Program director Gord Tulloch inspired from recent Social Finance and Social Innovation study tour
Camille Jensen

A recent Social Innovation and Social Finance study tour is inspiring new approaches and tools to advance posAbilities’ mission, says Gord Tulloch. The posAbilities program director recently attended the three-day event held in Vancouver, which brought together stakeholders from a variety of fields to learn about social entrepreneurship, social innovation and social finance approaches, while promoting collaboration and leadership in multiple sectors.

Gord says social innovation offers the opportunity for people and organizations to reframe ideas and challenges and focus on assets. This allows them to recognize the abundance of resources that can be mobilized towards their social mission.

The approach holds great potential for posAbilities and the Community Living movement, which can begin to leverage its strengths and assets to better promote inclusion and belonging, he says.

One example of this already underway at posAbilities is the organization’s approach to employment. Gord says staff members are exploring how each person’s skills and assets can be advantageous to an employer when seeking meaningful, paid work for the person.

While the staff member will assist during training, they are looking to the organization’s assets to provide any ongoing support the person may need, which could be as simple as letting them know it’s time for their break.

“This person does not need a staff (member) to be successful, they need an employer and colleagues to make them successful,” says Gord.

If the job is only part time, Gord says they are establishing “community connectors,” who can support people in pursuing their interests or gaining valuable work experience by reaching out to the community and finding people interested in the same thing or relevant groups and courses to participate in.

PosAbilities will also be reaching out to families to leverage their existing networks when seeking employment opportunities.

“It’s different, usually families come to the service providers but families are well connected, they all have jobs and they all have networks of their own,” says Gord. “There might be opportunity, I think, for families to support one another in finding jobs for their sons and daughters.”

Other potential social innovation posAbilities is looking at include starting a sustainable business where people they serve are able to work and gain experience for their resumé as well as establishing more community connectors to support people in finding meaningful ways to engage with their community.

Social finance, which involves managing money in ways that generate a social and commercial return, also holds potential for posAbilities, says Gord.

This could range from investing the organization’s cash reserves into low-risk, low-yield investments that have a social purpose or using posAbilities’ purchasing power to move forward changes they’d like to see in the community, to name a few.

“We spend millions of dollars on food, communications, utilities, repairs, insurance, etc., every year. What if we approached the suppliers of these services and asked them how they were supporting the economic inclusion of persons with disabilities, and told them that this was a critical criterion for where we spent our dollars?

“Imagine all the service providers doing this together.”

Gord has been involved in social innovation and social finance for several years and sits on several related committees.

He adds his biggest learning from the event is the importance of community partnerships, which will be a key focus in the next several years.

“If we really want to address our philosophical issue around community inclusion and belonging and if we really want to address issues around economic sustainability we need to have a lot of new partners at the table — a real cross section of community,” he says.

“There is just so much opportunity.”