Weconomie Podcast – Episode 001


Influencing Organizational Change

This first episode of the Weconomie Podcast by the Women’s Economic Council talks about Change Management in organizations and small businesses. Their guest is Ashley Wang from the Women of Ontario Social Enterprise Network.

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Women’s Economic Council website: https://womenseconomiccouncil.ca/

Weconomie: https://weconomie.ca/ 

Facebook: @WomensEconomicCouncil

Twitter: @WEC_Canada

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Follow WOSEN to learn more about what they do!

WOSEN website: https://wosen.pillarnonprofit.ca/en/home 

SVX website: https://www.svx.ca/ 

Facebook: @Pillar.Nonprofit.Network

Twitter: @theSVX

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/weccanada/?hl=en 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/social-venture-exchange-project/ 

Medium : https://medium.com/@theSVX

Episode 001 Transcript

Michelle [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the first episode of the Weconomie podcast by the Women’s Economic Council. We are a Canadian non-profit with the goal of attaining economic security for every woman and advancing women’s community economic development to improve the lives of women, their families and their communities. I’m your host, Michelle, and today we’re talking about change and change management with Ashley Wang from Women of Ontario Social Enterprise Network.

Michelle [00:00:43] Hi, Ashley! Thanks for joining us. Would you like to introduce yourself and tell us a little bit more about WOSEN?

Ashley [00:00:50] Absolutely. So my name is Ashley Wang. I’m an analyst at Social Venture Connection—SVX for short. We’re actually an impact investment platform and financial services firm.

Ashley [00:01:02] So part of the work that we do is 1, serving as a single access point for raising capital for social purpose organizations with their impact investment opportunities and 2, amongst our other work, providing venture and investor education to impact investors and social enterprises. So that is how we’re involved with the Women of Ontario Social Enterprise Network, or WOSEN for short. Where we seek to serve underrepresented and marginalized women and non-binary entrepreneurs who are operating and seek to operate social enterprises.

Michelle [00:01:37] Awesome! Thank you!

Michelle [00:01:39] So after summer ends and many people are usually returning from vacations, fall is often a time full of new beginnings, not only for people returning to school, but for a lot of organizations to get back into the swing of things and get back into a lot of new projects or old projects. So today’s topic is change and change management and I’m hoping that you could answer some of my questions about that.

Ashley [00:02:06] Absolutely!

Michelle [00:02:07] So could you tell me what is change management and could you share a story that illustrates why learning about change management is important?

Ashley [00:02:17] For sure. So I’ll start with a brief description of WOSEN and what we do. So WOSEN as an organization is a collaborative of various partners where we seek to address the gaps in our current entrepreneurial and social services ecosystem. Our goal is really to create a more just and inclusive economy that promotes prosperity for all groups. And to us, you know, change management is really defined as the rules and the values that govern how you approach change, and I think for WOSEN as a collaborative, it’s integrated into our core operating principles. So our programmes are designed not only to be inclusive and accessible, but systems-informed to humans-centred and responsive as well. So really, learning about change management and how to integrate it into our daily work is super essential, as our goal is to broaden and diversify Ontario’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and really respond to the needs of women and gender non-binary social entrepreneurs that we serve.

Ashley [00:03:28] So in light of COVID-19, the WOSEN team has adapted our programming to a significant degree to focus on recovery and regeneration effort. And again, taking another step back, the collaborative is led by Pillar non-profit located in London, Ontario, in partnership with the SVX, the organization I work for, the Centre for Social Innovation, and NORDIK Institute’s Social Enterprise and Entrepreneurship [SEE] programme. As a group, you know, we really use change management principles to shift our supports from in-person regional programming to virtual province-wide as well as regional supports. One in particular that we have launched recently, is called Resilience, and so in eight short weeks, the collaborative designed and launched the Resilience programme specifically for these womxn and non-binary social enterprise leaders whose organizations have been largely impacted by COVID-19. So with support and, of course, that willingness to embrace change across our partner organizations in the Resilience programme, we offer access to 1, a community of peers, 2, subject matter experts, 3, social enterprise coaches, and then 4, of course, that core programming and support to help these organizations and the wayfinding and gaining clarity to adapt their business strategies to meet this new reality.

Michelle [00:04:56] And what are some annual changes that are brought to your organization to help it grow and improve?

Ashley [00:05:04] What’s in it for WOSEN as a collaborative to us, change is not really something that occurs annually or during certain times of the year. As a design principle, responsiveness and adapting to change is really at the centre of our vision for supporting womxn and non-binary entrepreneurs, I mean, it really comes up as a recurring theme that is embedded across our actions.

Ashley [00:05:31] So when we think about change management principles, we try to ensure that our work is responsive to the current needs of the entrepreneurship community. So one way that we approach this is that we hold regular quarterly, semi-annual, whatever time cadence works for that particular programme that we offer, and we host these Design Jams where we reflect upon the community insights that we’ve gathered, as well as our feedback, and then facilitate knowledge exchange between our partner organizations and explore potential future opportunities. So over the course of several sessions, we will, as a group, co-create a shared framework, and that is hopefully informed by these voices and experiences and is also grounded in research. Then each successful meeting that we have, we really lean on our findings from our previous programmes and our previous Design Jams and research to inform our desired approach. So it’s really how this shakes out is that no two programmes are the same because we’re always adapting and learning from our previous actions.

Ashley [00:06:41] Prior to the launch of our Resilience programme, we hosted several design sessions over the course of about two months or so since the onset of COVID-19 to navigate our own pivot to virtual programmes and we came up with six themes. So within Resilience, it was Business Model Innovation, Leadership, Risks, Legal and HR, Finance, Technology, and Resilience Through Networks. Then we asked actually that entrepreneurs choose their own journeys and select the themes and the programmes that made sense for them. And then following our launch, we developed content in response to what participants were asking for. So, for example, in the Business Model Innovation theme, we created additional space during sessions to work through business models rather than typical programming that would build upon different aspects of the business model each week. In the technology theme, we had asked and put out a poll for which sessions and which needs the participants had and we came back with sessions like driving traffic online, designing online courses, SEO. So we really, again, it’s about listening and coming up with initiatives and programmes that make sense in that particular moment.

Michelle [00:08:01] That’s really cool! So I guess you kind of already answered the next question a little bit, but if you have anything extra to add: what strategies of change management does your organization implement in its daily, monthly or yearly practises?

Ashley [00:08:19] I think I did cover some in the last one, but maybe one thing that I will add is that we have a separate development and evaluation team. So what that means is that we have an ongoing approach to evaluation and feedback that again develops over time to really foster that environment of continuous learning and co-creation and situating women as centralizing their knowledge. The collaborative meets frequently to ensure alignment with our design principles, and during these Design Jams, again, we discuss programme strategy and execution, allowing our team to quickly pivot and change our content focus. So as programmes move along, we also changed the types of questions that we were asking as we have some of those questions answered during our previous programmes and continue to develop that approach over time.

Michelle [00:09:15] Great! How do you feel that change would factor into a business’s sustainability?

Ashley [00:09:22] That is a great question, Michelle. I think really the business environment is something that is always changing and I think we’ve really seen that these past few months for sure. I think while hindsight is 20/20 to ensure long-term sustainability, I think that organizations really need to ensure that they are aware of potential new conditions, as well as anticipating and adapting to those conditions as they come up. History has really proven that what has worked in the past for businesses may not work in the future and being adaptable and ready and anticipating this change, it allows businesses to pivot to new markets or products and services more quickly than their competitors who aren’t anticipating that change. And also having this foresight will also help them to lock in their long-term performance and edge over their competitors. So in today’s climate this might be being flexible and learning new tools as we transition to online work or allowing shifts in your daily schedule to enable work life balance—again, that’s where we’re overwhelmed with screen time these days. Or even doing something as simple as building a larger business contingency fund to prepare for what might happen in the future. I think these are small strategies that we can take, you know, to ensure that sustainability over the long run.

Michelle [00:11:00] Right. So how often do you recommend that women make changes and updates to their business?

Ashley [00:11:07] I would say that unfortunately, there is no silver bullet here to address when exactly women should make these changes to their business and organizational change I think can really be influenced by so many different events. So economic conditions and social movements, as we’ve, again, seen over the past few months, competition or even the entrepreneur’s leadership style.

Ashley [00:11:34] And I think, again, it’s that piece of what is most imperative is that we’re prepared for change whenever it may occur and the fact that no one can predict the future. But, you know, anticipating and knowing that you’ll have to innovate and adapt and kind of get comfortable with being uncomfortable as change occurs, makes it more easy to implement over the long run, and having that mindset around, being prepared to be flexible is really important. So what I would say perhaps in terms of how often is that it’s imperative to, depending on your business, to build time in to reflect and review your business objectives. And so depending on the industry that you operate in, depending on your business, you know, you might want to set aside time weekly, monthly, annually to do that planning.

Michelle [00:12:25] The size of your business too would probably be taken into account?

Ashley [00:12:29] Absolutely. And so, you know, deciding what your KPIs are and setting aside that specific time, every so often, whenever it is to really do that type of review with you and your team, I think is really important, again, to recognize those changes that might occur and how they might impact your business.

Michelle [00:12:54] Cool! What types of services or resources do you or WOSEN currently offer that would be helpful for women wishing to make changes in their business or in their entrepreneurial goals?

Ashley [00:13:09] That’s a great question and a great opportunity to plug the awesome programmes that the Women of Ontario Social Enterprise Network has. And I think, again, the approach that we’re taking here is that there are many, many players in the entrepreneur entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Ashley [00:13:27] So, you know, advisors, managers, funders, service providers, all to support this community. Where we’re really coming from is that traditionally this ecosystem has not included everyone and I think, you know, offers more one-size-fits-all programming and that might centre and prioritize hockey stick growth scalable businesses that are not necessarily applicable to all organizations that exist out there. So, you know, these types of models, in our view, really leave certain groups of communities out of the discussion, and out of the entrepreneurship ecosystem and so that’s where WOSEN is really trying to come in. So specifically addressing women-identified and non-binary entrepreneurs who feel that they have been underserved by this market and who feel like they do not have access to this type of programming, even though it might be something that’s interesting to them.

Ashley [00:14:31] So this means folks in rural communities or folks who are newcomers, those with disabilities and those from underrepresented racial groups, for example. So that’s again, where we really try to come in and develop programming that is right for them, and listening to what they want before we redevelop these programmes. 

Ashley [00:14:54] So we have a couple pillars of our work and graciously funded by Fed Dev. One is what we call the Women in Social Enterprise, so WISE—lots of acronyms in our work. So this is directly supporting women interested in starting or growing a social enterprise. Of which we have a couple of programmes that sit underneath that.

Ashley [00:15:20] START is designed for women who are exploring social enterprise as a model to launch some sort of product or service that generates community benefit. Whereas GROW is for entrepreneurs other a little bit later in their entrepreneurship journey, so helping them to navigate competing demands of a growing venture, such as delivering the impact that they seek to, increasing their revenue, developing new products and services, and reaching the market. So WISE—Women in Social Enterprise—is one facet of our work.

Ashley [00:15:59] Two other ones that I’ll mention, the first being Women Centred Innovation Learning. This is really around building capacity and co-creating networks of women who are already in work, so the intent of these sessions is to connect and share through personal storytelling, sharing our unique life and work experiences, and the barriers in accessing resources to build work. So this is not necessarily just for entrepreneurs, but could also be how we’re planning it is sort of one-off or a series of programmes that really look to address one particular topic. So this might be financial literacy, this might be programmes for executives and women who are executives in business networks. So really these separated programmes that do support this ecosystem but perhaps are not necessarily for folks who or is for folks who do not necessarily want to commit to an eight, or ten, or twelve-week-long programme. 

Ashley [00:17:11] The last one I’ll just speak about is what we’re calling Funding and Capital, so this falls under our Women Impact Investing Network Pillar. And this is around providing strategy sessions for founders who are looking to prepare for a loan or grant in the coming years. So over four sessions, participants are really learning about funding opportunities and where to find them, how to articulate their value proposition, how to pitch, and building relationships with prospective funders. Our approach is really one that tries to get into all different aspects of the social entrepreneurship ecosystem for these women and tackling this ecosystem, again, from many different angles to really bring to life our vision of supporting and creating a different kind of entrepreneurship ecosystem. 

Michelle [00:18:02] Awesome! Thank you so much for talking with me about change management. I really loved getting the opportunity to hear your thoughts on this topic and to learn more about WOSEN. In closing, are there any upcoming projects or events either with WOSEN or not that you would like to plug or that you, in particular, are feeling excited about for the fall season?

Ashley [00:18:22] Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot happening, and so I think there’s a lot of reasons to be excited. The first of which is our landing page and website, which we have just launched, so I can absolutely provide a link to more details about WOSEN following this discussion. But two, for me, is because we are at SVX serving the Eastern Ontario region and we’re thinking about what our programming is going to look like in the fall and winter, and so the most forthcoming programme for us is a START programme that we’ll be delivering in the Prince Edward County and neighbouring regions.

Michelle [00:19:04] Oh nice!

Ashley [00:19:05] So we are really looking to work with our wonderful partners there, Upper Canada Equity Fund, to deliver a WOSEN START programme there that really centres around women who live in a more rural region in starting and supporting them in starting their social enterprise. So working with that community is something that’s getting me really excited!

Michelle [00:19:31] Awesome! Well, our listeners can check out the links in this episode description to learn a little bit more about that and about WOSEN. You can follow us on Twitter @WEC_Canada and on Facebook @WomensEconomicCouncil.

Michelle [00:19:47] Thanks for listening!

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