BCSPI Purchasing Power Recap: How can social procurement support my local economy?

Nov 23rd, 2021

British Columbia Social Procurement Initiative (BCSPI) brings together local governments and institutions to develop and grow social procurement policies and practices. BCSPI is supported by Buy Social Canada, Scale Collaborative, Presentations Plus and Vancouver Island Construction Association.

British Columbia Social Procurement Initiative (BCSPI) recently hosted the second event in the “Purchasing Power” series, titled “How can social procurement support my local economy?”

We spoke with Amy Robinson, Founder and Executive Director of LOCO BC, and Alisha Masongsong, Community Economic Development Planner at the City of Vancouver.

Here are their key lessons and best practice tips to use social procurement to support your local economy.

1. Local economies create more impact

When you buy local, money recirculates in your community at a much greater rate than when purchasing from multinational corporations (LOCO BC Report on The Economic Impact of Local Business).  Amy points out that “local businesses are 24 times more likely to give to local charities and causes,” and that these causes are more directly targeted to local concerns. This supports the creation and maintenance of healthy, vibrant local economies.

Social procurement presents an opportunity to decolonize purchasing practices and our approach to business. Prioritizing best overall value, rather than only best price, contributes to our local communities in a more positive and holistic way. 

2. Access existing directories and networks

Knowing who is available to buy from in your community will increase your success in sharing contracting chances with local businesses.

Amy suggests that the best practice is to rely on your community’s Chambers of Commerce, Business Improvement Associations and local business directories to do outreach. She urged that “purchasers need to commit to doing outreach differently.” Give more time or support to respond to bids and share opportunities sooner.

Alisha adds that local community economic development networks are another valuable resource, and recommended that organizations collaborate and learn from them, or even support them with funding to bolster social procurement discussions and initiatives.

3. Work collaboratively towards shared goals

Working collaboratively is essential to the success of a social procurement policy or framework. One requirement for this is that everyone in your organization should be aware of how social procurement helps your various teams meet their goals, as well as the larger organizational goals.

Alisha emphasizes that “City staff need to be educated and work together across departments to meet procurement and community goals.”

4. Pilot and test, pilot and test

It can be good to start with a small pilot. Alisha stresses the importance of pilots and tests, suggesting that organizations should start with one project and take learnings forward.

In the case of the City of Vancouver, they model this through their Sustainable and Ethical Procurement Framework, which is still being tested and iterated. Once the City has learned from their tests, developed best practices, and incorporated feedback from City purchasers and local suppliers, then they will formalize a policy.

5. Learn from your community

Both Amy and Alisha emphasize the importance of learning from your community and creating space for feedback and knowledge sharing.

Alisha recommends that you “always go back to community, to suppliers, and learn from them.” Some things you can seek to understand are:

  • What opportunities are there?
  • Where is there need for support or education for suppliers and purchasers?

It is important to share learnings and knowledge amongst social procurement practitioners as we work together to shape the social value marketplace. As a member focused collaborative, BCSPI brings local governments and institutions together to build on each other’s experience and best practices. 

Two concrete actions you can take now:

1. “Find your social procurement champions and work with them to start piloting.” – Alisha

2. “Reach out to the local business community, you’ll be surprised by the amazing suppliers who exist.” – Amy

Watch the full recording to learn more:

Please contact Rob Fisher at rfisher@scalecollaborative to find out more about becoming a BCSPI member.

We hope we’ll see you at the next Purchasing Power event.

For your reference and continued learning, here are the resources and links shared during the event:

1. British Columbia Social Procurement Initiative (BCSPI)

2. 4Ps Framework


4. LOCO BC Studies (Power of Purchasing, Impact of Local Businesses)

5. LOCO BC Business Directory

6. LOCO BC Impact Assessment

7. City of Vancouver Sustainable and Ethical Procurement Framework

8. City of Vancouver Community Benefit Agreement Policy

9. City of Vancouver CBA compliance toolkit

10. Vancouver’s Social Enterprise Recovery Report 2020 attached

11. BC Buy Local business directory and stories of impact

12. Buy Social Canada Supplier Guide to Social Procurement

13. CleanStart BC Impact report for September 2021

14. BC Buy Local Campaign – Infographics

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