signs of accelerating (the reason we’re engaged in a Financialization of Housing lab right now). Hopefully, there is some relief coming through  some of the budget’s proposals: $2.5 billion over seven years to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation which includes an additional $1.5 billion for the Rapid Housing Initiative (at least 25 per cent of this funding would go towards women-focused housing projects); $600 million over seven years to renew and expand the Affordable Housing Innovation Fund; $315.4 million over seven years through the Canada Housing Benefit; $118.2 million over seven years through the Federal Community Housing Initiative; and $3.8 billion earmarked for affordable housing units

The Trudeau government also proposes reallocating $1.3 billion of previously announced funding, including $750 million in funding under the National Housing Co-Investment Fund, $250 million in funding under the National Housing Co-Investment Fund, and $300 million in funding from the Rental Construction Financing Initiative.