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Build Social Research project to launch in January 2021

Build Social Research project to launch in January 2021

Voor Urban Labs conducting first-ever Canadian study to measure social value, productivity and community impacts from the construction industry employing workers who face barriers.

We are thrilled will be launched in January 2021 to measure the benefits of social procurement in the Canadian construction industry. Build Social is a platform and research study which has received approval from Simon Fraser University Research Ethics Board.

The $170 billion Canadian construction industry employs some 1.4 million people across Canada, but on the horizon is an increasing labour shortage of tens of thousands of workers. This research examines the Canadian construction industry employing workers who face barriers to employment.  Commencing January 2021, Voor Urban Labs will launch three quantitative and qualitative research phases and take place on construction sites in different Canadian cities, including Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Halifax, and elsewhere. Voor Urban Labs has been contracted by Buy Social Canada to conduct the research with a projected one thousand submissions. 

Build Social examines the productivity and work readiness of various temporary construction workers brought on job sites from market and non-market labour suppliers. It examines worker evaluation, training and supports, as well as broader ‘social value’ to workers and their communities. It also explores the experience of workers who face barriers as they are hired through private and community-based temp worker agencies. Workers are often brought into the industry through social enterprise labour agencies that hope to improve the lives of workers who face barriers to landing well-paid secure work. 

The research will determine if labour from socially-procured suppliers is perceived to deliver comparable productivity standards to other workers on similar construction acts on the same construction site. In addition to worker productivity comparisons provided by supervisors, we will learn about the social value benefits of social procurement in the construction industry and in the communities where it builds public infrastructure. As the sector faces a major shortage of skilled workers, and moderately continues through this Covid19 economics disruption, the research will  provide timely data and analysis as precarious workers are especially vulnerable and impacted.  The research site at communicates to the construction industry as well as the research community participants regarding the study, communicates the benefits and provides access to participants. Follow along and read blog updates on the Build Social website.

Voor Urban Labs is researching the impacts of North America’s largest social enterprise cluster

Voor Urban Labs is researching the impacts of North America’s largest social enterprise cluster

Voor Labs is conducting research on the community economic impact of the social enterprise sector in Vancouver’s inner-city. This is the second year our team is conducting a survey and producing data and analysis for Buy Social Canada, with financial support from the City of Vancouver.

For 20 years, social enterprises in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside have created employment opportunities for thousands of residents, ensured access to affordable goods and services for community residents, and generated millions of dollars in economic activity.

Too often, we see the DTES portrayed as a community of desperation. While there are certainly structural challenges to overcome, Voor Urban Labs is excited to amplify the economic power of residents and community-serving businesses. The social enterprise sector in the area features 88 businesses in a range of sectors from sanitation, food services, and retail creating hope and autonomy for residents every day. How and why these businesses succeed or fail has critical lessons both for residents as well as City of Vancouver policy reviews for CED and poverty reduction.

In 2019, we surveyed 40 of these social enterprises and found they had:

  • documented $26.5 million in sales
  • paid $18.4 million in wages, and
  • created over 2,800 jobs, for which 55% full-time and 90% part-time workers who overcame barriers to employment.
  • Considering models of recircular economics, these wages recirculate exponentially throughout the neighbourhood feeding the local economy. 

Click here to download the 16-page 2019 report (7MB PDF).

This year’s DTES Social Enterprise Impact Survey is live through November 2020 and the online survey takes about 15 minutes to complete. This year’s survey re-measures the sector’s sales and employment figures, and gauges readiness to bid on social procurement bids, such as the new St. Paul’s Hospital. Covid-19 has also added multiple challenges, and it is vital that we learn from its impacts.

Survey participants receive:

  • A 2021 Coast Salish Wild Birds Calendar ($20 value) from the Wild Bird Trust of BC
  • Entry into a prize draw for a $100 gift certificate to EastVan Roasters
  • Free guest list to the Voor Urban Labs’ December 10 Munch! event

Participation in this survey gives us the perspective and voice we need to sustain social enterprises in DTES within the larger region.  

We need combined, anonymous information — no individual data is used or identified from a specific source. Your personal data is secure, and will not be shared or published.