Igniting Local Actions for an Inclusive Economy

We are excited to share back with this community one of the Ontario collaborations that are initiating an inclusive and just economic recovery. It has been inspiring to see how sharing good ideas and practices in small groups over a dedicated period of time can spur new thinking and initiate change across our systems. 

Let’s start with the Inclusive Economies for Mid-Sized Cities. First formed in August 2020 with the United Way/Centraide Windsor-Essex County, Kingston Employment & Youth Services Inc., Inclusive Economy London, the Centre for Social Innovation, and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. This network formed in order to better connect our communities and to engage with institutional policy makers & local economic development innovators in order to scale practices enabling local economic responses to the pandemic through inclusive economic practices. Most recently, we have welcomed organizations from Guelph and Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination, and the Sudbury Workers Action Centre to our monthly calls.

What are inclusive economy practices? Here are some examples. 

  1. Community benefit agreements
  2. Social procurement policies
  3. Import replacement strategies
  4. Establishing community owned businesses through succession supports and establishing new ones
  5. Anchor institutions developing targeted employment pathways and linking them to training supports and local enterprises

Who are we considering when we say inclusive economies? People from our local community networks that include women, indigenous people, immigrants, racialized people, people with disabilities, people with essential skills gaps, youth, newcomers, refugees, and LGBTQ2S who are seeking access to the economy through job creation and community ownership models. 

What is coming up? This summer we are launching SI4 Inclusive Economies Fellowship. Four diverse emerging leaders who are interested in applying social innovation methods in their communities will come together from June – September to:

  1. Support the development of a Mid-Sized Cities report that municipalities and regional governments can use towards economic and community well-being as we move pastCOVID-19;
  2. Provide opportunities for four emerging practitioners in this field; and,
  3. Lean into the action areas that advance IED practices in local communities.
  4. How inclusive economies supports a just recovery for Ontario’s mid-sized cities.

We will bring together our research and learnings in a final report to support decision makers better understand how to unlock these opportunities in their regions. 

Our research and knowledge approach will focus on continuous learning, and co-creation to drive system level change. We will track and surface changes in knowledge, behaviour, and policy change, across the network; and identify practices between host cities. 

Here are some of the questions that we are engaging with:

Policy and Institutional Change

  • What social procurement policies governing municipalities operating budgets are effective economic development tools?
  • How can systemic barriers to inclusive and shared economic development be dismantled?
  • What is needed for equity seeking groups to work alongside traditional stakeholders?

Network Effectiveness 

  • Does Inclusive Economies for mid-sized cities work to meet the needs of community, decision makers, and market opportunities?
  • Are we creating new pathways for re-invigorating local economic development and local employment & ownership opportunities?

Broad-based Community Owned Businesses

  • Can import substitution in local economies catalyze business development and decent work?
  • Can skills and training effectively support business succession to retain local economic activity?

Inclusive Practice 

  • How do aspirational initiatives e.g. the Kingston Inclusive Diversity Charter, alter traditional business practices?
  • What underpinnings are required for business to value equity seeking groups as mentors into their organizational operations & cultures?

We are excited to be working together and are seeking funding opportunities that will catalyze these efforts and share outcomes and learning with others. 

We were inspired by a multi-stakeholder effort in London Ontario that formed Inclusive Economies London . This framework has identified four areas of focus: Growing community owned businesses; becoming a living wage region, creating community benefit agreements, and drawing on the purchasing power of local anchor institutions and infrastructure projects. As well, Evergreen’s Mid-Sized Cities Research Series (2018) provided a foundation for discussion. Finally, the Toronto Community Benefits Framework that continues to advance structural changes for equity seeking groups to fully participate in our local communities. These examples are part of actions taking place across Ontario, Canada and the global community and show how social innovation approaches are changing our systems to improve community well-being.

We know that many of you are involved in emergent initiatives related to building community wealth and inclusive economies and we look forward to engaging with you. Reach out to Jo Reynolds directly if you are interested in this work or would like to share what you are noticing in your communities. 

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