Monthly Archives: January 2016

Social Innovation with Mountain Munchkin Daycare

**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.


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Social Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Enterprise

Case Study: Mountain Munchkin Daycare

Prepared by Anita Hofer / Prepared for Brian Martin

Introduction to Mountain Munchkin Daycare

Peter Rawluk is the co-owner of Mountain Munchkin Daycare in Canmore, Alberta. Mountain Munchkin Daycare provides childcare for the children aged 12 months to six years. The philosophy of the day care is that the child is first and foremost! The organization believes that quality child care facilitates the healthy growth and development of the ‘whole’ child. Mountain Munchkin believes that for the child to feel accepted and loved that their program must blend and enhance that child’s family experiences with their experience in the centre, thus family participation is encouraged to enhance the quality of the experience for the child. Therefore they embrace multiculturalism and encourage acceptance that people are all different but the same. Programming includes music sessions, mathematics, Whole Child, Nature/GEO Awareness, reading and community/global consciousness.

As a Doctor of Medicine, Peter has always been interested in health, but this venture is of special interest to him. The first two thousand days of life (roughly the time between birth and kindergarten) are critical to brain development. Young children will develop a broader sense of compassion for those beyond their immediate group if they are involved with meaningful activities and experiences early and often.

The Mountain Munchkins team has made considerable efforts to create these empathy-building and multicultural experiences and activities. Their objective is to impact children so that they will become adults who don’t just “care about others” but “care FOR others” as Peter often says. The team’s efforts could be captured, codified and shared with other early childcare educators for a profit. The team is understandably focused on day-to-day operations and there currently is not a significant investment of time or funding to help them understand how to structure this potential initiative.

Peter is very collaborative, open to learning, and willing to be influenced. He has built strong relationships and Mountain Munchkin has even connected with local organizations but also other daycare providers internationally. Peter has a deep sense of social responsibility and a focused curiosity about the ways children can learn to be better stewards of the earth and each other.

Mountain Munchkin’s Social Enterprise Vehicle

Mountain Munchkin is a private, for-profit venture. Return-on-investment for the co-owners is consistent and predictable. Peter in particular has a focus on “non-financial currency”. The daycare provides a much-need service in Canmore but also influences community through projects that create social good, ignites momentum in the town and builds, explores and tests meaningful empathy-building programming.

Profits are re-invested into mini projects or invested into larger initiatives like the creation of new children’s garden. Many other new projects are funded privately by Peter. Peter was originally the sole owner, but after observing the amount of time and talent shared by the daycare’s director, he gave her a 35% share of the business. Peter does not draw a dividend or salary. Mountain Munchkin has also invested heavily in the personal development of the staff, paying for their academic enrichment by paying tuition fees for addition education as needed.

A dedicated staff person in the organization tracks all things financial. Because Mountain Munchkin Daycare is privately owned and operated, they are not required to produce public reports to the community. Mountain Munchkin embraces the culture of a for-profit venture with a philanthropic spirit and strives to become more self-sustaining.

Analysis of the Social Entrepreneur Ecosystem

A financial resource that was required by Mountain Munchkin to launch was funding from the owner. Because of a unique and emergent situation faced by the previous owner, the daycare was purchased at an opportune time by Peter and his business partner.

Creating or tapping into new revenue streams are an external element that could help Mountain Munchkin Daycare. (See the attached Business Model Canvas for streams already identified.) The dollars from these new revenue streams would help them fund the costly and resource-heavy development of their alternative early childhood education empathy programming that would be codified, packaged, marketed and sold. As well as identifying these new revenue streams, a market of individuals, groups and organizations will need to be found or cultivated to purchase the goods and/or services. Potential ideas for new revenue streams include renting the daycare space when it is empty or offering workshops for parents/caregivers or other childcare providers.

Recommendations for the Organization

The ecosystem in which Mountain Munchkin is embedded is rich in human capital. The organization has thrived in these due to a nurturing culture both in Canmore and within the team. Their ecosystem has meaningful engagement from the staff team, customers (parents), partner organizations that range from local to international, and also greater-Canmore residents. They have consistent, predictable revenues, reliable infrastructure, and policy frameworks that are not overly restraining.

What will be required for their venture to grow financially, and increase in impact is for their empathy programming to be codified, financed and marketed. For this to occur, it is recommended that Mountain Munchkin consider:

  • increasing their own internal capacity in program design or bring in a consultant to help them codify their empathy-building programming
  • investing in consulting expertise from a “serial entrepreneur” to assist with project planning and encouraging testing-and-redevelopment – since their leadership team has limited entrepreneurial experience
  • examine their network for potential partners that can help them extend their marketing and promotion when they are ready to launch. Some partners in community may have reasons to assist them, but these organizations are considerably larger and more bureaucratic so beginning this process early would be wise.

Outside of Mountain Munchkin’s influence are social assumptions that child care organizations should commit to the status quo and should not be innovative, particularly that they shouldn’t be testing child care programming unless in an academic setting, and that they should not make more than a modest profit. To help them overcome these external barriers, it is recommended they search for another entrepreneurial childcare organization that is further along the entrepreneurial path (understanding these organizations could be a challenge to source) and make personal connections for the purposes of sharing experiences and particularly to understand approaches to working through the cultural resistance that they could encounter in their ecosystem.

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Evergreen Theatre – A Unique Community Space

When faced with the termination of their lease, Evergreen Theatre wanted to do more than just move. They decided “it was time to take a big risk” and purchase a building that could be remodeled into viable and vibrant community space – a decision that lead to the creation of Evergreen Community Spaces. I had the opportunity to speak with Artistic Producer Valmai Goggin their move, their funding, and their integration into Mayland Heights. In terms of choosing a location, they wanted something central and accessible. The north-east, said Goggin, is an under-serviced area, with little access resources, and would benefit from the addition of a sustainable, collaborative, and socially responsible space.Studio Signs

Evergreen Theatre knew they would not be able to qualify for a traditional loan. After searching for non-traditional funding models and secured funding with the Social Enterprise Fund in Edmonton. After applying and securing a mortgage through the fund, the company was able to purchase their new home and begin revamping the space. Goggin and her team could not be happier with the results, saying “we have partners that are invested more than just financially. They want the entire project to succeed.” The funding through the Social Enterprise Fund also allows Evergreen Theatre to give back to the community in a unique way, with the interest they pay on the mortgage going back in to the endowment fund. “We’re supporting other projects in the community,” Goggin stated, “simply by making mortgage payments.”

Stair Way Correct

When asked about the impact that the new space has had on the community, Goggin was quick to point out that they are the new neighbour in the area and that they want to be respectful of the work already being done to revitalize the area. The introduction of Evergreen Community Spaces to Mayland Heights is just “part of the ongoing resurgence of the north-east”  she said. They’ve begun facilitating access to programming in the community, providing a dozen different programming streams. They’ve also started renting office spaces in the building to create a diverse internal community and to get more people coming through the building. “We want to be known in the community, to have good neighbour connections. True community building is the best form of integration,” said Goggin, excited for the work to be continued in 2016.

The new space is simply beautiful, featuring a brand new cafe, modern rooms for meetings and dance classes, and plenty of local art. Best of all, it’s completely open to the public. Encouraging all Calgarians to come experience Evergreen Theatre’s new home, Goggin said “we have an open door policy. We want people to wander in and poke around.”

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Take Action

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If you had time to think, what would you think about?

Written by Erin Melnychuk, Business Development Manager at Momentum

Everyone has one; an idea that percolates on the back of your mind, that you can never quite get to. I’ve had a few, but there’s one that I haven’t been able to shake. As a Community Economic Development organization, Momentum is often referred to as a social enterprise. In fact, we have a long history of earning our own revenue. However, the knowledge of how to enterprise resides with only a handful of staff. If Momentum really is an enterprising organization, then how can we ensure this part of our identity is embedded in our DNA and expressed through all of our staff? This is the idea that lives on the back burner of my mind that I’ve decided to stop thinking about and begin to do something about.

So how do you actually go about developing an enterprising culture exactly? The answer is, I’m not entirely sure. The Social Entrepreneur’s Playbook doesn’t have a chapter on this! The process we’re using consists of 3 functional elements; a staff committee to develop and oversee a work plan, formal learning events, and monthly design labs. The design labs are the secret sauce in this process.

The monthly design labs are a fun and innovative space. Its a few hours every month when staff have permission to drop what they are doing to come and create. It’s a safe space to bring ideas and to receive support from your peers in working up the ideas. There are more bad ideas than good ones and that’s the point.

We’re only a few months in and have learned a few things already. The first: We need to develop a compelling reason why we are pursuing this. We co-created our ‘why’ with staff and have decided that we would like to learn to see opportunities differently through an enterprising lens, build important skills that every staff person can use in their career, and earn a bit of money which will allow us to pursue more new & innovative activity. The second thing we learned is that our staff are really busy and favor the approach of maximizing existing assets by bringing those resources to new markets, rather than developing something from scratch.

Our design labs have already surfaced 7 ideas with potential that are in various stages of development. Four are currently being taken through feasibility testing. Our Big Hairy Audacious Goal is to launch something by spring!

The reason we all have these ideas that don’t get acted upon is because we generally don’t do work we don’t get paid for (which actually underscores the need for what I’m trying to pursue, but I digress!). Luckily, there’s support out there for groups to get paid to THINK! The opportunity I took advantage of was made possible through ATB’s Time to Think Grant. In my work I rarely have the luxury of ‘time to think’. Heck yeah, I’m applying for that grant! ATB makes this fabulous grant available to organizations, charities, social enterprises, and collectives to be strategic, innovative, and to strengthen their impact in Albertan communities.

Take Action:
• Check out ATB’s Time to Think grant to see if it’s a fit for your initiative
• Learn more about Momentum here
• Has your organization been through a similar process? Tell us about it! We’d love to learn what’s worked well and what’s been challenging. You can email me your story at erinm@momentum.org

Soup Sisters and Broth Brothers

**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.

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