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The Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities’ Social Enterprise Journey

Since its establishment in 1974, MLPD – The Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities has supported and advocated for persons with disabilities and their supporters. The membership-based organization champions individuals’ full participation in society, and facilitates positive change through public education.

MLPD – The Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities has participated in Innoweave’s social enterprise module since 2016. They’ve built a unique model to leverage their expertise and respond to a market need created by the Province’s new accessibility legislation. Innoweave coaches have helped MLPD craft a business plan, and are continuing to support them as their enterprise grows.

Responding to a market opportunity

Since 2005, various governments across Canada have enacted legislation to enforce accessibility standards. In Manitoba, such legislation became law in 2013, and since 2016, the legislation requires the government and public sector organizations to prepare accessibility plans. These plans must be updated every other year and address the identification, prevention, and removal of barriers.

The introduction of this legislation and the requirement for organizations to develop robust plans created a new market for expertise in accessibility issues – an area where MLPD is extensively practiced. MLPD connected with Innoweave and applied for coaching to develop a business plan to create a social enterprise that could advance their mission, and help other organizations meet the requirements of the new standards. Over the span of a year, they developed a plan for consulting services, in many cases offered by individuals with disabilities, that will focus on assisting organizations get compliant with the new Accessibility for Manitobans Act. Services include assistance to help organizations understand provincial requirements, draft policies, evaluate customer service accessibility, recommend barriers to be removed, and train staff. The market for these services includes all organizations in Manitoba with one or more employee that have to comply with new regulations. These regulations are being rolled out in a phased manner, with the first phase of implementation being accessible customer service.

Scaling a social enterprise

To date, MLPD has worked primarily with public sector organizations, because their compliance deadlines were first, but they are now connecting with more private and nonprofit sector organizations. Innoweave coaching has helped the organization re-evaluate their systems and create new approaches that best suit their new enterprise model.

In reflecting on the work of launching an enterprise for MLPD, Executive Director Jennifer Sande notes that:

“[r]ebooting an organization by starting a social enterprise might be compared with renovating an old house. There are things that obviously need upgrading, but then there are things that are not so obvious. But some of these things are critical. For us, our bookkeeping method wasn’t just antiquated, it needed an overhaul. We did not discover this until we were well into the business building and needed quality financial statements to inform key decisions. My advice: identify the cornerstones to a successful organization, evaluate the strength of each of them on their own, then invest in developing with a view that all four corners of your house/organization must be lifted simultaneously for success”.

MLPD has recently begun a second Innoweave coaching grant to work on plans for scaling the operation, but their new business is already having an impact. Jennifer notes that:

“[b]y harnessing our members’ subject specific expertise, and packaging it in a form that organizations find helpful, we can start a conversation about accessibility with an organization new to us. This allows us to shape the conversation and ensure change is happening, not just boxes being ticked to meet the regulation requirements”.

Social enterprise for your organization

Innoweave is proud to share MLPD’s story. If you’re interested in exploring social enterprise for your organization, visit our social enterprise page, or connect with us directly at info@innoweave.ca.