social delta

Consulting and support for social enterprise in Canada

Tag: social enterprise (page 1 of 6)

‘Tis the season…gifts from social enterprises

As we live through the onslaught of holiday promotions, sales and hype, keep in mind that buying from social enterprises is a great way to both support your local economy, buying quality products while helping to provide other social benefits.

Your holiday and seasonal purchases from social enterprises can help provide employment opportunities for individuals marginalized in our communities, support environmentally sound products and services, participate in upcycling and recycling initiatives, or support culture, the arts and recreation.

To find a social enterprise selling goods that you’ll feel proud to give, you can visit the following websites: https://seontario.org/, Buy Social Canada, or the directory at the Centre for Social Enterprise Development (Ottawa)

Social Enterprise Job Opportunity in Ottawa

OREC (the Ottawa Renewable Energy Cooperative) is seeking to hire a part-time Communications Manager to support the day-to-day operations, member and investor relations, and public-facing communications of the co-operative.

You can see a full job posting on their website, here: https://www.orec.ca/careers/

Applications for this position are to be submitted by December 7, 2021.

Chatbots in social enterprise

Some estimates state that 80% of all companies will use chatbots to generate leads or build customer loyalty in the next few years. How does this, and how should this, affect social enterprises?

First, what is a chatbot? It is an automated “instant message” discussion that “pops up” on a website or social media platform to engage the potential customer with either a text or voice conversation. The goal of a chatbot is to mimic genuine human interaction through clever writing and the use of artificial intelligence. In some cases sophisticated algorithms combined with user data ensure the outputs are as personalized as possible, only more efficient.

Chatbots typically start with an open question, such as “How can I help you today?” Users who choose to engage will often ask a question that can be answered by one of perhaps hundreds of pre-programmed responses (Chatbots, then become a customer service robot that can access an almost infinite number of responses in a Frequently Asked Questions database).  As the “conversation” proceeds, the bot typically will request a prospect/customer’s name and email address and remarkably, statistics show that the majority of site visitors will actually provide that information (which is very hard to get via other customer development tools and activities).

Chatbots are counter intuitive to many marketing professionals, and to social change entrepreneurs. They challenge the notion that personal interaction is one of the most effective ways to generate leads, build loyalty, and engage customers. The thought that artificial intelligence can do this work for social enterprise may feel, somehow…wrong. Duplicitous even.  

However, chatbots are tireless workers who never need time off, can respond to thousands of interactions simultaneously, and can create new leads from browsing users, effectively deliver key messages or marketing promotions, and can, in fact, answer the majority of basic questions. Websites are static, whereas chatbots create the illusion of dynamic interaction. If a user wants to find out the store’s opening hours on the long weekend, they can choose to find that information on what might be thousands of pages on the website…or they can simply ask the chatbot and have a response in seconds. However, it is important to recognize that chatbots should not compensate for bad web design, they should augment an easily navigated website.

There are some downsides, of course. Estimates suggest that the programming and technology required to create an effective chatbot can cost $20-$30K. This is a lot for an early stage business, and it may be difficult to justify without concrete proof that it will help bolster sales and the customer relationship. Investing in a chatbot, fundamentally requires a leap of faith, and it can also diminish (or deplete) available funds for other forms of marketing. It is not surprising that the relatively simple-to-use chatbot plugin for Facebook has become common. From the 2016 launch to mid-2018, there were over 300,000 active chatbots on Facebook.

Also, chatbots need to be able to pass the (prospective) customer to a live agent if the customer becomes frustrated, or if they are not getting the information they need. It is often difficult for small businesses to make this transition from bot to human interaction seamless. A bot can book an appointment with a customer representative, but there is often a few hours delay (or more) and this means that the “lead” might grow cold or even find an alternative product online.

So, is a chatbot the right thing for a social enterprise? In truth, chatbots are becoming the norm on many commercial websites, and in the last few years, online users appear to be embracing them as useful tools to help them access information on a company or its products. However, chatbots are most useful only if your customers embrace them and only if they work well. They can be particularly effective for businesses that have high web traffic, and in cases were simple responses are all that is needed in most circumstances. If your business sells a toy that has specifications that are important to share (are they recyclable, for example) that is an easy question to answer. However, if your business is selling facilitation services, then answering a prospective client in person might be a better way to convey your value.

Social Delta has been surprised at the statistics on the effectiveness of chatbots, and therefore advises that they not be dismissed as a tool in the marketing toolbox; however, as with all marketing tools, chatbots should be evaluated by the social entrepreneur by considering their value to the business. They should strategically employ the technology if there is an expectation of benefit (financial or mission impact) that exceeds the cost (money or time or reputation).

However, social entrepreneurs should not presume the tool to be invasive or annoying; somewhat remarkably, the studies show chatbots to be a strong customer cultivation tool in many cases.

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Dutch Social Enterprises: Leading by Example

In the Netherlands there is a national organization dedicated to promoting and supporting social enterprise.

They recently released a report that documents how leading social enterprises in their country are affecting the way business is done. Those social enterprises, by doing business the right way, are leading by example.

I particularly like their analysis which indicates that social enterprise can effect change in three ways:

  • Raising the possible are the activities that show how business can be done responsibly, so that other businesses can choose to adopt those sustainable practices as well.
  • Raising the desirable are the activities that change norms and values in society and increase cultural pressures, which motivates executives to act sustainably.
  • Raising the acceptable are the activities that contribute to higher institutionalized, formal standards, so that it becomes unacceptable not to adopt more sustainable practices.

To paraphrase, social enterprises can show what is can be done, they can challenge existing business practices and they can actually set the bar higher for other businesses to emulate.

The report is full of excellent resources, ideas, and indications of what success looks like for any social enterprise. It offers an aspiration view for social entrepreneurs wishing to grow their social impact.

Social Delta recommends it as inspirational (yet practical) reading. Download it or read it online for free here.

The Ottawa Tool Library needs your help

The Ottawa Tool Library, one of Ottawa’s leading social enterprises, has been evicted from their current location. Their landlord has failed to provide the required notice, and the entire lending library must leave their location at 250 City Centre in Ottawa by December 9, 2020.

On behalf of the Ottawa Tool Library, Social Delta is sharing their press release here.

The tool library is seeking public support to find a new location on the West Side of Ottawa. All lending of tools has now been suspended, but through the generosity of several community partners offering short term workshop space, several previously scheduled workshops will take place in alternate locations in the coming weeks.

The tool library is accepting donations of money to support the emergency move at their website, www.ottawatoollibrary.com , and to help pay for the transport and storage of the 2100 tools in their lending library until a new location can be confirmed. They are unable to accept any tool donations until a new location is found.

This has been a difficult year for many businesses. The Ottawa Tool Library has worked diligently to remain open, operating safely within public health guidelines, and providing tools, advice and support to home do-it-yourselfers, low income residents, and other in the community. This surprise eviction is a significant challenge. They are calling upon the community for help in order to weather the storm and to reopen again in the new year.

Any suggestions of a new location, available secure low cost storage options, or ways to support the continued success of the Ottawa Tool Library should be emailed to the OTL Executive Director, Bettina Vollmerhausen

Build Back Better

These are times when starting or expanding a social enterprise is either a fantastic opportunity or an impossible folly.

There are unquestionably many challenges facing people and communities locally, nationally and globally as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, and perhaps not entirely by coincidence, we see cracks and fissures appear in the social fabric: polarized and angry democracies, growing income disparities, wildly unsustainable consumerism, incredibly potent and punishing environmental changes, more xenophobia and irrational fear of “others,” increasing intolerance and racism, and a sincere lack of resources as our economies are (and have been) shown to be fragile constructs.

If social action is borne of injustice and and fomenting of the desire for positive change, then surely we must look at new ways of creating a just and sustainable society. Social enterprise is potential tool to make that happen, although starting any sort of business in a pandemic is risky; fantastic or folly, indeed.

I have many thoughts on how we can redesign business and movements and individual actions and responsibilities. However, I believe that my colleague and friend Vinod Rajesekaran, of Future of Good, expressed it brilliantly in his recent article “Stop idolizing your sector and demonizing another.” I quote from him directly:

Let’s build back better by asking different questions. When an organization or a project inspires you, don’t ask about their legal structure. Instead, look deeper and ask about their values, intentions, and actions. Look at the ratio between the highest and lowest paid workers, look at their carbon footprint, look at how diverse their leadership teams and boards are, look at how they act on reconciliation everyday, look at how well they include and give voice to their stakeholders, and follow the money — look at where they save and what they invest their money in. 

One of the first questions I get from aspiring social entrepreneurs is about how (and when) they should incorporate. I always tell them “form follows function” and that they should wait as long as possible before they formalize their social purpose in an organizational structure. Only once they’ve identified and lived by their values, intentions and actions (ie determined their function) will they know the best structure to support their work. In fact, once they’ve started their work in earnest, the form of their business is almost always determined for them.

We are, regrettably, stuck with largely antiquated legislation that enshrines for profit, co-operative, or non-profit structures, myths, and expections. However, we can–and must–push the parameters of each of these structures to create businesses that measurably improve social conditions, justice, fairness and protection of the environment.

In the coming years, we can, person by person, build back better.

The art of getting people to do what they don’t want to do.

Social entrepreneurs operate businesses that create social benefits. Surely, selling services and products in the pursuit of justice, environmental sustainability, and support for the marginalized should be easy. After all, doesn’t every consumer want to make the world a better place?

Well, no, actually.

Most consumers buy to satisfy some personal need. They may be hungry and buy food. They may desire to smell nice and buy body products or perfumes. They may want to be entertained and buy a video streaming subscription. They may want the cheapest price and buy from huge online retailers. Not many make purchases based upon maximizing social welfare.

There are some consumers, of course, who shop based upon a set of community values, but as much as we’d like to think otherwise, these conscious consumers remain in the minority. We must also remember—particularly now during economic challenges for many—that some consumers may not be able to afford to purchase according to their altruistic values.

The art of encouraging citizens to undertake something that creates social value is called social marketing. Whether it is to reduce speeding, or to encourage voting, or to purchase ethically sourced food, social marketers use commercial marketing techniques and concepts—advertising, traditional and social media, direct mail, email broadcasts, word of mouth, customer journey, relationship marketing, etc—to bring about and support social change.

A recently read article provides some useful guidance to anyone trying to convince someone to do something that they don’t instinctively want to do. Summarizing somewhat, the recommendations were as follows:

  1. Break down the activity into small steps
  2. Provide progress indicators (or an understanding of the cost/commitment required)
  3. Provide incentives for completion (intrinsic rewards whenever possible)
  4. Instill competence (allow people to learn or share their knowledge)
  5. Allow for autonomy (people resist being controlled)
  6. Ensure they understand the context/purpose (relatedness).

These recommendations work well if you are convincing a child to get immunized (the example used in the article), to encourage someone to get sober, or to complete a university course.

But how do we use these recommendations to encourage consumers to make the right purchasing decisions? Below is a rephrasing of the recommendations to support social marketing efforts for the social entrepreneur:

  1. Don’t try to explain your entire social value proposition at once. Recognize that consumers may need to understand elements of your mission, not the entire social challenge you are addressing.
  2. Whenever possible, link their purchase to a tangible goal. “By purchasing this product, you’re providing a young person with job training.”
  3. Use loyalty programs, discounts, contests or other “prizes” to reward your customers. Use these extrinsic rewards whenever the intrinsic rewards—like the knowledge that they are helping to support their community—are insufficiently motivating.
  4. Provide your consumers with links to further information, crowdfunding, ways to get involved, or other learning and empowering tools. Think of each consumer as a potential ally in your social mission, and use language, images, and information that give them competence.
  5. Do not undermine your competition, or use negative advertising messages to insinuate to your customer that they need to buy your product over the competitor’s product. If you engage them based upon their own needs and expectations, that provides them with the autonomy to make the (right) choice to buy your product.
  6. Provide context for your social enterprise. It is a challenge to not overwhelm your customer with details while informing and engaging them in your mission. Providing succinct context can help them relate to how their purchase contributes to not only meeting their needs (for example, great coffee) but also the community needs (for example, fair wages). Context links their action as a consumer with your mission.

One last note that we frequently share with our social enterprise clients: Do not assume that your social mission alone will sell your products or services. The vast majority of purchasing decisions are affected by price and market perceptions of quality (which also includes convenience and availability). If you aren’t competing on price and quality, social marketing strategies and activities will have only a marginal effect on consumer choices.

Rock Camp for Girls+ online

Girls+ Rock Ottawa is fueling creativity and community during uncertain times. Social Delta loves what they do, and strongly encourage girls and gender diverse individuals aged thirteen to eighteen to apply for the flagship Rock Camp for Girls+ program online.

In this exciting new digital format, campers will be able to learn their instrument through online learning modules and weekly interactive group video sessions with local music teachers. Camp participants will write an original solo and film their performance, which will be shared at a live virtual showcase. 

The virtual camp will run over the course of eight weeks, from October 7 to November 26, 2020, and is open to No musical experience is required and instruments will be provided to participants who need them. 

Registration is now open and more information about this new Rock Camp for Girls+ format is available on the Girls+ Rock Ottawa website. Special thanks to the Ottawa Community Foundation for their support of this year’s brand-new Rock Camp format and to MusiCounts for providing our instruments to help us keep music accessible. 

About Girls+ Rock Ottawa
Girls+ Rock Ottawa is a volunteer-run community organization that provides music-based programming to foster empowerment, inclusivity and community to girls, women, and gender diverse individuals – all while having fun. The organization also hosts monthly jam sessions where girls can access studio space to practice and hosts a variety of workshops about different aspects of the music industry and creative skills where girls can organize a music show while gaining project management, communications and financial literacy skills.

Get your Ottawa Social Enterprise on the map!

CSED invites Ottawa area social enterprises to take part in the 2020 Spotlight survey! The survey is being conducted to develop an economic and social profile of Ottawa’s social enterprise (SE) sector as a way to build community awareness, understanding and support.

Who this survey is for
The survey is open to Ottawa area social enterprises operated by charities, nonprofits, co-ops and for-profits (with a clearly defined social mission). Aspiring social entrepreneurs who are in the process of starting a social enterprise are also invited to complete the survey.

Why this survey is important
Your participation will help create a collective and common understanding of Ottawa’s social enterprise sector and its impact, and help shine a spotlight on the products and services that are available.

How the information will be used
An aggregate profile will be shared with social enterprises, governments, funders and others to enhance understanding of the sector and inform future support and investment activities. As a way of complimenting their own promotional activities, SEs that complete the survey can also choose to include their products and services in a new business directory that will be launched on CSED’s website.

Complete the survey for your chance to win!
All surveys completed by Friday, September 18th will be entered to win one of three free passes to Unleashed 2020, CSED’s annual social enterprise conference being held on November 19, 2020. The winning names will be drawn randomly and announced in the September issue of SE Connections.

If you have any questions about the survey or need help, please contact: team@csedottawa.ca.

Click HERE to begin the survey!

Ottawa Tool Library: online store now offers tools for sale at great prices

The Ottawa Tool Library (OTL) has just opened an online webstore to sell high quality, tested used tools and surplus “nearly new” inventory from corporate partners.

During the COVID pandemic, it appears that more and more homeowners, apartment dwellers, and others are becoming avid do-it-yourselfers. If that sounds like you, then you should at least take a look at the selection of tools that are for sale through the OTL webstore.

Perhaps you are in the market to buy a push lawnmower, a set of saws, a drill, or some other tool that you’d like to have at the ready whenever you need it.

Visit the new store and take a look at the fantastic deals they are offering on quality, tested used tools. Tell your friends. The inventory is updated regularly, so check back often.

Every dollar earned through the webstore supports the mission of the Ottawa Tool Library (and their parent non profit, the Society for Social Ingenuity). The organization offers programs and activities that provide affordable access to tools; promote self-sufficiency, reuse, and repair; and reduce our collective impact on the environment.

The OTL, of course, loans tools to all who want to become a member. They offer unlimited borrowing of almost any tool you can think of for an annual individual membership of $200. (there are, monthly, family and student rates as well) Click here for more information on membership options.

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