The Bridge Youth and Family Services has deep roots in the Okanagan. Starting in 1969, the non-profit was founded with a mission to provide innovative and quality programming for children, youth and families.
While the organization has changed and tweaked its services a number of times, its core focus remains the same, to create a healthy society by supporting children, youth and families in need.
Today, the organization offers a diverse range of services including parent education and prenatal wellness, support for foster families and youth in transition, counselling and addiction services.
The Bridge is one of the Okanagan’s larger nonprofits, operating three facilities with more than 60 staff and serving 6,000-7,000 people per year.
The non-profit experienced a large win last year when it won a contract from Interior Health to provide community based support for people going through withdrawal as well as and an Intensive Residential Treatment. With the help of these new and innovative programs, the agency budget increased from $2.7 million to $4.7 million.
In addition to these new rehab programs, the Bridge is also beginning to explore how it could get involved in social enterprise.
We caught up with Kelly Paley, a support services co-ordinator at the Bridge, to learn more about the nonrprofit’s interest in social enterprise.
OkChangemakers: Kelly, tell us, what do you find most inspiring about the social enterprise space?
Kelly: It’s something I’m very passionate about as I recently returned from the corporate sector to work in the non-profit sector. What social enterprise does is it allows non-profits to pursue a sustainable source of funding and not have to solely rely on government contracts and grants.
By putting a social enterprise in place, provided you’ve done the research, you’re allowing a non-profit to plan more proactively.
OKChangemakers: How is the Bridge exploring social enterprise?
Kelly: Our current strategic plan has identified sustainability as a focus for our organization over the next four years. We have identified program sustainability, personnel sustainability and fund sustainability as objectives.
Within fund sustainability, we intend to develop and implement a plan to diversify our funding, including social enterprise as a significant element of that plan.
Part of my role as Support Services Coordinator is to identify the opportunities and develop recommendations for implementation.
OKChangemakers: What do you find most challenging about the social enterprise space?
Kelly: I think the sheer number of opportunities that exist is the biggest challenge. It takes a lot of time and resources to conduct the necessary research to see if the opportunity is viable, however it is essential.
I have seen many organizations jump on the social enterprise band wagon without taking the time to conduct the research and formulate the business plan.
OKChangemakers: How can others support the social enterprise space?
Kelly: I believe that collaboration and forming partnerships with other community agencies, both governmental and non-governmental, and business mentors will be essential to the development of social enterprises.
Organizations need to openly and freely share information and resources that will enable them to take advantage of opportunities. We need to be identifying strengths and opportunities and capitalizing on those together rather than trying to be the first and only to market.
OkChangemakers: What are the most exciting projects your organization will be working on in 2015?
The Bridge continually strives to strengthen our connections to the community and those who use our services. We will continue to adjust and expand our programs to meet the current needs of our participants and identify new programs and services that could be of benefit to our community.
We deliver our services and initiatives through association with many other organizations in the community. We participate as part of the community team to ensure needed services are provided in an efficient and effective manner and we will continue to expand these associations and partnerships.
My focus for 2014 will on developing a plan for diversifying our funding and establishing a new social enterprise within the organization.
To learn more, visit www.thebridgeservices.ca.
— Camille Jensen