**This is a special blog post as part of a series highlighting social entrepreneurship in southern Alberta as part of Simon Fraser University’s CED Certificate program.
SOCIAL ENTERPRISE CASE STUDY
ALTERNATE ROOT YYC
ALTERNATE ROOT YYC & FOUNDER, CARLA BITZ
With a family history of farming and a career in the non-profit sector, Carla recognized multiple layers of food waste occurring within her community. While she was initially focused on addressing food waste at an industry level, she altered her course when she discovered both that LeftoversYYC was already working on this issue and that the majority of food waste occurs at a consumer level. She formed Alternate Root YYC as a society of concerned individuals focused on educating the public around ways to mitigate food waste at home. They currently address this issue through facilitating cooking classes that incorporate practical skills with awareness-building, and do not currently know whether or not they should scale up.
Having completed a pilot season, AlternateRootYYC could use support to analyze successes and challenges, redefine roles and responsibilities within the organizing committee, and plan for financial sustainability.
Carla exudes enthusiasm and professionalism, is frugal, and has a strong vision for the future of Alternate Root YYC
THE ENTERPRISE VEHICLE
Alternate Root YYC is registered as a society, which is defined as a society, which is defined as “an incorporated group of five or more people who share a common…charitable interest”* and must operate on a non-profit basis. As such, Alternate Root has not exposed itself yet to much profit, loss, or risk in a financial sense; they are only charging fees to cover base costs and to ensure that class participants show up. However, it seems that the workload division is not balanced yet and this poses a significant risk to the goodwill within the society. Data is accumulated through participant surveys and documentation of food donations by weight, but this information has not yet been consolidated into reportable outcomes. Other accountability structures have not yet been created. It appears that there is a strong attachment to remaining a low-budget non-profit, although it also strikes me that they are in a phase of determining what their culture will be.
*Alberta Societies Act
ANALYSIS OF THE ENTERPRISE’S ECOSYSTEM
Key Financial Resource
Alternate Root received an Arusha Foundation Take-Action grant, which is awarded partially in Calgary Dollars (a local currency system) and partially in standard Canadian currency. Arusha raises the grant funds’ Calgary Dollars through partnerships with local businesses and other foundations, and distributes the
Canadian currency from larger federal grants. Arusha intends for this grant to both support local social and environmental projects, and to expand awareness of alternate currency in Calgary. Alternate Root used this grant to cover their business association fees, class materials, and space rentals, and is in the process of providing the required year-end report back on the society’s activities.
Key External Element:
Alternate Root has a definite need for strategic planning in order to reach scale. They are currently looking to the final report that I am writing for this class for some direction in this area. However, they are also looking to become part of a strong local business network (REAP) that both provides business guidance and exposes member businesses to a wide circle of expertise and professional services. It would be useful for Alternate Root to make the most of a membership investment in REAP by reaching out to other members for mentorship and assistance in developing a core strategy.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ALTERNATE ROOT YYC
As a fledgling society with little formality, Alternate Root looks at first glance like a hobbyist collective. However, Carla Bitz has expressed a desire for Alternate Root to grow into more of a social enterprise with long term stability. Their ecosystem includes a positive and receptive market for their work of waste reduction, a large pool of knowledgeable individuals to draw labour from, and a quickly developed supportive culture around their organization. As an educational entity, they have few policy restrictions. They also have a rich network of competitors (other food educators) around them, many of which already engage in degrees of collaboration, thereby making success a greater possibility through shared learnings.
What I recommend they do before launching into their second season is to do a thorough examination of all their evaluation metrics and to go through the practice of a business plan in order to refine their objectives as a social venture. By clarifying the steps necessary to become financially viable, they will go a long way towards both the sustainability of their own society as well as of the supply networks (eg. Local farmers) that underpin their work.
I see a need for greater interaction between experienced entrepreneurs and local social innovators in order to form a greater spectrum of educational opportunities. There is a need for innovators like Carla to be able to access mentorship and entrepreneurial advice in an organized and concise manner, much like other entrepreneurial sectors (such as tech) have been able to form (ie. Short term social incubators, etc).