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The Higher ED Blog: Community Futures Program built on passionate volunteers

Allan Simm / April 24, 2017

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The Higher ED Blog: Community Futures Program built on passionate volunteers

This article is the second in our Volunteers: The Extra-Economic Developers series, which explores the beneficial ways that economic development and volunteerism can intersect. This is in recognition of National Volunteer Week, running April 23rd to 29th, 2017.

You may not realize it, but there may be a Community Futures office near you.  With 268 offices currently in operation, it’s one of the best kept secrets across Canada!

The Community Futures Program was created in 1986 to support businesses and economic development in rural communities.  Today, these Community Futures Development Corporations provide financing, training and support to entrepreneurs and community projects.  Each office is a non-profit corporation run by a volunteer board of directors.  These directors are experienced business owners, professionals, economic developers, young entrepreneurs and individuals of various backgrounds.  They all have a passion to keep their rural communities growing and thriving.  These volunteers are interested in seeing businesses succeed, having more jobs created and keeping youth employed.  They want a future that is sustainable and a local economy that is robust.

This is where you come in.  Our offices are always looking for volunteers who are motivated, have an interest in rural economic development and are committed to Strategic Planning.  Strategic Planning is an integral part of the organization and innovative people and ideas are welcome.  Get involved.  Community Futures is currently supported by over 3,300 volunteers across Canada.  Working on a board is a great experience, a chance to share and learn, and looks great on a resume!

Lynn Buchner is a current director of the board at Community Futures Oxford. She first got involved with the organization in the early 2000s, when the region’s economy was suffering from withdrawal of the tobacco industry. She recalls, “The Province invested $5 million and assigned a Project Approval Committee to invest it in the region through the CFDCs (Community Futures Development Corporations) as a sound basis for distribution for worthy business propositions.” She started as a member of the committee and has been involved in some capacity ever since.  “I have a passion for giving back to the community that has been so generous to me over the years. I was raised in a small family-owned and operated business located in Oxford County, learning at a very young age the importance of small business and more so commitment to serving your community.  This experience lead me to a career in municipal government and an appreciation for a diversified economy that it is largely driven by small and medium sized local owned and operated business.  My volunteer work with Community Futures Oxford has allowed me the privilege of enabling Oxford County to be progressive, innovative and continue to thrive as a vibrant community by supporting economic growth and retention to secure a sustainable future for our community – by providing capital for new business to get started and existing businesses to expand, adding jobs which generates economic spinoff that improves the community’s overall wellbeing.”

The picture associated with this article is a shining example of Community Futures’ great success in Oxford County. Through her participation in the Ontario Self-Employment Program, professional chocolatier and Tea Sommelier Cindy Walker learned important business elements that then helped her to launch her own speciality chocolate and tea shop. Chocolatea is located in Ingersoll, ON. In 2015, she received the Ontario Self Employment Benefit Program Entrepreneur of the Year award. Though that specific program has now been discontinued, Community Futures continues to offer financial and business support through their many programs, and volunteers remain a vital aspect to each one.

Check out this website to learn more about Community Futures.

 

About the author

Allan Simm is the General Manager of the Community Futures Oxford, a Community Futures Development Corporation located in Ingersoll.  Community Futures Oxford has been supporting entrepreneurship and economic development in Oxford County since 1993.

Allan has also coached and mentored numerous start-up and existing businesses from various industries.  Having owned a business in the past, he knows the financial, managerial and operational challenges facing business owners.

Allan holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree that provides the foundation for his business and entrepreneurial experience.  He is currently the President of the Western Ontario Community Futures Development Corporation Association.  The association supports 20 Community Futures Development Corporations in Southwestern Ontario.

About the series

Higher ED: Insights for the Next Economy is a platform for students, guest speakers, staff and faculty of the University of Waterloo’s professional and graduate economic development programs to share knowledge with the field at large. The series takes works destined for an academic audience and reworks them into a fresh, easy-to-digest blog article.

Established in 1987, the Master of Economic Development and Innovation (MEDI) is one of the only graduate programs in Canada focused exclusively on economic development. Students learn economic development theory and practice, and are exposed to leading edge knowledge, tools, and approaches to address contemporary challenges in cities and communities across Canada and internationally.

The Economic Development Program is a nationally-accredited provider of professional training. It delivers certification programs and seminars that offer a deep understanding of the Canadian context in a convenient block format. Peer learning is combined with informative lectures and practical case studies to provide dynamic instruction that is beneficial for junior and senior-level practitioners.

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