Remember that social enterprise contest I mentioned a while back? It wrapped up last week, and between the three campaigns, they managed to raise over $90,000. Given the goal was $10,000 for each project, I’d say that Bridge City Bike Co-op, Good Food Junction, and Saskatchewan Environmental Society (and contest organizer Affinity Credit Union) more than exceeded their goals!

[Full disclosure: As mentioned in my previous post about this contest, Strong Roots Consulting banks with Affinity Credit Union and has done some previous contract work with their Community Development team related to social enterprise, but not on this initiative.]

The idea of a solar power co-operative received the lion’s share of votes and funds raised with $59,000 from 630 contributors. That’s a huge vote of confidence for renewable energy in a province that relies mainly on fossil fuels for power generation: hopefully the result will encourage broader support for this and similar projects, such as Saskatchewan Community Wind, that make use of Saskatchewan’s renewable resources. Together with the $50,000 prize from Affinity, the co-op is well-positioned to demonstrate a more sustainable approach to generating power in this province.

Although they missed the top spot, runners-up Bridge City Bike Co-op and Good Food Junction definitely have cause for celebration, raising $17,634 and $13,767 respectively. Together with SES, they will receive free business consulting and support from the United Way, Unite Digital Marketing Co-op, and KPMG to help further develop their ideas.

Beyond the tangible benefits for these organizations, I hope that this contest demonstrates more widely that social enterprises are making a difference in Saskatoon. Since arriving here just over two years ago, I have seen numerous non-profits, co-ops, for-profit businesses, and volunteer groups use innovative approaches such as the social enterprise model to tackle social and environmental issues: these groups, some of which entered the contest but weren’t selected as finalists, all have the potential to improve our community, and in many cases already are. Affinity is planning a second round of this contest for next year, and hopefully this initiative will encourage more concerted efforts to highlight and support local social enterprises and other innovative projects. If one contest can raise $90,000 and a lot of awareness, imagine what a sustained effort in this field could achieve!