Harvest Impact was created by 10C and seeded by Our food Future. Their goal is to provide access to nutritious food and promote a circular food economy through community-based lending in the Guelph-Wellington County.
Problems and Purpose
In Guelph-Wellington, one in six families experience food insecurity, and the cost of healthy food is increasing. Meanwhile, between a third and a half of food produced is thrown away. Much of that ends up in landfill, where it creates greenhouse gasses that drive climate change. Individuals in Southern Ontario have increasing levels of precarious work, income inequality, and food insecurity. Additionally, 10C Shared Space found that entrepreneurs were experiencing barriers to securing financing for viable food, farm, and environmental sector businesses.
Both 10C and Our Food Future saw a growing concern regarding the imbalance between healthy food prices, food access and food waste. Guelph-Wellington wants to build a movement towards a circular economy that is more food secure. This goal means striving to achieve a 50% increase in access to affordable nutritious food, creating 50 new circular economy businesses and collaborations, and achieving a 50% increase in circular economic revenue by recognizing the value of waste. The intention of Harvest Impact is to support the larger goals of Our Food Future, and create a community-based lending institution to provide accessible financing, as well as technical and social support to food, farm, and environment sector entrepreneurs (including nonprofits and social enterprises) undertaking circular economy initiatives.
What Problem is Harvest Impact Working to Solve?
Harvest Impact seeks to use social financing as a tool to create meaningful opportunities in the community and increase agency for all – socially, politically, and economically. Harvest Impact targets the following issues:
- Food waste and a simultaneous lack of access to good nutritious food characterizing our local food system.
- Communities across Southern Ontario are facing growing levels of precarious work, income inequality and food insecurity.
- Reliance on a globalized food system presenting many interconnected challenges.
- Established and new entrepreneurs, some from barriered communities, lacking the social and financial capital to take risks for viable food, farm and environmental sector business.
Harvest Impact broadens the scope of Our Food Future and leverages a network of partnerships sparked through Guelph-Wellington’s Circular Economy initiatives. This partnership between Our Food Future and 10C Shared Space has established a social impact model that catalyzes local sustainable innovation, benefits our community and the environment.
Background History and Context
Harvest Impact is a project that originated in 2020 as a result of a successful submission to Guelph-Wellington's Smart Cities Challenge in 2019. The goal was to create Canada’s first technology-enabled circular economy to move away from the current “take-make-dispose” system.
The term circular economy represents a system that produces minimal waste or tries to mitigate its waste by utilizing it for another purpose. 10C Shared Space’s Community Investment and Engagement Lead, Jess Barrie, defines the term with an analogy of an orange: when you peel an orange one can simply throw the peel into the compost bin, but thanks to technology and innovation, there are other uses for this waste. For example, companies can now turn orange peels into sustainable leathers such as bio or peel leathers. This process can similarly be done with other food waste to prevent throwing things away, creating a circular food model. Harvest Impact uses blended funding and financing models, offering a combination of program supported grants, loans, learning and mentorship to food, farm and environmental sector entrepreneurs. This work also strives to bridge the urban-rural divide in Guelph-Wellington by strengthening the economies, environment and communities of the region’s cities, towns and villages.
Harvest Impact by 10C launched in June of 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic revealing the lack of food access for many in Guelph-Wellington. The first project was launched in partnership with the Guelph Community Health Centre and The SEED, working to increase nutritious food access in the region as they explored their work as a social enterprise. They completed work on a 1500 square foot cooler and 750 square foot freezer that saw over $1.5 million of fresh food moving through it in 2021. With the support of Harvest Impact, The SEED launched Canada's first sliding-scale online grocery store - with 1250 members of all incomes, and 265 nutritious grocery items in store with over 6000 deliveries made and counting! As The SEED continues to grow and expand, Harvest Impact moved on to tackling their mission involving community-based lending.
10C Shared Spacewas co-founded by Julia Grady and Annie O’Donoghue in 2008 as a way to unite change-makers and provide a space for collaboration. It is a social hub of innovative ideas and with member support has successfully utilized community bonds and social financing. Harvest Impact builds upon 10C’s social finance journey with real-estate backed community bonds that have enabled the 10C Shared Space building at 42 Carden Street to come to life.
This model provided the team with a framework for lending to small businesses at rates that would return a profit. Harvest Impact wants to use their learning to continue to support entrepreneurs in early and growth-stages so they can gain access to the social and financial capital necessary to launch, maintain or scale their business while successfully managing debt.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
Harvest Impact by 10C would not have been attainable without the time and persistence of Julia Grady, the Co-Founder and Executive Director of 10C Shared Space, as well as Barbara Swartzentruber, Executive Director of the Smart Cities Office, The City of Guelph, and over 150 people from 30 organizations helping to bring the Smart Cities Challenge submission to life. Julia worked with Barbara to detail how Harvest Impact would be integrated into the Our Food Future vision and support their program goals. Other partners included the Guelph Community Health Centre, Innovation Guelph, Provision Coalition, Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health, and Toward Common Ground.
Harvest Impact is currently in a pilot phase, with prototype loans being awarded in granting and lending streams. They are excited about opportunities to collaborate with established and emerging social finance intermediaries in Ontario and beyond, to explore syndication on larger loans, and to explore opportunities for convertible debt and the potential for granting as part of core offerings. Harvest Impact will raise an initial $3 Million in risk-backed loan capital and will begin intake processes and announce its first engaged circular food enterprises in summer 2022.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
As Harvest Impact is continuously connecting with businesses and entrepreneurs, growth is promising. Julia Grady says that they are currently working with entrepreneurs to help them access funding and mentorship to grow the circular economy network. They are working closely with Innovation Guelph, Our Food Future, the City of Guelph and the County of Wellington, all partners in the Circular Opportunity Innovation Launchpad (COIL) Program.
Methods and Tools Used
As Harvest Impact is a program of 10C and a partner of Our Food Future, they have the ability to share information with many organizations. All partners work together to set measurement indicators and track outcomes. They also work closely with Toward Common Ground, an organization that helps collect data in Guelph-Wellington at a local level. This access to information allows each organization in the region to have a greater breadth of knowledge, ultimately making them more effective. A remarkable tool for Harvest Impact has been their relationships and connections.
Harvest Impact uses LinkedIn and Twitter [hyperlink: https://twitter.com/HarvestImpactGW] as their main outreach tools. Promotion also occurs in the form of partnerships, with Harvest Impact participating in the first cohort of the 2022 SDG Cities Academy and appearing in a segment with the University of Guelph in April 2022 at the Anita Stewart Food Lab discussing the circular economy with 10C’s Nourish kitchen.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
Through collaboration, both Our Food Future and Harvest Impact are working to support entrepreneurs to imagine possibilities beyond waste and look for ways to upcycle or reuse. At the end of 2021, Harvest Impact raised $53,643 through community donations to support food security.
While 10C is leading the program elements of Harvest Impact, the fund itself will be incorporated as a separate entity. It is being designed as a share capital co-operative: Harvest Impact Fund Cooperative Inc. with 10C as a lead investing member. Its membership will be its investors and investees and will include established and emerging sector leaders. Its governance will be founded in seven cooperative principles. Harvest Impact Fund will work with a social-first mandate and will be purpose-built to ensure that investee companies, whether preserving farmland, inventing new food processing solutions, or creating opportunities for new farmers to enter the sector, are all working toward measurable social, economic, and ecological benefit balanced with sustainable business fundamentals.
The social finance landscape is evolving quickly as investors at all levels strive to align their investments with their values.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Social finance is a new concept, but growing in popularity. Companies are slowly learning how a linear business model can be changed to be more circular. The practice of making investments intended to create social or environmental impact in addition to financial returns is what social financing is all about. Some businesses are doing this already, but they could do much more. Non-profits are rethinking how their work can become more enterprising. Harvest Impact by 10C intends to share a number of case studies on businesses and nonprofits they fund in the future, and hope this provides learning opportunities for entrepreneurs and consumers. More government policy and incentives need to be in place to require businesses to adopt circular business practices. 10C Shared Space is a member of the Catalyst Community Finance network, and it is their hope this collective group of social finance partners will help scale up the community finance and social finance ecosystem so that it becomes more common.
Harvest Impact is playing an important role as a lender for small to mid-sized businesses. They are challenging language, gender and racial barriers and creating openings for more people and enterprises to participate in social enterprise and social finance.
Grady, J. (2018). Envisioning a Circular Food Economy, Funding and Financing Ecosystem. Retrieved April 13, 2022, from Creating Canada's first circular food economy (10carden.ca).
Harvest Impact, Our Food Future. (2020). Guelph-Wellington Urban Agriculture Challenge. Retrieved April 13, 2022, from Guelph-Wellington-Urban-Agriculture-Challenge_Program_Guide-1.pdf (harvestimpact.ca)
Written by Christina Hall as a part of McMaster University's Integrated Business and Humanities program in collaboration with 10C.