EIC has launched a new pilot to help increase the capacity of nascent and existing social enterprises with the ultimate goal of providing or creating more low barrier employment opportunities in the Downtown Eastside.

How Does It Work?

Each social enterprise in the pilot will work closely with EIC to identify a specific need for which EIC and its partners can provide customized support. EIC will then act as the convener and connector between social enterprises and those that have the needed expertise to respond to the specific need and ultimately help the social enterprise move from point A to point B.

What types of supports can we access?

Here are some, but we’re also open to respond to other needs as identified.

  • Business development
  • Communications plan
  • Marketing plan
  • RFP identification, research, writing
  • Design
  • Website development
Who is this for?

EIC’s ultimate goal is to strengthen the ecosystem for low barrier employment opportunities in the DTES. Social Enterprise Supports is focused on the following:

  • Employment-based social enterprises will be given priority
  • Social enterprises that support a non-profit’s peer or supported employment initiatives
  • Main beneficiary must be in/for the DTES
  • Small to medium social enterprises
  • Social enterprises that are just starting
Sounds great, how do I apply?

The first step is for you to think about what capacity gap you are looking to fill in your social enterprise. Then, email Michelle, and together you’ll start the conversation to see if this is a good fit.


A). Social enterprises will be expected to make a financial contribution based on a sliding scale that we will determine together. We have funding to support this work and cost should not be a barrier.

A). Marketing, communications, accessing RFPs, design work, website development, customer identification, financial modeling, etc. We don’t want to be prescriptive, so if you have other needs, let’s talk.

A). These social enterprises have a social mission to directly support traditionally marginalized community members who are facing exclusion from the labour market. (Also known as Work-Integrated Social Enterprises,

A). The priority focus is employment-based social enterprises, but there may be exceptions. Let’s talk to see if this is the right fit.

A). Exchange Inner City’s mandate focuses on the Downtown Eastside (DTES). If your social enterprise is connected to the DTES in some form – beneficiaries live in the DTES, your social enterprise benefits the DTES community – then let’s talk and explore if this is the right fit.

A). It will depend on what types of supports are identified and the associated expense, but we aim to have 2- 4 social enterprises in the pilot.

A). The Social Enterprise Supports pilot will provide supports anywhere from $2,000 to $15,000, depending on the project.

A.) Contact Michelle and let’s start the conversation!

What is Exchange Inner City’s rationale for this pilot project?

Since the Downtown Eastside plan was passed in 2014 the landscape has changed significantly and there are few to no accessible supports for social enterprise development and sustainability. The goal of this pilot project is to determine and test strategies to invigorate and develop the social enterprise ecosystem in the DTES.

Supported by City of Vancouver


The Community Benefits Network (CBN) is a diverse group of people and organizations committed to ensuring that the Downtown Eastside marginalized community and residents derive benefits from the City of Vancouver’s Community Benefit Agreements (CBAs).

The CBN’s goals are to:
  • Ensure social enterprises in the Downtown Eastside have increasing access to contracts as a result of CBAs.
  • Influence positive adaptations to the CBA policy and ensure accountability to its intended outcomes.  
What is a Community Benefits Agreement?
The City of Vancouver passed the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) in 2018 and requires new developments over 45,000 square metres to meet the following requirements (across the development lifecycle, including build and operations phases):
  • Hiring from equity-seeking groups, starting with local (10% of hiring)
  • Local procurement (10% of procurement spend) 
  • Social procurement (10% of procurement spend)
Each development is required to hire an Independent Third Party Monitor. The CBN played an important role in developing the CBA for the City of Vancouver. The first new development to trigger a CBA was the New St. Paul’s Hospital, with many others quickly following. 

Want to attend?


The Social Procurement Roundtable convenes social enterprises, social purchasers, businesses, non-profit institutions, anchor institutions, social value suppliers and intermediaries to build connections, learn about opportunities and share best practices. Participants of the Roundtable collaborate to shape the social value marketplace and increase awareness of the impact of social procurement.

  •  What is social procurement?
    Every purchase has a social, economic, cultural, and environmental impact. Social procurement is about using your existing purchasing to capture those impacts to achieve overarching institutional, governmental, or individual goals that helps shape inclusive, vibrant and healthy and more equitable communities. See Buy Social Canada for more information. 
  • The Social Procurement Roundtable is co-convened by Exchange Inner City and Buy Social Canada. 

Want to attend?


20220612_105024 (3)
Dianne C. and Thomas G. engage with DTES community as part of the Fair in the Square festival at Victory Square
EIC Peer Engagement Team w/ RayCam staff & members
L – R, John Z., Ava K, Dale. B, Dianne C., Gordon B., and Elika Y., at RayCam Community Centre during a collaborative event focused on De-stigmatizing the DTES.

EIC’s peer led engagement project is intended to create foundational relationships between Exchange Inner City and DTES community residents. The goal of this project is to build community and peer engagement opportunities as well as lay the groundwork for future engagements, while also discovering and learning about varying topics and issues that are relevant to people living in the DTES. 


The Ambassador program’s was designed to engage the DTES residents in democratic participation. Supported by the City of Vancouver, the City’s goal was to create more equitable and broader democratic engagement. The project focused on the 2022 Vancouver municipal election.

The best way to engage residents in democratic participation is to connect the election with issues of most importance to the community itself. Creating space for residents to connect the issues they care about with the election process also elevates their voices in electing the people they think represent their views. Ideally, this program will help empower individuals to see their power and rights as citizens of Vancouver.

UPDATE: Voter turnout in the DTES increased from 17% in 2018 to 21% in 2022.

Municipal Election Ambassadors
L – R, Adam, A.J., and Alexis helping to support our Municipal Election Outreach project.
Election Ambassadors out front of Carnegie Community Centre
L – R, Dwayne, Kim and Nick canvassing for our Get Out The Vote campaign in the 2022 municipal elections.

Jaella R. and Dave L, two of our Municipal Elections Ambassadors, at our 2022 civic election booth at Oppenheimer Park.


Activate DTES aims to build economic equity and resilience in the DTES by decreasing vacant spaces and supporting the leasehold tenure of locally-owned, community-serving small and medium enterprises (SMEs) including social enterprises (SEs), non-profit organizations (NPOs), cultural and heritage or legacy businesses, and community serving for-profit businesses with a focus on those owned by equity-deserving individuals.

Activate DTES is funded through the City of Vancouver’s Special Enterprise Program (SEP) and is a partnership between EIC, Community Impact Real Estate Society (CIRES) and HESSEY Consulting + Architecture. For more information, or if you are an organization looking for a new space, contact Michelle,

To read The Activate DTES Commercial Rental Affordability Report, visit

The above report was done by Hessey C+A and was done by studying four models of creating commercial rental affordability (CRA) for community-serving organizations from around the world.

The four models and their illustrative case studies are:

● Affordable Workspace Programme (Islington, UK)
● Cultural Space Agency (Seattle, USA)
● Meanwhile Space CIC (London, UK)
● Anchorage Community Land Trust (Anchorage, USA)

Community Benefits Network - Image is located at 450 E. Hastings - Credit: Gabriel Martins
Community Benefits Network - Image is located at 450 E. Hastings - Credit: Gabriel Martins

Transformation of a vacant space on East Hastings into Powell Street Getaway, supported through Activate DTES.