DPPG’s Re-Launch: Bringing a New Flavour to the CoLab Network

By Mike Morrice 

Last Thursday was a special one, for the CoLab Network and for Durham Sustain Ability (DSA). Why? To start, it was the first time one of our Network Members launched the program Sustainability CoLab was created to share.

Full House - DPPG ReLaunch 2015

But it’s more than that. I can only describe it with a metaphor for the CoLab Network that seemed fitting as I sat with a packed house at the re-launch of Durham Partners in Project Green (DPPG): our Network Members are taking a favourite soup recipe, and they’re each creating their own flavours from it.

And that’s what added to the occasion: DPPG serves as a great example of why we’re sharing this program a little differently.

When we support an organization to launch what we call a “target-based sustainability program for business”, we give our Network Members significant control over what the program looks like in their community. We encourage them to adapt and innovate as they see fit, and we only require they adhere to our four Core Approaches.

In DSA’s case, they have been offering DPPG since 2012. They had adapted it from another successful model, the GTAA Partners in Project Green (PPG). And while DPPG had been a foundational resource for local businesses looking to pursue sustainability goals, it wasn’t a social enterprise (meaning it didn’t generate revenue to offset program expenses), and participating businesses didn’t set targets to reduce their impact. Each point of engagement with DPPG was a one-off – whether it was accessing a service or attending an event.

DSA wanted to augment DPPG with both these elements, positioning them to build & grow ongoing relationships with businesses in Durham, while keeping all the best of what they had already offered Durham-based businesses through DPPG. So they focused their re-launch efforts on the two of our four Core Approaches that DPPG didn’t already satisfy.

CoLab Network - DPPG ReLaunch 2015

At the re-launch in Whitby – only one year since DSA joined the CoLab Network as part of our first cohort of Network Members – Shawna Mutton, DSA’s Executive Director, was able to proudly share with attendees how DPPG is now working towards financial self-sufficiency, and that all their members will be working towards setting carbon reduction targets, while also benefitting from supports DSA gets from both CoLab and PPG.

Four of DSA’s six fellow Network Members made the trip to support DSA – Sustainable Waterloo Region, Niagara Sustainability Initiative, EnviroCentre (Ottawa) & Windfall Ecology Centre (York Region) – and attendees from each mentioned to me at some point last Thursday how they too noticed DPPG’s unique flavour. A couple examples:

  • DPPG will offer their members a service distinct from any currently being offering in the CoLab Network: “Eco-Opportunity Assessments” – which include a walk-through of a business’ facility and a report on recommended projects with the anticipated financial return. This is a service inherited from the PPG program, it’s been a big success to-date in Durham, and we’re keen to see how it will augment the rest of DPPG’s service offering to members.
  • DPPG’s membership fees are the lowest of any in the CoLab Network, while this is partly compensated by annual membership growth projections that are the most ambitious. Their strategy then is all about ‘strength in numbers’, a neat twist that makes sense for Durham: DSA has existing relationships with so many businesses in Durham from the first iteration of DPPG, so it should be easier for them to recruit new members. At the same time, this is their first introduction of membership fees, so DSA is being cautious with the fees being charged.

Because of all this, we’re not just excited that DSA has re-launched DPPG as a target-based sustainability program for business, but also for the new flavour that DSA brings to the CoLab Network. As is the case in nature: diversity breeds both resilience and innovation.

I’m keen to now see how more flavours will influence Network Members already operating a program, as well as those working towards launching one.

And we’re not done yet: while we’ll be working alongside Shawna to grow DPPG in 2015, four more flavours are in the works as I write this, and several are expected to be ready before the year is up. Maybe we should start encouraging Network Members to serve soup at their launch events?

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