From the beginning, the plan for the Okanagan Centre for Innovation was to be as innovative as possible, to think and operate differently, from the initial stages through to when the doors open in November 2016. 

Through the promotion of technology, innovation and entrepreneurship, the goal is for the OCI is to provide maximum community benefit from both an economic growth & social impact perspective.

Consistent with broad trends toward community level social innovation, as well as the BC Provincial Social Impact Purchasing Guidelines, we have a large interest in measuring social impact by exploring the role that vendors play in our community outside the professional services they provide.

It was through this lens that we had several discussions about the construction process and what we could implement that would allow us to measure the community impact efforts being made by the vendors involved with the OCI project.

The decision we made was to modify the standard tendering process to include a section requesting information about each vendor’s social impact commitment to the community.  We would not select vendors based on the level of their commitment but would appreciate it if they could include a description with their submission.

We did not want this process to be overly onerous, and decided on the following three questions.

1.     Do you have a charitable giving plan?

2.     Outside of the services you offer, what role do you have in the community?

3.     Do you have policies in place that consider any of the following:

a)    Environmental considerations;

b)    Economic considerations

c)     Social considerations

Based on the submissions we received, it is evident that companies all over the Okanagan are doing some pretty amazing things that are having a tremendous impact on our local community. 

Contributions are wide ranging and include things like:

  • the establishment of corporate foundations
  • comprehensive charitable giving plans
  • a commitment to sourcing local equipment & supplies
  • hiring local skilled workers
  • sustainable construction practices
  • sponsorship of local sporting teams, and
  • community volunteerism. 

We are thrilled to be aligning with some of these great companies and ultimately contributing to positive, social impact for our community throughout the development of the OCI.

So, this got us thinking.  If a relatively small sample size could return this amount of encouraging information, we are sure there is much much more going on in the community that goes uncelebrated.  Wouldn’t it be cool if there were a way to track social impact across an entire community, not just through one development project?

After a bit of digging, we found out that there is in fact a system available to do this and it is being developed right here in Kelowna by a local startup technology company, Volinspire.  Volinspire is a community engagement platform that connects all citizens and businesses with important causes in our community. Their mission is “to maximize volunteer capacity and support a growing movement of citizen-led change by empowering all community members, organizations and businesses to engage in causes they care about.”  Pretty cool stuff! 

For more information on Volinspire, you can check them out online at https://volinspire.com.

We are delighted by what was found in our small efforts towards change, and are excited by the focus others in the community and in government are putting towards necessary social focus in business operation.

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