Thanks to Research Junction—an innovative partnership between the City of Saskatoon and the University of Saskatchewan—researchers and practitioners from the Canadian Centre for the Study of Co-operatives, City of Saskatoon, and Quint Development have been awarded $30,000 to measure and evaluate the societal impact and economic value of social enterprises.
In 2020, Saskatoon was ranked fourth on the Canada crime severity index among large cities. It also saw an increase in assaults, firearm activity, and a record number of overdose and overdose-related deaths.
“Community safety and wellbeing continue to be top of mind for many Saskatoon residents,” said Dr. Marc-André Pigeon (PhD), director, Canadian Centre for the Study of Co-operatives and an assistant professor in the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy. “The Saskatoon Police Services has launched various initiatives, such as the Alternative Response Officers pilot project and the Downtown Safety Response Plan, as ways of addressing crime in the city. However, the work of social economy organizations has received considerably less attention .”
Social economy organizations are revenue-generating businesses focused on improving social, cultural, community, and environmental outcomes. Saskatoon has a rich diversity of local non-profit organizations, co-operatives, and social enterprises.
“These organizations provide goods and services in a way that generates revenue and creates a meaningful impact for their employees, the people they serve, and their community,” said Pigeon.
Working in collaboration with Tenille Thomson, Social Development Manager at the City of Saskatoon, and Len Usiskin, Executive Director of Quint Development, Dr. Pigeon and researchers will examine the ability of social enterprises, starting with BUILD UP Saskatoon, to improve community safety by creating jobs for people who have been excluded from the labour market.
“BUILD UP Saskatoon provides opportunities for paid employment in the construction industry and peer, mentor, and cultural support for individuals who have had ongoing contact with the justice system and face multiple barriers to employment,” said Usiskin. “Its goal is to increase the quality of life for their employees, improve community safety, and reduce costs of the justice system.”
“This research will help us to better understand the outcomes from Build Up Saskatoon’s programming and the value of those outcomes. We see the results of this research playing an important role in helping governments and the community understand that social enterprises can provide innovative and cost effective solutions to persistent, complex, and expensive social problems.” said Usiskin
The research team will collaborate with government agencies to develop and analyze a set of estimated cost savings from BUILD UP Saskatoon’s programming, while collaborating with the social enterprise to evaluate the social outcomes for its employees.
“Our research will develop a framework and collect data to evaluate the outcomes of BUILD UP Saskatoon’s programming,” said Pigeon. “We see this case study as the first step to being able to estimate the social and economic value of other social enterprises in the future.”
The findings from this research will also contribute to a wider conversation about the role that the social economy plays in addressing public issues and how governments and this sector can work closer together in solving those issues through creative financing arrangements.
“Cities and the issues cities confront are constantly changing,” said Thompson. “While the City of Saskatoon will always need to provide high-quality services such as roads, transit, parks, water, police, and fire, emerging issues such as reconciliation, mental health, and inequality are increasingly requiring the City to find more collaborative and innovative approaches to address these complex issues. We see this partnership as a very exciting opportunity to showcase this new type of sector in our community, its social return on investments, and how it helps to build a more prosperous, safe, inclusive, and sustainable Saskatoon.”