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CSI instigation: Cowichan Social Innovation

Gordon Hogg -
Gordon Hogg
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A community builds on its strengths, not its problems.

This is the idea special guest speaker White Rock MLA and Parliamentary Secretary for Non-Profit Partnerships Gordon Hogg encouraged a group of local leaders to explore during last month's Board Meets Board meeting.

Board Meets Board is a local non-profit group of social-service agency members who meet regularly to talk about the common issues facing all agencies and to work together to find solutions. The group has been active for two years.

Hogg was invited to speak about social innovation, which Leslie Welin, President of the Clements Centre, defines the following way: "It's about finding creative ways to address complex social issues. If you have something like poverty, there are so many factors that contribute to poverty. There are no easy solutions. The idea of social innovation is to get business, government and the social sector to work as partners."

This approach isn't new to Canada. Hogg shared examples of different social innovation approaches that are employed in other parts of the world. One of the main lessons is to seek funding in a co-ordinated way.

"We want to bring people together to deal with difficult issues rather than in silos, and to seek funding more along those lines," Welin said,.

The intention of Board Meets Board is to bring  directors together to identify  common strengths and determine how they can collaborate to better serve the needs of the Cowichan Valley's vulnerable people. She cited an example specific to the Cowichan Valley.

"Thrity-three percent of kids in kindergarten are experiencing difficulty in social and emotional development. This affects kids in all socio-economic groups. We're seeing increases in number of working folks having to go to food banks."

Welin anticipates that by combining the efforts of all social service agencies, funding can be directed more effectively than it is now. Welin is regional lead for the Board Voice Society of BC, a group who advocate on behalf of community-level Board Meets Board groups to the provincial government.

"The whole intent is to bring local governors together and hear what their challenges and concerns are. Find out what they can learn from one another and to reflect these needs at the provincial level. The Society asks board directors to bring concerns forward because sometimes it's difficult for individual agencies to do so. We bring these common concerns to the government."

Board Meets Board will meet again in February. For more information, contact Welin at board@clementscentre.org.

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