(A ‘community platform’ celebrates its 6th anniversary. The author of this piece writes about some of the lessons learned along the way, from then to now.)
1) Social Entrepreneurship while Valued is Largely Misunderstood
The multitude of definitions that exist for social enterprise have served to make the term more of an exercise in academic understanding than a rallying cry for a movement. As a society we embrace enterprising Non-Profits who create businesses to help fund their operations and we applaud For-Profit businesses that operate according to socially responsible principles.
However, there is a continuing void in Ontario regarding the creation of alternative business structures that may be better suited to facilitate social-purpose entities such as our community platform. The recent creation of a new category of share capital corporations in British Columbia, known as a “Community Contribution Company” (C3) is a good harbinger that the winds of change will soon flow east in Canada.
2) A Social-Purpose Business demonstrates Altruism in Action
The driving force behind our community social platform is the belief that everyone who participates benefits from the opportunity of having a common audience to share their messages with.
The amount of time that we currently invest to post and promote community content is a labour of love. Our ultimate goal is to generate sustainable revenue so that the future operators of our sites can earn a living wage and continue to deliver our services for the greater good of our community.
3) Reciprocity is a Learned Behaviour
One of the absolute keys to growing our network is the concept of ‘sharing #LocalLOVE’. We encourage our community to shout out about their local experiences and facilitate posting of unsolicited customer testimonials in support of our local businesses.
We recently introduced a ‘How You Can Help Us’ Tip Card for the various Non-Profit groups that receive complimentary promotion via our community calendars, newsletter and social media mentions. It has been an interesting learning curve to realize that it is necessary to provide direction about how best to reciprocate and participate as a partner in our community building initiative.
4) The Digital Divide clearly exists with our current Generation of Small Business Owners
It has been our experience that the majority of established businesses do not have a fully developed online strategy or an adequate budget set aside to invest in digital marketing. The flip side of this conundrum is that young start-up entrepreneurs who understand how to “do” their own social marketing are reluctant to pay to advertise and promote their content via local online networks.
5) Passionate Idealists are Catalysts for Change
Although we have faced many challenges implementing our collaborative vision our commitment to inspiring a common social platform in Niagara is unwavering. Every thank you that we receive – and there are many- fuels our desire to improve our level of service so we can attract more partners to expand our network to include all of myNiagara Online.
6) Community Development happens despite the Status Quo
We are in awe of the many incredible community-building initiatives that exist within Niagara and are keenly aware of the struggles change makers face everyday. It may seem trite but we’ve learned that patience is indeed a virtue and there can be no experience of change without the existence of the status quo.
7) Connecting Positivity attracts and inspires more Positivity exponentially
The launch of myWelland.com has solidified our confidence in the value of our platform as a means to communicate civic pride. It has been our great joy to participate in the #ItsAllWellandGood movement and play a role in supporting the positive, collaborative voice that is emerging in the Rose City.
8) Your Tribe is your Lifeline
We are grateful for the tremendous support we have received from our Community Sponsors, Partners, Contributors, Subscribers and Social Followers. We know that we are not alone in our belief in the power of connectivity to improve the quality of life in Niagara. Thank you sincerely for your willingness to share your #LocalLOVE and be part of our myNiagara Online collaborative adventure.
(Cathy Berkhout-Bosse is also a Real Estate Broker, Team Berkhout Bosse – Remax Welland Realty Ltd.)