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4 min read

Dignity Through Opportunity: Partnering with Rise

Toronto’s Rise uplifts those with a history of mental health or addiction issues through micro-loans and business training. Now, with the support of CWB, they’re set to help those in need even more.

For the past 10 years,Risehas been working to help individuals living with different mental health conditions receive low-interest micro-loans and business training to help them launch their own businesses. Rise’s Chief Operating Officer Beth Dea explains that the charity was founded in Toronto, expanded in 2015 throughout Ontario and is now growing nationally.

“We have issued 411 loans to date and 93 of those loans were issued in the past year alone,” says Beth, who explains that the majority of the businesses that Rise helps launch are home-based and reach a wide range of industries from creative services to skilled trades.
“A lot of people living with mental health challenges face many barriers to full-time employment. So launching their own businesses is often the only option they have to live independently.”
Earlier this year, CWB partnered with Rise to launch an Edmonton-based satellite centre for their programs. This is the second location for Rise outside of Ontario. (The first location outside Ontario opened in Halifax late in 2018 and a Vancouver location is planned for 2019.) Rise’s Edmonton location will be resourced in large part by volunteers, with the hope of CWB stepping in to volunteer their expertise in business.

A class of their own

Rise was founded in 2009 by Canadian philanthropist Sandra Rotman who, along with her late husband Joseph, has a long history of charitable work across Canada. After Sandra spent some time volunteering with Toronto’sCentre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), she connected with the individuals seeking treatment and realized how difficult it is for individuals living with mental health conditions to find regular full-time employment. Feeling moved by what she experienced at CAMH, she wasted no time founding Rise and ultimately setting up its headquarters at theRotman School of Management on the University of Toronto campus.
Supports provided by Rise reach far beyond issuing low-interest loans. The Rotman School of Management location is able to offer classroom-style education with 10 business advisors who can help the students develop a full business plan that they will be able to implement.

Supports provided by Rise reach far beyond issuing low-interest loans. Rise’s 10 business advisors across the country provide one-on-one business advisory services and each client is matched with a volunteer mentor once their loan is approved. In addition, Rise offers a number of training programs, including classroom-style education at the Rotman School of Management.

“We’re lucky that the University of Toronto campus is so easily accessible because many of the people we work with rely solely on public transit,” says Beth, explaining that the individuals working through Rise’s program feel a sense of pride as they attend the classroom sessions. “Because the Rotman School of Management is so prestigious, the people we work with are so much more inspired and motivated to work hard on things like homework.”

Hard work pays off

Survey results from 2019 on Rise’s program graduates show that, on average, individuals see a 78 per cent increase in personal and business income after working with Rise. This is in addition to the 80 per cent of individuals feeling valued by others, 72 per cent feeling that they’re playing a useful part in society, 76 per cent feeling comfortable interacting in professional situations and 68 per cent feeling overall more confident as a person.
One of the stats that Beth is most proud of is the current repayment rate of individuals who receive loans from Rise. As of 2019, Rise is seeing a 92 per cent repayment rate for its low-interest loans. This shows that individuals working through the program are able to find success in their businesses and work productively with those lending support. “There’s a real impact helping people contribute to their families and their communities,” says Beth, explaining that it’s important for Rise to put numbers to their stories to show quantitatively and qualitatively how much impact the programs are having.
“Rise is able to play a role in increasing social inclusion and improving people’s quality of life.”

Finding a partner with shared values

When it comes to finding partners to help with program expansion, Rise’s senior management conducts extensive research and outreach to identify the ideal candidates from the business and foundation world. In the case of CWB, members from the bank’s team found Rise and took the first step in cultivating the relationship. Beth credits CWB for being incredibly proactive in finding organizations who work in fields that are aligned with CWB’s objectives.

“Rise would not have been able to expand into Edmonton without CWB,” says Beth. She explains that having a bank to partner with on programs and having access to a pool of skilled volunteers is a perfect scenario for Rise in Edmonton. “CWB is very interested in keeping employees engaged through giving back to the community. Bank employees have a lot of skills that are highly applicable to what we do at Rise. And for the employees, this is a great opportunity for them to learn some new coaching and listening skills.”

When she looks ahead to the future, Beth hopes that Rise will be able to replicate the classroom experience found at the Rotman School of Management location. She looks to finding new ways to use technology to spread the classroom sessions across Canada as Rise finds homes in new provinces across the country. The most important part of expanding that reach comes with connecting to the community.

“Before working to launch in Edmonton, we held roundtables with the local social and employment services organizations to see if there was a need in this area and what we heard was a resounding yes,” says Beth. “CWB was there with the funding and support to help us launch Rise in Edmonton for which we’re grateful.”