What’s Up with Community Bonds?

This past spring Terrapin with friends at Good Roots Consulting and 10C Shared Space, scanned all of the community bonds we could find in Canada. We wanted to know more about community bonds (the good, bad and ugly) and, after looking around it was clear – there is no single source or listing of community bonds in Canada for anyone contemplating this approach to raising capital. We thought to ourselves “this might be a good idea!”. Read more

Canadians don’t know about social determinants of health

No surprise —  the biggest factors shaping health are not medical or lifestyle  but rather the living conditions you experience — things like access to good food, safe housing, education, etc.

Big surprise — the influence of living conditions on your health (called the social determinants of health) is mostly unfamiliar to Canadians — even after decades of research and hundreds of studies in Canada and elsewhere.

Get the Canadian Facts

Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts by Juha Mikkonen and Dennis Raphael considers 14 social determinants of health including:The publication outlines why these factors are important; how Canada is doing in addressing them; and what can be done to improve their quality. The purpose of the document is to provide promote greater awareness of the social determinants of health and the development and implementation of public policies that improve their quality.

In 2018 Terrapin will work with colleagues at the Public Health Agency of Canada to establish an evidence base that links social finance to the social determinants of health resulting in a published report. It’s a small but important step that we hope will provide comparable basis on which to evaluate social outcomes arising from social finance activities.

Happy 2018

Terrapin has had a fantastic year working and travelling and learning from colleagues from North Kildonan to Nyrie Town. Thanks to all our colleagues and friends who make our work so gratifying. s & t


from uncertainty…to something better

By now, Totnes & District’s Local Economic Blueprint has become a significant document for communities confronting uncertain times.

Wikipedia.org/wiki/Totnes tells us: Totnes is a market town and civil parish at the head of the estuary of the River Dart in Devon, England within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Totnes has a long recorded history, dating back to AD907 when its first castle was built; it was already an important market town by the 12th century. Indications of its former wealth and importance are given by the number of merchants’ houses built in the 16th and 17th centuries.  Read more

At least one horse in every race…

Terrapin has been digging into the topic of payday loans lately. Our inquiry is yielding a range of interesting and often contradictory findings. We’ll have more to say about this in the near future. For now, here’s a great piece from Freakonomics Podcast based on the the US experience with payday loans. On thing to keep in mind — in the USA, the payday lending industry is approaching $40B. The Canadian industry is estimated to be closer to a $5B – $7B industry. Another detail worth mentioning — the growth in payday lending exploded after 2008 when consumer credit regulations were tightened.

A colleague of ours who runs a large community service charity in a major Canadian city was approached at Christmas time by the local payday lender association with the offer of a substantial charitable contribution. Our friend felt they must turn the gift down as so many of their clients are in a debt spiral with payday lenders. To which the donor replied “…you realize there is a market for payday loans.” This story has stayed with me as I consider the challenges many Canadians face in managing credit in the current context.

Social finance…make it simple!

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Indian Business Corporation (IBC), a social finance leader based in Calgary, AB recently released this collection of impact stories from its loan customers – describing the ways in which their lives have changed for the better as a result of getting a loan, starting a business, hiring family and friends, and contributing to the stability of their communities. Read more

The 541 Eatery and Exchange is sharing more than great food.

Alongside reports of madness, disaster and unrest, a recent edition of Canada’s Globe and Mail featured a hopeful story about a special business venture in the heart of Hamilton’s North end — on Barton Street.


In the world of currency alternatives, buttons are having impact in North Hamilton.

The 541 is gaining a reputation for its cheap, nutritious, family-friendly homemade meals. And, paying customers have an opportunity to purchase buttons, which folks without money can use to purchase a hot meal or a cup of coffee. But wait, there’s more – 541 employees earn a living wage and regular customers are given the opportunity to take a turn behind the counter, wait tables and welcome new customers. Some are getting great experience in the kitchen, which in turn helps them find paying gigs in Hamilton’s thriving restaurant sector. The café’s space and proceeds from food sales are also used to support a number of community initiatives: homework club, kitchen skills training, piano lessons, eating well workshops and more! 541 is a place  of social exchange and social change – where people from all walks of life share the same access to healthy, delicious food in a welcoming, cheery space. There are no hand outs. This is a different kind of food charity – one that emphasizes dignity and equal access to the good food movement. If you can’t make it to Hamilton but like the idea you can visit their CanadaHelps.org page, buy some buttons or become a monthly donor.



Siksika Nation blazes a new trail in community economic development

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In it’s first year, Siksika Nation’s $2.7 M developmental loan fund has been fully deployed in loans to nation members starting or expanding businesses on and off reserve. The fund is the result of a joint partnership agreement between Siksika and Indian Business Corporation (IBC) in which $2M of band trust money was used to set up the fund at IBC who in turn loaned the money directly to nation members. Read more

A tough economy drives innovation in Aboriginal social finance.

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That’s to IBC, Alberta may be the centre of social finance in Canada

Calgary’s Indian Business Corporation (IBC) is a good example of social finance at work. By focusing on small business lending to First Nations entrepreneurs, IBC takes risks unthinkable for a bank or credit union. In 95% of cases, IBC’s loans are repaid in full and they are able to churn and contribute more capital to a long line of First Nations entrepreneurs waiting for financing. Getting loans paid back involves providing extensive pre and aftercare: everything from business planning to helping with receivables to tax filing. Federal and provincial programs help absorb the extra-ordinary costs of developmental lending, which in turn allows IBC to offer impact investors a chance to achieve their goals.

Terrapin has been fortunate to work closely with the team at IBC and enjoyed putting the following paper together.