Sunday, July 03, 2005

Social Enterprise: Real Economic Transformation or Passing Trend

As noted in my previous post, various types of social enterprise have existed for decades with significant success. So where did this new wave come from? The motivator was financial need to meet community social problems as government dollars shrunk or disappeared altogether. The initiators were entrepreneurial minded people involved in addressing social needs who, out of desire and determination, invented, innovated and shifted the paradigm of nonprofit structures – Canada’s traditional non-government, social service delivery vehicle.

Local Facts
There are numerous home grown examples to consider and learn from:
Above the Underground, clothing consignment store

Atira Property Management, building services

Ecoworks, landscaping

PLAN, assistance to families with disabilities

Potluck Cafe and Catering, meal catering and event planning

Social Purchasing Portal, connects purchasers with suppliers to increase employment


The question still remains. Is this real social economic sector transformation or an opportunistic trend for a few select organizations with unique characteristics? In other words can this change transcend the current individual success stories to the general mass of nonprofit organizations and businesses who want to create financial sustainable enterprises with multiple bottom lines, focus intentions on social good, meet stakeholder needs and better community economic health?

Seeing is Believing
Personally, I believe our purpose in life is transformation; so I am already an optimistic, biased believer. What about others? On Friday, June 24 I had the privilege to attend a BC Social Economy Forum in Abbotsford. The provincial forums are sponsored by
Vancity, and Western Economic Diversification in partnership with Community Futures Development Association of BC, and the Canadian CED Network. The purpose is to bring together people and organizations wanting to know more and get involved in dialogue on the social economic sector and social enterprise within their communities. Approximately 60 people participated in a full day of information sharing, discussion and debate that built to a crescendo of energy for action by the end of the day. I could see the critical mass forming. The enthusiasm and determination were palpable as ideas, resources and ingenuity was shared, traded and partnered for active progression of economic transformation.

Next Step
This forum demonstrated the mass desire for information and tangible tools to turn visions into success stories. Everyone was stoked! Next is the “must attend” Capital Change: The New Return on Investment Conference presented by the Fraser Valley Centre for Social Enterprise on September 26 & 27 in Abbotsford. Anyone wanting to participate in real transformation that will change the economic landscape for better community development will want to be there.

Real transformation doesn’t happen overnight as evidenced by various speakers. Rather it does move through processes by people and organizations refining, reworking and developing structures that work for everyone.

This is progress in action!

Get more information checking out:

Please comment,
Dianne Archer

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

What's Old is New Again; Social Enterprise

Recently, I accepted an invitation to join the Advisory Committee for the Fraser Valley Centre for Social Enterprise, where I am also on the organizing committee for Capital Change: The New Return on Investment Conference scheduled for September 2005. In addition, I have joined the Advisory Committee for ARISE - Abbotsford Recycling Industries Social Enterprise, a demonstration project of the FVCSE. The innovative leadership of Community Futures South Fraser, Sandstorm Designs, Mennonite Central Committee - Employment and Community Development and the United Way of the Fraser Valley are spearheading these endeavours. They have garnered widespread attention and enthusiasm with a host of supporters representing every economic sector. The core purpose of these initiatives is to foster and advance an entrepreneurial approach to the alleviation of social problems and community challenges in the Upper Fraser Valley. Here are their goals:

Fraser Valley Centre for Social Enterprise
1. Build awareness and understanding:
2. Assist businesses and non-profits to consider the possibility of social enterprise as it relates to their organization, and move forward with social enterprise formation where appropriate.
3. Provide social enterprise information and expertise to other communities.
4. Contribute to the pioneering dialogue on the social economy, community economic development and social enterprises, including meaningful contribution to the burgeoning lexicon, and a commitment to demonstrate the social value derived from an entrepreneurial approach to socio-economic problems and challenges at the community level.
5. Establish the Centre on social entrepreneurial principles.

Capital Change:The New Return on Investment Conference
1. Defining ‘social enterprise’ as it relates to the Fraser Valley
2. Assisting businesses and non-profits consider social enterprise as it relates to their organization
3. Presenting non-profits and businesses with information and tools for understanding and action on this paradigm shift
4. Providing current opportunities for social enterprise applications on urgent community issues through the UWFV Community Priority reports
5. Contributing to the dialogue on the social value of an entrepreneurial approach to socio-economic challenges at the community level

Abbotsford Recycling Industries Social Enterprise
To be the first social enterprise in the Fraser Valley that meets social ends by employing marginalized people while turning a healthy profit through sales of finished products and caring for the environment through glass recycling.

Relationship to Social Enterprise
When I began to restructure my life, I reflected on experiences, assessed and redefined principles and, most importantly, opened my mind to a new vision of the future. Capturing the pure essence of who I am, as a product of where I come from and what I have to offer, I found I am a blend of service for change to better choices through empowerment. These characteristics formed the foundation of my success in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors.

As economics has evolved, these two sectors have further developed to adapt social enterprise as the “new” old structure to meet multiple community needs without government funding. The movement of social enterprise growth embodies the values and strengths of my vision of blending nonprofit service with for-profit practices. The initiatives in Abbotsford exemplify social enterprise that addresses social issues and needs now threatening to overwhelm communities economically and socially.

The reason for my enthusiastic involvement and support for FVSEC and ARISE are the people and goals that directly reflect my own intentions for service, change, choice and empowerment. To learn more and see how social enterprise fits for you check out these websites:

Please comment,
Dianne Archer

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Brava HRVS!

HR for the Nonprofit/Voluntary Sector


Recently I read about the need for and value of bringing traditional HR Management into the nonprofit sector for enhanced operations, improved employer/employee relationships and addressing future staffing needs. The goal of establishing a Human Resources Council for the Voluntary Sector was the topic of a Charity Village cover story. My education and experience in HR Management leads me to applaud this venture enthusiastically and affirm my interest in assisting organizations develop their own HR system.

Relating Personal Experience
In my past, I’ve had a number of interesting and challenging jobs both paid and unpaid. From waitress to executive director, envelope stuffer to board member, one key principle stood out: people are the most important resource of any organization.

Some may feel that I’m stating the obvious and I would agree. However, in the pressure cooker of nonprofit operations it is often the obvious that gets overlooked. In the position of ED, this principle lead me to develop an HR Management system relevant to the size, type and needs of the society. More common in the for-profit world, small to medium nonprofits generally follow seat-of-the-pants management based on the assumption everyone is so committed to the cause they will do anything to support it. Additionally, many small organizations feel such systems and structures are unrealistic to their situation. My experience confirmed that HR improves morale of even the most dedicated followers and size doesn’t matter.

Nonprofit Reality
Voluntary sector employees are often expected to accept wages and benefits that are lower than average for comparable for-profit jobs, work extra hours without pay to assist clients, forsake all other interests for the cause, mission or purpose, and accept whatever working conditions the society can manage to maintain given their shoestring budget. Suffering and sacrifice does not lead to services that are more virtuous. In reality, it leads to lower quality and quantity of work, stress, increased sick leave and complete burn out.

Practical Help for Everyone
With an HR system tailored to the needs of the organization, employers and employees can enjoy benefits such as dependable staff shifts, increased morale, more family time, less stress and potential increases in compensation packages. Getting started and following through is made easier with the information and tools found at the
Developing Human Resources for the Voluntary Sector website. This site is a virtual gold mine of background information, practical and easy to use tools and templates, useful links plus innovative pilot projects that offer insightful ideas and recommendations. Any size nonprofit can follow and benefit from the well-organized sections with comprehensive details needed to initiate and develop a system aligned with the organization mission to better facilitate goal accomplishments and measurements.

Stay on top of new developments by subscribing to their newsletter at:

Comments are always desired,
Dianne Archer

Friday, May 06, 2005

Business + Nonprofit = Successful Social Enterprise

Can nonprofit organizations learn from for profit businesses? To some this may be a rhetorical question. To others it may be an invitation to debate good versus evil. From my perspective, it is neither. It is a sincere request for informed input on a subject of critical importance to the health of nonprofit organizations stressed by government cutbacks, increasing accountability and outcome requirements plus growing demands from desperate clients.

Let’s Compare
It is my experience that there are valuable benefits to nonprofit organizations open and willing to learn and incorporate suitable business principles, systems and practices to their own mission and goals. While there are some notable differences such as, but not limited to:
§ access to capital
§ financing options
§ client/customer profile
§ product/service offering and marketing
§ incorporation choices

there are even more commonalities including:
§ competition for scarce dollars
§ human resources to develop/manage dedicated, competent workers
§ comprehensive policies and procedures for smooth operations
§ addressing environmental and technological changes
§ up to date information on market/sector trends, resources, community needs, changes and advances
§ positive public relations for engagement and financial support
§ strategic planning aligned with mission for achievable objectives using available resources

New Directions
Reflecting on these common characteristics fuels my passion for the marriage of business practices with nonprofit purposes. I have experienced the successful possibilities of a structured, organized, market conscious nonprofit society dedicated to serving its community. Over the past 5 – 10 years, as people pressured by adversity and change are seeing opportunities for merging business with social interests. This hybrid, called “social enterprise” is a classic example of necessity as the mother of invention. Faced with possible extinction, nonprofit organizations are now reaching for new tools, options and cooperative alliances available in the business world.I strongly support this change built on existing strengths that is devoted to public need without attachment to reward.

Informative Resources
Two organization areas shared by business and nonprofits are human resources and communications. Change in these fields is growing and changing to meet the needs of arguably the most valuable asset and important tool of every organization. The following links provide new and interesting information and developments worthy of your consideration. links to an article on An HR Council for the Charitable Sector, and Non-Profits Can Profit From Blogs links to an article from eCommerce on how new technology can ease and/or expand communication for greater exposure and engagement. Both resources open new ideas and opportunities for exploration that could benefit any organization.

Your comments are invited,
Dianne Archer

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Reflecting on Appreciative Inquiry

“The appreciative paradigm, for many, is culturally at odds with the popular negativism and professional vocabularies of deficit that permeate society.” David Cooperrider

My last few years have been a whirlwind of opportunities to learn through change, adversity and reflection. Most interesting is that the beliefs, skills and tools I practiced addressing personal challenges are now becoming common place in the world of organizational development – or more specifically change management. My personal experiences are a clear reflection of the new growth in management tools and philosophies etc based on positive change.

Life as the Teacher
As I reflect on my experiences, I realize a number of critical success factors directly influenced outcomes. The first is attitude. Are we victims with limited resources or sentient beings with untapped resources for expanding our abilities and abundance through challenge? I chose the latter. While change caused some adjustment, I saw opportunities to learn about myself and new practical applications for existing strengths. I realized it would be easy to get lost in the emotions that automatically rise when we feel threatened, so it was important to develop the fine art of detachment and to focus on the moment. Not taking things personally enables optimum learning and focus helps to zero in on the current situation without worry about the future or guilt about the past. These attitude tools create a positive platform where change is valued to highlight and expand abilities offering practice in conscious choice and the opportunity to see how change is linked to personal growth. Change expands possibilities.

The second critical success factor is communication and its close relative; language. I always felt words and sentences were of undescribed impact . My first lessons in the significance of positive and negative words and sentence structure came in my early sales instruction at college. Years later, it was interesting to see the same tools presented in democratic parenting books. What creates a positive feeling and result: please remember to feed the cat or don’t forget to feed the cat? It is obvious yet we are unconsciously entrenched in negative vocabularies without realizing the emotional impact on ourselves and others. And how do we cope with the constant barrage of negative vocabularies? We give up with no end in sight and tune out unable to imagine a positive vision. Altering our language is one of the single most significant choices in confronting change. Choosing positive words, phrases and sentences improves attitudes and self esteem for engaging communication that envisions and inspires optimistic options.

The third success factor is conscious choice for personal empowerment and future responsibility. Over our history we have increasingly abandoned our own power in decisions. We give away responsibility for our circumstances blaming government for cutbacks, bosses for career shortcomings, family for injustices with never ending reverberations etc etc. While I do believe in holding institutions and individuals accountable, I also hold myself accountable for my choices. All of the above is my choice. Attitude, detachment, attention to the moment, communication, language; it’s all up to me. Recognizing freedom of choice encourages empowerment for taking charge and making conscious positive choices. Differentiating between circumstances that are within or outside our control enables responsibility for our choices. Defining where change can be affected and where it is beyond us is essential.

Experience+Theory=New Applications
These success factors relate directly to the philosophy of Appreciative Inquiry or AI. When I first learned of AI, I was struck by the similarities to beliefs I had learned through my changes. Developed by David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva in the late 1980’s, AI is a dramatic shift to "change" in organizations. Based on the premise that “organizations change in the direction they inquire”, organizations inquiring into problems find problems and those that appreciate the best will discover more that is good. The discoveries can then be used to build a new future where the best becomes more common. My own experiences reflected the AI 4-D Cycle of Appreciating>Dream>Design>Destiny.

From my perspective this philosophy is complementary to facing and creating change with a positive attitude that draws on existing strengths with positive communication that increases value. I am inspired to explore AI further for use as a consultant working with organizations faced with or choosing change. Find more information with the following links:

Comments welcome,
Dianne Archer

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Happy International Women's Day!

On this important day I like to look around me to reflect both historically and globally to see where I have come from and where I am now. I feel both privileged and humbled by the strong women of my family who went before me and by the women here in BC, Canada and around the world who fight the daily struggle for survival, justice and choice. We have come a long way and yet we still have such a long way to go.

Look at any newspaper or listen to a radio or TV news program and you will learn of the self righteous North American religious groups and US government desperately trying to send us back 30 years by taking away our choice for abortion. Or the patriarchal professor at Harvard who states he is not to blame and is only the messenger informing us that women have an innate inability in science. Or further afield, yesterday Human Rights Watch announced that approximately 40,000 African women in the east Congo had been raped in the last years of civil war/strife and the brutality is continuing unheeded by laws or morals. In fact, now some of the UN aid workers have joined in raping females from 3 to 90 years old. Why? Because it isn’t a crime to rape a woman! How can that be in 2005? At the same time we hear how out of date, out of step and unnecessary feminists have become. I couldn’t disagree more! The sad truth is with women being denounced and degraded around the world the fight has only just begun.

When I look back at my own family tree it is brutal and bloody. I am in awe of my foremothers who fought church and state for sanity and sobriety. They were women who came to the rocky barrens of Northern Ontario to carve out a decent life for family because the land was free for three years of production. If the winters didn’t kill you, the isolation, disease or lack of food threatened to take its place. They survived through invention, innovation, resourcefulness and sheer will power to overcome the elements of daily struggle. I am proud of my heritage. My mother, aunts, grandmothers and great grandmothers were victims, abusers and survivors who faced every situation with courage and faith to make it bearable. I feel the legacy of their struggle and strength hoping to do them honour and justice.

Today, in comparison, I live a life of luxury. I have a solid roof, healthy food, decent clothes and the means to meet my needs. I too am a survivor and have faced adversity on many levels that has threatened to overwhelm my cart of stability. With the death of my aunt in 2001, I began evolving to claim my voice. With the death of my mother in 2003 I realized my greatest gift – resilience. It is with deep gratitude that I recognize the power to rebound after being oppressed; the ability to recover readily from adversity and the ability to spring back after being bent. This is my wish for all women today. To be strong in the face of adversity and know that it is within you to bounce back to your original strength and form. No matter what structures rise to force our will, we will always have choice of mind. We can only be defeated by ourselves. Let us rise up together with the fortitude of our foremothers, using the courage of our convictions, for the destiny of our daughters. Thank you to all for your inspiration and support.

Comments are welcomed, in sisterhood,
Dianne Archer

Monday, March 07, 2005

Change is Good

Like death and taxes we can all count on change and it usually comes unexpectedly – or so it seems at the worst times. While we can’t control change, we can control our response and attitude. I have come to learn that one of the few guarantees we have in life, next to the aforementioned death, taxes and change, is choice. Whether we realize and accept it or not, how we respond to change is our choosing and the outcomes our responsibility.

There are several options to consider. One option is denial. We can bury our heads in the sand; pretend the change never really happened and believe everything will return to the status quo as soon as possible. This ostrich approach leads to increased pain and suffering as changes do not go away simply by being ignored. Confusion, frustration and anxiety will build when direction is needed and refusal to accept changed reality is the choice. Actions from this perspective are usually defensive and may include building walls to protect territory and ego, martyred complaints that they and other people are suffering needlessly without exploring options and refusal to listen without blame. This is a choice.

A second option is to do nothing. Acting as if the change is temporay and the status quo will return momentarily. This response ignores or minimizes the reality of the situation. Similar to the ostrich approach, refusing to accept obvious implications and ramifications that result from change is a perilous journey into unnecessary turmoil that breeds stress, uncertainty and insecurity. In this scenario, individuals do not respond. They continue as usual ignoring signs, expressing shock and disbelief as environmental factors impose restructuring and insist that a return to the past as the only acceptable option. There is no going back.

Another option is to accept change as a natural occurrence and opportunity to learn and explore new ideas and experiences. The response is positive and enthusiastic comfortable with the knowledge that changes bring a needed surge of energy to be tapped into for new directions. Being open minded to learning and understanding the environmental factors that led to the change helps to clarify individual roles. Acceptance of change with a resourceful approach builds confidence, encourages creative problem solving, and emulates optimism that strengthens morale. Individuals recognize the opportunity to reflect and gather information on strengths, weaknesses, resources and opportunities, there is an outward look scanning the environment to assess risks and relationships are built and expanded to develop new possibilities with a positive perspective. This is a good choice.

The truth of the matter is that if nothing ever changed we’d still be hanging out of trees bored with conjuring up new ideas for bananas. The key is in how to respond. Seeing change as an opportunity for growth and expansion that comes out of the unconscious desire and need to evolve creates a positive outlook and response. Negative responses yield negative results. An attitude that anticipates, prepares for and embraces change with optimism and trust will empower confidence, determination and creativity reaping positive benefits for ever greater achievement and abundance.

Comments are welcome,
Dianne Archer

Hi! Welcome to the blog of D.Archer Associates

I am a newbie to this exciting new world of cyber communication and I hope you will bear with me as I explore and learn the intricacies of this new tool. My reason for this new venture is to initiate 2 way communications from visitors and clients alike. This blog will offer articles, resource information and links for nonprofit development and the growing field of innovative social economics and enterprise.

In addition, I will also be presenting a glimpse into more personal issues and topics that are important to me and I feel some of my readers may share an interest in too. My intention is to express my experience, knowledge and passions for engaging dialogue, comments and opinions that stimulate new thoughts and ideas.

Dianne Archer