Social procurement occurs in many formats and models, but most commonly it is achieved through adding a social value component to purchasing and procurement criteria and including a community benefit agreement within major development and infrastructure investments. This is one model of how social procurement leveraged social value through workforce integration in Manitoba.
In 2008, Manitoba Housing started awarding small, informal ‘handshake deal’ contracts to BUILD Inc. to complete energy retrofit construction on social housing units. Shortly after, the Province of Manitoba contracted with Manitoba Green Retrofit to provide unit turnover construction on social housing unites from the Housing First Project. Following these initial contracts, the Province, through Manitoba Housing, began to test other informal social procurement activities. It partnered with five social enterprises, setting aside various work components of its social housing turnover renovations for them.
In 2014, the Province of Manitoba formalized its work in social procurement, launching the Manitoba Social Enterprise Strategy Framework, which included the goal to double current social procurement through Manitoba housing from $5m/year to $10m/year over 3 years. The strategy was a success, resulting in contracts between Manitoba Housing and six social enterprises: BUILD, Manitoba Green Retrofit, North End Community Renewal Corporation, New Directions, Aki Energy, and the Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation, who receive a total of $7m/year in government contracts through Manitoba Housing.
Through social procurement, the six social enterprises have generated significant social value. A Social Return on Investment (SROI) report finds that for every $1 invested, $2.23 of social and economic value is created for construction-related purchases from social enterprises in Manitoba. Specifically, the contracts have created 200 jobs for workers on construction projects and workers have been found to have a significantly lower recidivism rate. A key to generating this impact was the narrow focus on workforce integration, which allowed Manitoba Housing to target where the most social value could be created.
The Manitoba Housing story also highlights more general lessons on social procurement. Broadly, there is a need for redirection of government money towards innovative social enterprises offering higher social returns; too many government supports are going to low social return programs, hindering the success of the social economy. Moreover, intermediaries are needed to facilitate discussion between private-minded operations and procurement staff and social enterprises. Lastly, this example has underscored the impact of a Social Return on Investment (SROI) analysis, which helps quantify the value of social procurement to politicians across the political spectrum. Although the Manitoba Housing model may not be the right fit in every circumstance, it offers valuable cross-sectoral lessons on social procurement.