Social Purchasing Portal: building community one purchase at a time

“My son is proud of me. I love telling him that I have to go to work,” says Stefi Campbell, a single mom to a six-year-old son.

Imagine hearing this kind of response whenever you made an everyday purchase, be it an apple or a ream of paper.

That’s what buying social is all about. It means using your purchasing power to make it possible for someone experiencing barriers to employment to be gainfully employed.

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Stefi Campbell at work in the Food Connections program,Wolseley Family Place. /CHRIS FRIESEN

Campbell is a contract worker at Wolseley Family Place in the Food Connections Program. It’s because of the program she was able to take her son to the movies for the first time – never having had the funds to do so before.

A major barrier to employment for Campbell is lack of childcare. Wolseley Family Place addresses this need with on-site care as well as weekly check-ins to ensure both Campbell and her son’s needs are being met.

Upon program completion, participants will have a resume, a reference, a Food Handler’s certificate and a heightened sense of self-worth and confidence.

Food Connections is targeted to one-parent families with no previous employment experience, are on social assistance and rely heavily on food banks.

Programs addressing these and many other barriers to employment are all over Winnipeg and you can make a difference by being part of the action, choosing to make purchases or order services from Social Enterprises and other suppliers on the Social Purchasing Portal.

By doing this, you help people to help themselves, double the amount of money kept in the local economy, create approximately 25% more employment and build community.

From bicycle parts to courier services, groceries to co-operatives of many stripes, painting and repairs, food galore and childminding, clothes and furniture, office supplies and re-cycling, hardware and crafts, landscaping and housing, it’s a long list of products and services from organizations who put people first in their mandate, and who make up the suppliers listed in the Social Purchasing Portal. They all have stories to tell that are similar to Stefi Campbell’s.

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Cheryl Henderson at work at The North End Women’s Centre thrift shop /CHRIS FRIESEN

The North End Women’s Centre runs a thrift shop social enterprise that includes a training and employment program in which participants can earn a wage that will go towards paying off a debt.

From being homeless, participant Cheryl Henderson went to having an apartment of her own and a part time job. She’s now searching for further employment to supplement her income.

“When people get stronger, their households get stronger,” says Sarah Leeson-Klym, Regional Director of the Canadian Community Economic Development Network.

“When folks can move out of a rooming house into stable housing, the neighbourhoods become more prosperous. When neighbourhoods flourish people gain more hope and look for better opportunities for themselves and their families,” she says.

Transformation happens one action at a time, but it’s not long before it snowballs.

So how does one find out how to buy responsibly, strategically, locally, supporting these kinds of businesses, helping people to move out of poverty?

The Social Purchasing Portal Winnipeg (www.sppwinnipeg.org) is the place. A project hosted by Local Investment Toward Employment (LITE), the SPP lists all the suppliers, like Neechi Foods Worker Cooperative.

“The Social Purchasing Portal helps businesses like Neechi Foods by promoting our social goals to community members and our business partners,” says Louise Champagne, President of Neechi Foods.

“This type of support helps us distinguish Neechi from our competitors.”

Also identified on the Portal are dedicated Purchasers like The Winnipeg Foundation who actively address their Corporate Social Responsibility by purchasing whenever possible from SPP Supplier Partners.

“The Winnipeg Foundation has provided grant support to the Social Purchasing Portal for a number of years,” says Megan Tate, Director of Community Grants at The Winnipeg Foundation.

“Our vision is ‘a Winnipeg where community life flourishes for all’ which we strive to achieve not just through our grant-making, but through all the work that we do. Using products and services from SPP Supplier Partners allows us to support local community economic development,” Tate explains.

Purchasing Partners understand by buying “social” they are using their purchasing power to make a difference in Winnipeg.

Whether a corporate entity, not-for-profiit or an individual purchaser, choosing to purchase office supplies, equipment and furniture from SPP suppliers, keeps a significantly larger portion of one’s money in the local economy rather than supporting a big box store (The Power of Purchasing; The Economic impacts of Local Procurement, Anthony Pringle,2013, www.sauder.ubc.ca).

Choosing to have a meeting, conference or dinner party catered by an SPP supplier helps persons with barriers to employment gain enviable training and experience, enabling them to eventually move out of poverty.

Supporting a worker co-operative greatly expands the reach of your money because these cooperatives in turn purchase locally.

SPP_Bulletin_finalAt the end of March, The Social Purchasing Portal is hosting an EXPO open to the public. A great many suppliers, purchasers and employment partners will be there. It will be like a fun fair or a trade show if you will, with tables set up showing off their wares, with details of what products and services are available to everyone in Winnipeg.

Whether responsible for your corporation’s purchasing or an individual who cares, you are invited to join us at SPP EXPO on Wed. Mar. 30 from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Richardson College of Environment and Science, 599 Portage Ave. at the University of Winnipeg.

For more information, contact Josh Derbecker, SPP Coordinator at 204-942-8578 or info@sppwinnipeg.org

At the EXPO, find out how easy it is to buy strategically and make a big difference.

You, your business, your faith group, your service club, your team, all buy “stuff” every day. Why not buy local and buy social?

Adding your purchasing power to existing customers will help these businesses expand, allow more people with barriers to become employed, and assist more people to move out of poverty.

With the Social Purchasing Portal, you really do have the power to make a difference.

SPP video – Editor and Motion Graphics: Ian Ongsansoy / Music: Christopher Samms