Project 8: To Explore the Successes and Failures in the Greening of the Social Economy Within Waterloo, Toronto, Peterborough, Hamilton, and Elora

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 Project 8 

To Explore the Successes and Failures in the Greening of the Social Economy Within Waterloo, Toronto, Peterborough, Hamilton, and Elora

Academic Partners
Jennifer Lynes, University of Waterloo (Project Co-Lead)
Paul Parker, University of Waterloo (Project Co-Lead)
Community Partners
Clifford Maynes, Green Communities Canada
Mary Jane Patterson, Waterloo Region Green Solutions, Residential Energy Efficiency Project
For further information about this project, contact Jennifer Lynes: or Paul Parker:


Local economies are continually faced with changes or external shocks beyond their control. The same is true for the social economy where changes in policy can change the fiscal and operating environment dramatically. The challenge is to find creative ways to respond to the external shock while continuing to pursue the goals of the organization. Green communities are a new generation of environmental SEOs that aim to improve the environment through service delivery. They form an innovative segment of the social economy that creates employment while pursuing environmental goals and directly engaging the community through their services. Green communities across Canada faced an external shock in May 2006 when the federal government cancelled two of the major programs that they delivered at the local level. The cancellation of the EnerGuide for Houses Incentive Program and the EnerGuide for Low Income Houses Program created an instant crisis for many green communities (as well as other providers of the EGH service). This study examines innovative responses and creative survival strategies whensocial economy organizations are faced with external shocks. A series of four sub-projects are proposed over four years.

The first sub-project investigates the response of organizations in the first six months following the cancellation of program funding. The obstacles and barriers to continued program delivery will be identified, but the focus is on the diverse set of responses by organizations across Canada. This timely review of strategic choices and actions taken enables success stories to be identified and options articulated for individual organizations to consider adopting in their local setting. The results will be reviewed by Green Communities Canada, discussed at a special meeting of managers of Green Communities and reported at Green Communities Canada's annual conference for consideration by the directly affected parties. 

The second project reviews the restructuring and partnership building that took place in the Home Performance (energy efficiency) function of Green Communities. The systematic science-based measurement of improved residential energy efficiency and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions were central parts of the program. The cancellation of federal EnerGuide for Houses programs in May 2006 was followed by the launch of the new government’s green plan in the fall of 2006. The implications for Green Communities varied widely across the country as provinces, cities and utilities also responded to changes in federal policies. In some cases, provincial initiatives created new opportunities, in others local partners took the lead, and in other cases programs were simply cancelled, services ended and staff laid-off. The achieved service delivery of energy evaluation services thus varied widely across communities and a systematic assessment is required to gain lessons to share and discover how to effectively build capacity and resilience to cope with future external shocks.

The third sub-project examines a successful new program where Green Communities applied their existing expertise and capacity in a new venture. The Ontario Power Authority’s Low Income Housing Retrofit Program is the likely project for review, however, another project may be a better candidate at the time. The process under examination is innovation and the ability of the social economy (in this case green communities) to adapt and thrive in a dynamic external environment. The interaction between internal and external factors will be examined to explain and understand the creative process of adaptation and growth.

The fourth project will integrate the lessons learned at three levels: individual organization (green communities), formal networks (Green Communities Canada) and government (policy change drivers). The interaction among member organizations through a formal network is expected to increase their capacity to adapt creatively to external changes. The capacity to initiate and implement new programs or services will be considered at both the organization and network levels. The implications for the social economy of policy change thus become evident as the speed and magnitude of change may exceed the capacity of some organizations to adapt. The key findings on the importance of information exchange through a network are of direct importance not only to green communities, but also to the broader social economy.

Plans for communicating research results within the academic community

The results of this research will be communicated to other academics through refereed journal articles (e.g. Local Environment, Environment and Planning), workshop discussions and conference papers/presentations.

Plans for communicating research results outside the academic community

The research results will be communicated to green community organizations and the broader social economy through conferences, workshops / special meetings, and web postings. 

Specific materials to be produced for non-academic audiences include: 1) a report on each sub-project (with recommendations) to Green Communities Canada and its member organizations; 2) a presentation or workshop at the annual conference held by Green Communities Canada; 3) concise fact sheets prepared for web posting by partner organizations; and 4) participation in broader Social Economy conferences with partner organizations.