December 2, 2021
Building New Alliances
It’s 2018. The recently established SDC District Central is beginning to develop its business plan. From the outset, entrepreneurs who are participating in the brainstorming process confirmed the pivotal nature of the organisation. The territory is ripe with opportunities that are just waiting to emerge and the SDC is the real catalyst for the forces at work. Creating new alliances, whether on a human, economic or territorial level, is the organisation’s positioning. Its stance is demonstrated through various initiatives, including the Connector of Opportunities project.
Backed by funding of more than $300,000 over three years through the Fonds d’initiative et de rayonnement de la métropole (FIRM), the Connector of Opportunities project officially began in February 2021. “After adopting our business plan in 2019 and identifying the paths to update it, the pandemic came along and put everything into question. However, with the help of business people from the community, we reconsidered the relevance of the established orientations and came to the conclusion that our targets were still relevant. The funding received at the end of 2020 provided the support we needed to take action,” explains Hélène Veilleux, Executive Director of the SDC District Central.
First, the project aims to better understand the socio-economic fabric of the territory. To achieve this, meetings were arranged with local businesses and organisations. For project manager Thanina Ameziane, the objective was clear: “establish a 360-degree diagnostic and target what each [entity] can offer, want or use as resources”. An opportunity sheet was developed in collaboration with communities of experts representing the three business poles and issues specific to the territory. This will be used to eventually put businesses or organisations in contact. Ultimately, the SDC hopes to promote the emergence of an economy based on sharing on its territory and stimulate a sense of belonging and mutual aid.
Eastern Bloc is a recently installed artist-run center in the District Central, and is one of the businesses that were met with since the beginning of the project. The same goes for the management consulting firm Coboom. At the end of the process, although belonging to seemingly very different worlds, the two organisations came closer together. “With our new location, we needed furniture to furnish our space. Coboom had just renovated its layout and was looking to part with some furniture. We were put in touch with them and some of their old furniture will probably end up in our premises,” explains Alicia Turgeon, executive director of the artist-run center.
As a production and dissemination hub for digital arts and technology, Eastern Bloc is also piloting a project of experimentation and collaboration between digital artists, actors from the District Central textile industry and emerging researchers. This project will explore contemporary e-textile practices, the world of smart clothing and bio-art before culminating in an exhibition.
The initiative fully embodies the second level of hoped-for projects through Connector of Opportunities. “Beyond the simple exchange of goods and services between businesses, it is possible that organisations are looking for partners or information to develop or explore new niches,” explains Thanina Ameziane. “We do not pretend to believe that the territory can meet every requirement. However, we can bring together the experts capable of supporting entrepreneurs in their quest or even directing them to existing resources, wherever they may be.”
From Hélène Veilleux’s perspective, the sky is the limit for the possibilities offered by the Connector of Opportunities project. Identifying joint issues, such as labour for example, could lead to the development of new tools or services for businesses in the area.
The exportability of the project is clear to Hélène Veilleux. A sort of economic development laboratory, the process relies on the presence of a steering committee comprised of representatives from the Borough of Ahuntsic-Cartierville, the Government of Quebec, and a member of the SDC Board of Directors. Carrying out the monitoring in this way will not only allow us to remain reactive and agile throughout the project, but to also to document its impact.
Approximately 200 businesses per year are expected to be met through the project. Participation is on a voluntary basis.
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