Young Alberta Social Enterprise Brings Story, Questions to SEWF

Localize founder Meghan Dear says her organization’s current issue centres on modelling social mission. She looks forward to hearing the experiences of others on this front at the upcoming Social Enterprise World Forum in Calgary.

Young Alberta Social Enterprise Brings Story, Questions to SEWF

Local-food identification service founder hopes to dig deep on modelling social mission

As the founder of a two-year old Edmonton, Alberta social enterprise, Meghan Dear is eager to join the Social Enterprise World Forum and participate in some rich conversations and learning she can’t find anywhere else.

Integrating and living out a business’ social purpose consistently and authentically is a subject she’s especially keen to tackle. “It’s one thing to talk about mandate and social purpose, but it’s another to get into the nitty gritty of how you model it,” she says.

Meghan’s organization, Localize, provides a shelf-labelling service to grocery stores which identifies local and regional food in stock.

The team of six works with about 50 grocery stores and almost 300 food businesses to identify local products in every department of the grocery store.

Localize is creating a different solution to the enormous pressure on the grocery industry to provide local food options — one of the top three consumer demands of grocery chains.

While those hoping to meet this demand have tended to think they need to look at changing supply chains, it isn’t often the case that grocery stores don’t offer local food, Meghan notes. “It turns out (stores) often have hundreds or even thousands of products that are coming from local and independent businesses. It’s just that we haven’t found a good way to talk about it.”

Localize provides this communication to grocery stores at a cost while partnering with suppliers at no charge — only requesting transparency and information about their supplies and how they create their products.

Keeping Localize’s social mission a foremost driver as a for-profit is an ongoing challenge, says Meghan.

“What we’ve developed is part and parcel with developing a service that consumers want, which is they want to be able to support local businesses, but they also want transparency around food production and so our entire business is tied to making sure that benefit happens,” Meghan says.

Whether client’s expectations are in fact being met is a constant concern for her team, Meghan adds, noting they’ve found humility has been a critical posture to adopt.

“In everything we develop we’re always asking the question, ‘Is this the right thing, is this consistent with our purpose and our mission?’ ”

Social entrepreneurship offers a different lens for viewing social problems and hopefully creating new solutions, Meghan says.

“Often when I’m presented with social issues and social challenges, one of the questions I ask myself is, ‘Is there a product here?’ That’s not because I’m out to make a gazillion dollars, but it’s because that question helps you frame how you can fix it.

“I think that’s a very entrepreneurial attitude towards creating solutions to social problems, and I think that’s integral to what a social enterprise is all about.”

In addition to the meaty conversations on social mission at the Social Enterprise World Forum, Meghan says she’s eager to meet with other food-related enterprises, especially those from the region and hopes they can talk about potential partnerships.  

To learn more about the Social Enterprise World Forum and to register, click here.

If you’re not planning to attend the conference but looking for ways to engage, SEWF launched a series of online engagement efforts this week, including Google Hangouts, Twitter polls and a Facebook chat. For more information, click here.

Related Story: SEWF Flips Conference Model

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