Building community wealth

Together, we can create an inclusive and
equitable economy where everyone thrives.

Building community wealth

Together, we can create an inclusive and equitable economy where everyone thrives.

Inequity existed long before COVID-19

COVID-19 has disrupted the financial wellbeing and employment of so many. Indigenous people, vulnerable women, youth, newcomers, racialized communities, and people with disabilities have all been the most negatively affected.

Even before the pandemic, these groups experienced major barriers to inclusion in the workforce, in community spaces, and in accessing services of all kinds—including stigma, misinformed perceptions and biased or outdated assumptions. The financial, cultural and social costs of these inequities are on all of us to carry.

1 in 6

people with disabilities live below the poverty line.

Only 63 per cent of people with disabilities participate in Ottawa’s labour market compared to 81 per cent of the general population.  

40%

of newcomers live on a low income.

Recent immigrants to Ottawa who hold a university degree had an unemployment rate more than 3X higher than their Canadian-born counterparts. 

72.8%

of Indigenous peoples aged 24 to 54 are employed.   

In contrast, 82.5% of non-Indigenous people in the same age range are employed. 

Our choices can transform our communities

We have choices to make: will we gradually return to the ways we did business and built relationships before COVID-19, leaving many people out? Or will we reimagine our communities and work together to make them more equitable for everyone?

IMAGINE IF…

…we could seize this moment to close the employment gap between people with disabilities and the general population by committing to equitable employment targets.

…residents could experience the benefits of new development projects in their neighbourhoods because our supply chains source goods and services locally first.

…we could close the wealth gap between Indigenous peoples and settler Canadians by investing in Indigenous-owned businesses.

Building community wealth – together

When we buy local, when we build inclusive workplaces, when we hire from underrepresented groups in the labour market, and most importantly, when we work together, we can reduce inequities for marginalized groups, repair relationships, and rebuild systems that create prosperity.

This is known as community wealth building, and we believe it is one of the key tools we can use to move the mark towards stronger, healthier communities where everyone can thrive.

People and profits for a stronger community

Community wealth building uses existing strengths, talents, organizations, and business practices to put local people in control of their own economic wellbeing.  

picture this

A major sporting event is coming to town. The organizers know they will need 100 bouquets of flowers to give to coaches and athletes throughout the duration of the event. They have a choice of sourcing the bouquets from a major out-of-town garden centre who has provided for similar events in the past, or a local florist that employs people with disabilities. 

Both businesses provide their services at a competitive cost. By choosing the local social enterprise, the sporting event organizers are supporting employment for marginalized people, a strong connection to the community where the event is held, local economic development, and a fantastic event of their own. This is community wealth building.   

How to build community wealth

Shopping local, buying from organizations that do social good, and negotiating agreements with large organizations to improve their community, are all ways that community wealth building can break down barriers and create opportunities for people who are left behind by existing economic systems.   

Here’s how it works:

By supporting locally owned businesses, the buyer increases and supports local jobs, strengthens entrepreneurship, preserves local character, and keeps wealth within the community.

Example:
To support the economic recovery during the pandemic, the City of Ottawa ran a campaign to encourage shopping at local businesses. This included advertising and social media driving people to directories where residents could find local stores that sell the product/service they were looking for. 

A business created with the primary goal of achieving a social, cultural, or environmental mission. Social enterprises generate their own income and reinvest profits back into the mission. 

Example:
Gathering Grounds Café in Carleton Place is a full-service coffee shop that provides training and employment for people with disabilities. All profits are invested into wrap-around supports for people with developmental disabilities or autism. They sell coffee, food, and offer a lovely experience – all at a competitive price. 

Buying goods, services or infrastructure that contributes to community wellbeing and resilience. This could include purchasing goods and services from suppliers that have a social benefit or incorporating employment goals into infrastructure contracts.

Example:
Ottawa Community Housing (OCH) hired Good Nature Groundskeeping (GNG)—a social enterprise that employs people with disabilities and/or mental illness, and people experiencing homelessness—to maintain the grounds of their properties. After a brief pilot project phase to ensure GNG was equipped to take on this large-scale contract, the two organizations formalized their partnership.

Specific, enforceable, negotiated agreements between leaders of development projects, governments, and community members/groups with an intended positive outcome for the community. 

Example:
The Ottawa Community Benefits Network has advocated for community benefit agreements to be incorporated within the development of LeBreton Flats. This includes pushing for commitments on carbon zero electricity grids, a percentage of the land committed to green space, social enterprises to undertake maintenance work, and more.

Join United Way East Ontario

United Way East Ontario’s networks are vast and include connections to many sectors, industries, businesses, governments, elected officials, social services and community leaders. This puts us in a unique position to bridge the gaps between these players and help remove the barriers we may have in building community wealth.

our vision

Equitable employment opportunities for people who face barriers to entering the labour market, like Indigenous people, newcomers and people with disabilities

Strong and sustainable community, cultural and social services

Empowered residents who determine the direction and wellbeing of their communities

Reduced wealth inequities for marginalized groups

Community wealth building will help us get there.

What we're doing

Advocating for policy changes that make it easier for large institutions to buy from socially conscious businesses
Helping organizations create more inclusive and accessible workplaces through training, toolkits, job fairs for underrepresented groups in the labour market, and more
Evolving our own organization to incorporate the principles of community wealth building with an internal task force
Bringing people together through things like learning events and collaborative champions’ tables to understand and remove barriers to building community wealth
Speaking up in support of community benefit agreements that can lift up the most vulnerable people
Alongside our partners like the Centre for Social Enterprise Development, we’re connecting businesses with a network of suppliers that have a positive social impact, like social enterprises or local independent businesses.

Work with us

There are so many opportunities for any business to make a social impact. Work with us at United Way to find areas where your organization can act with the best interests of your community at the forefront.

To learn more and get involved, contact:

Preeti Prabhu
United Way East Ontario's Senior Director of Public Policy and Stakeholder Relations
pprabhu@unitedwayeo.ca 

Work with us

There are so many opportunities for any business to make a social impact. Work with us at United Way to find areas where your organization can act with the best interests of your community at the forefront.

To learn more and get involved, contact:

Preeti Prabhu
United Way East Ontario's Senior Director of Public Policy and Stakeholder Relations
pprabhu@unitedwayeo.ca 

Work with us

There are so many opportunities for any business to make a social impact. Work with us at United Way to find areas where your organization can act with the best interests of your community at the forefront.

To learn more and get involved, contact:

Preeti Prabhu
United Way East Ontario’s Senior Director of Public Policy and Stakeholder Relations
pprabhu@unitedwayeo.ca 

News and stories

United Way has a long history of working collaboratively to make a difference in the communities where we live, work, and play.

Imagining a brighter post-pandemic future

On October 19, leaders from businesses, non-profits, governments and more gathered to learn about tools that can ensure a more inclusive, equitable economic recovery beyond COVID-19.

Providing kids with work experience while fueling creativity

United Way partner, Hot Shoe Productions, offers youth the opportunity to produce videos and stories, empowering them with valuable work experience they otherwise wouldn’t have access to.

Things are looking up for TJ

TJ is off the streets, working full time and saving for retirement thanks to a United Way partner.

Community Update: An equitable economic recovery starts now

This month’s COVID-19 Community Response Table meeting identified opportunities to address the financial impact of the pandemic on vulnerable populations through equitable employment.

Community Update: Paving the way for social innovation

This month, our COVID-19 Community Response Table gathered to continue our conversation on equitable economic recovery, focusing on the potential of community wealth building, social procurement and social enterprise.

Community Update: People over profit for the future

This month’s COVID-19 Community Response Table brought together community leaders, government, and key stakeholders to identify opportunities to build a more equitable economic recovery beyond the pandemic.