The Community Opportunity & Innovation Network Incorporated is a non-profit community economic development (CED) corporation and has been serving the Peterborough area of Central Ontario for the past 20 years. COIN promotes equality, wellness and empowerment through innovative and sustainable economic development. COIN owns and operates social enterprises including reBOOT Peterborough and Peterborough EATS.
reBOOT Peterborough is a non-profit computer shop dedicated to providing affordable technology to those who need it. reBOOT Peterborough is a franchise of reBOOT Canada.
It refurbishes, repairs, installs, sells and re-gifts computers. It also provides training for high school students and other people through various internships and programs. reBOOT accepts used, but still useable, computer equipment as donations.
Peterborough Employment Advancement & Training Services (EATS) builds skills, confidence and opportunity for people with employment barriers, one meal at a time. It offers a wide variety of gourmet sandwiches, hot meals, and desserts in the café as well as catering services.
Hatch is a community of innovative & enterprising do-gooders, and a co-working space that provides memberships to start-ups, new projects, public agents, freelancers and enterprising non-profits. This space fosters inspiring community, insightful collaboration, and social impact through enterprise. Hatch is an Ontario Trillium Foundation-supported project administered by COIN.
1. Community Background
Located in Central Ontario, Peterborough is home to nearly 80,000 people. At 20%, its senior population is much higher than provincial and national averages. Peterborough boasts a very creative economy. However, Peterborough has led the country with its jobless rate for the past year with youth taking the greatest hit. Peterborough is also host to many social issues involving wages and housing. Nation-wide, Peterborough has the lowest average hourly income at $17.78. It also has a very low median household income at $48,213. There is a great disparity between income and the cost of housing in Peterborough–residents need to work the highest number of hours in order to afford rent at 168 hours. COIN receives most of its clients through partnerships with Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).
|Numbers of People Receiving OW and ODSP at Sept 2011, District Social Services Administration Board (DSSAB): Peterborough CMSM||Cases||3,569||4,102||7,671|
|Dependent children under 18||2,090||748||2,838|
Table 1 shows the numbers in the pool of people that COIN draws from for its programming. It is because of these issues that Peterborough needs social enterprises and organizations like COIN.
The parent organization of COIN was the Peterborough Social Planning Council (PSPC) which is an umbrella organization that specializes in research, community development and public education to build strong communities. At the time COIN was formed, no one in Peterborough was addressing the issue of involving people with barriers in the labour force; community economic development (CED) was just getting started. PSPC provided space, information and guidance on governance structure and policy. There were also several women from the YWCA involved. Internally, employees at COIN were dedicated to social enterprise; champions like Linda Slavin and Kevin Edwards were instrumental in getting COIN operating. A great network of partners were crucial to the development of COIN and they will ensure its longevity.
3. Development & Outcomes
To support the development of new enterprises that create economic advantages for unemployed and underemployed people, while widening the window of entrepreneurial opportunities.
To train and support unemployed and underemployed people to qualify for identified skill-shortage occupations in our regional labour market. This proven approach maximizes the probability that individuals will be able to enter and remain in the labour market.
COIN is a non-profit community economic development corporation that exists to give people the skills they need to participate in the labour market who have not traditionally been included.
Like all organizations dependent on government funding, COIN has had many ups and downs. Pressure to meet outcomes has increased and outcome measurements have become more defined; however, there is still a certain amount of flexibility.
COIN has been successful with its social enterprises and business spin offs such as Peterborough EATS (formerly World 2 Go Foods), reBOOT and Generation Solar (1997). COIN was instrumental in building business plans, finding funding and guidance to places such as the Market Hall, Warsaw Caves Camping, Needles in the Hay and By the Bushel. It has also been consistently successful in training and finding employment for people who have not traditionally been a part of the labour force.
COIN has had a significant impact on the local economy in Peterborough. From an internal analysis performed for COIN by a team of Trent University students, the value of COIN supported CED initiatives has been estimated at $30 million in leveraged resources, new investment and partnerships.
4. Organizational Structure
COIN was founded in 1993, so it is celebrating its 20th Anniversary. It is run by a board of directors which includes an advisory member for each of the social enterprises. These advisory members are experts in their respective industry. The board and the advisory committees consist of about 22 volunteers. COIN currently employs eight full time staff and eight part time staff. COIN also practises what it preaches by having an inclusive hiring policy designed to include people with barriers to employment. The office is now made up of four permanent positions: General Manager, Administrator, Accounts Co-ordinator and Program Co-ordinator.
Each of the social enterprises has a manager. Hiring the right manager with the industry specific skills, business understanding and ability to work with people with barriers for each enterprise is key, but very hard to find. Professional development is part of fostering these skills. Last year, Price Waterhouse Cooper awarded COIN with a grant that allowed COIN to bring in a management consultant to develop the managers’ capacity around budget and cash flow management.
89751 0731 RR0001
In the fall of 2009, COIN received its charitable status and became a proud member of the Peterborough & District United Way.
The not for profit sector went through reporting changes in 2012 with the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Along with those changes, COIN also changed its software from QuickBooks to Simply Accounting and now divides its reporting in such a way that each manager can monitor the finances of their individual social enterprise. This helps managers make informed decisions for their respective enterprise.
COIN boasts about $220,000 in net sales and about $578,000 in gross revenue.
COIN’s goal is to have three to six months operating budget in reserve at all times. The ultimate goal would be to build and maintain a reserve of $100,000 over the next five to seven years. The best way for COIN to reach this goal is to start new projects and new social enterprises in order to generate unrestricted revenue.
COIN is still reliant on external funding at this time and has learnt over the past 20 years that it must change with the times. With governments and leaders moving in and out of power, COIN has to adapt in order to receive the funding that it needs. Social enterprise has provided a revenue source to COIN that it has some control over. Operating social enterprises has made it easier for COIN to thrive for the past 20 years without sacrificing its social mission.
6. Challenges & Successes
COIN received a five-year Trillium grant in its third year; it needed a revenue source that it could control to replace that funding when it ended. Starting social enterprises was the solution for COIN.
The challenge of hiring managers and staff with the range of skills needed to run a social enterprise is always difficult. It is challenging to find managers with industry experience, business acumen and the ability to manage and train people with barriers to employment.
Peterborough EATS has gone through many changes, all with their own respective challenges. Peterborough EATS was formerly known as World 2 Go Foods and Natural Blends Café. Due to changes in management and structure over time, Peterborough EATS had to rebrand, redefine itself and bring all of its food services together in order to reflect those changes. The catering and café food production operated out of an off-site church kitchen. Peterborough EATS was given a private repayable grant from a generous partner that enabled Peterborough EATS to build a functioning commercial teaching kitchen on-site. Now Peterborough EATS is looking forward to renovating their café storefront with another Trillium grant that has just been received.
Adding a commercial training kitchen on-site has allowed Peterborough EATS to train more people with barriers to employment. In 2012, COIN was able to train 86 people through its various programs. 33 of those people were able to find employment following the training. While 33 may seem like a small number to some people, it is not just a job that has been gained; those 33 people have spouses and children (see Table 1); therefore the lives of 33 families have been changed. There are also many co-op students who receive technical training through reBOOT.
# of training participants in 2012
Point of Sale
|Almost at Job Readiness|
|Needing Significant Intervention|
|# of participants in 2012|
|# which were able to find employment in 2012|
|% which were able to find employment in 2012|
COIN has found that instilling confidence in its trainees has made the difference in whether people successfully finding work or not. COIN supports its Ontario Works clients in finding work through its Culinary Arts Restaurant and Retail Operations Training (CARROT) Program. COIN’s Skills Link program equips young people with everything they need, including interview clothing, to successfully obtain and maintain work. Ontario Disabilities Supports Program clients require the most guidance and assistance in finding work. COIN does everything from contacting prospective employers, right down to coaching the client on-the-job for as long as they need.
8. Lessons Learned
Each Social Enterprise run by COIN needs to be self-sustainable and needs to run like a business. It is for this reason that social enterprises need to hire the right managers. These managers require not only industry skills, they need to understand how to run a business and be able to manage people with barriers to employment. Since these managers are required to have such diverse skills, it is essential to apply for grants that cover skill development. COIN found that investment in skill development made a tangible difference in how its social enterprises are run and contributed greatly to their stability.
COIN invested in financial skill development. COIN reorganized its finances so the managers could make more educated decisions for their respective enterprises. Organizing and managing an enterprise’s finances will help make a hard decision clear. Social enterprises need to break even or make a surplus in order to contribute to its parent organization. If an enterprise is not able to be self-sustaining, either changes in the business model need to be made, or the enterprise needs to be shut down.
COIN’s great partners are at the heart of its longevity. Social enterprise is a long-term revenue solution that requires many hands to make it work. COIN’s partners have been a great source for solutions over the past 20 years.
COIN needs to evolve with the times, so it is currently working on a strategic plan. The United Way of Peterborough is also undertaking a strategic plan; this may result in changes to COIN’s funding. Core funding is becoming more and more difficult to secure. One of the best ways that COIN can survive is through starting more projects and more social enterprises that have a viable business plan, such as Hatch, which is a project funded through Trillium that is starting to come to fruition. Another way that COIN will be evolving is by building partnerships with businesses in its community.
What’s next for COIN?
- COIN is always looking for more volunteers and is also in the process of enlisting new board members to help guide COIN in its future endeavors.
- Professional development has been invaluable for COIN, and it is actively seeking grants in this area in order to fund this effort.
- The upcoming storefront renovation at the Peterborough EATS café will improve the visibility and general appeal of the cafe to library goers as well as increase its sales revenue.
- Social enterprises need to run like businesses. By following this example, COIN continues to be on top of its financials and is able to plan for a sustainable future in its goals.
The hard truth about starting a social enterprise is that it is not a quick fix; it is a long-term solution that is not easy and involves risk. Organizations wanting to start a social enterprise (SE) need a board that understands risk-taking and supports what it means to be a social enterprise. Just like small businesses, some projects are not successful. In order to start an SE, an organization must also have a business plan and a strong business case.
Getting the right staff and developing their skills has made all of the difference in how COIN operates. Successful social enterprise is a team effort. The team includes its board members, managers, staff and a network of great partners. COIN has built a reputation for being effective, and it is its partners that make it happen. When an organization has been around for 20 years, and has a good reputation, it is here to stay. In order to be here for the next 20 years, COIN needs to continue reinventing itself and change with the times.
12. Tips and Advice
COIN would like to be able to share what it has learned. It would be great to have a forum to be able to share the lessons that we have learned and knowledge that we have gained, along with other organizations that have been operating social enterprises for a while. COIN would like to contribute information such as where one can find funding for a start-up, or funding for a business plan, and how you approach your board to make them understand that the risk involved with social enterprise is okay.
Social Enterprises are not always going to be successful. People tend to be harder on a social enterprise that fails than on a small business that fails because they feel that their tax dollars have been wasted. Social enterprises need to be able to take risks just like businesses do and to be measured like a small business as well.
Non-profit organizations have a reputation for not being “financially responsible”. It does not have to be that way. Not every non-profit organization needs to function like a business. There are valuable services that will never generate a financial surplus and should not have to.
13. Coin Partners
- Alternatives Community Program Services
- Canadian CED Network
- Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB)
- City of Peterborough- Community Investment Grants
- Community Employment Resource Partnership (CERP)
- Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board (KPRDSB)
- Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities
- Ontario Disability Support Program
- Ontario Library Association
- Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services
- Ontario Non-profit Network
- Ontario Trillium Foundation
- Peterborough Community Futures Development Corporation
- Peterborough Partnership Council on Immigrant Integration (PPCII)
- Peterborough Public Library
- Peterborough Social Planning Council
- Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board
- Rural Social Enterprise Constellation
- Saint Paul’s Presbyterian Church
- Service Canada
- Ywca Peterborough
- Michael Morritt
- Sean Bruce
- Hazelwood Images
- John Pearce, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation
Barnard, Rick. Personal interview. 27 Aug. 2013
Best, Fenella. Personal interview. 5 Sept. 2013
Collins Barrow. Independent Auditors’ Report. Community Opportunity and Innovation Network Inc. Peterborough, 2013.
Ho, Hing. Personal interview. 20 Aug. 2013
Statistics Canada. Table 282-0116 – Labour force survey estimates (LFS), by census metropolitan area based on 2006 census boundaries, 3-month moving average, seasonally adjusted and unadjusted, monthly (persons unless otherwise noted)
Webster, Elaine. Personal interview. 23 Aug. 2013
Wilbur, Frances. Personal interview. 26 Aug. 2013