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IRP Stories: Clan Mothers Healing Village Launches Indigenous-led Social Enterprises to Empower Women

By Nickie Shobeiry

Based in Manitoba, Clan Mothers Healing Village and Knowledge Centre uses an Indigenous model of healing support to Indigenous women who have been victims of multi-generational trauma, sexual violence, sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

Currently, Clan Mothers operates out of Winnipeg’s urban centre. Its mission is to build a land-based Healing Village in rural Manitoba, deepening its support through restorative cultural identity therapies and training programs for economic opportunities.

“The Healing Village is going to be for Indigenous women who are suffering from systemic racism, and whose children are currently in the welfare system,” says Michelle Harrison, Clan Mothers’ project manager. “It’s going to help them get their lives back, regain their children, and support them in a continuous service.”

Once developed, the Village — which includes mixed wooded lands and natural water sites — will run on clean energy, and include ceremonial grounds, healing rooms and more. However, to launch the project and provide long-term services, Clan Mothers recognizes the need for additional income. The choice was made to become a social purpose organization, generating alternative income through several social enterprises.

One of Clan Mothers’ social enterprises is the Corporate TRC Audit and Consulting. The business focuses on TRC Recommendation 92, calling on corporations to adopt the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigeneous Peoples. “There’s a great thirst from corporations that really want to make a difference, but they don’t understand Indigenous culture, or the challenges that the community faces in terms of getting into the workforce,” explains Harrison.

To fill this gap, Clan Mothers has created a certification process for businesses to become TRC compliant, and to understand the importance of an inclusive work space. The TRC consultants are women from Clan Mothers’ community, who are trained to provide guidance to business leaders. “It creates more opportunities for Indigenous women to become the income earners they need to be, in order to support their families,” Harrison says.

Clan Mothers receives $58,000 to build and thrive 

There’s been a great deal of interest in the TRC Audit. “We’re getting our services requested, and we’re developing clients already,” Harrison says. “We have the construction industry, the health industry, non-profit communities.” To meet this growing demand, Clan Mothers needs to train more TRC consultants. “Then we need to reach out to businesses to say we’re ready — because we are ready,” Harrison says.

As part of that outreach, Clan Mothers require assets like brand development, market research and financial modelling. These assets are as vital as they can be expensive, which is why the Investment Readiness Program (IRP) awarded Clan Mothers $58,000 to support the creation process.

The aim of the IRP is to help social purpose organizations become investment ready, and financially resilient. For example, the IRP-backed assets, like brand development and business planning, will go towards ensuring the TRC Audit becomes its own entity. “We’re making sure that we hire the expertise within the community itself, whether it’s financial, legal or marketing,” says Harrison. Should Clan Mothers decide to approach investors in the future, the IRP-funded assets will also show Clan Mothers’ profitability, making their pitch that much stronger.

The profits from the TRC Audit will reinforce Clan Mothers’ financial stability, create economic opportunities for Indigenous women, and improve community wellbeing. “When you’re an organization that’s relatively new, having the support of this type of funding is incredibly helpful and incredibly valuable,” says Harrison. “This gives us an opportunity to get the right people around the table to build [the TRC Audit].” 

Looking to the future 

Reflecting on the Healing Village, Harrison says, “Ideally, we’re going to be able to have a long-term, supportive business for women in the community. When we have women that are healthy, that are leaders, that are supporting their families, it creates a better environment for their children, and also for the community as a whole.” 

As Canada begins its COVID-19 recovery, there is a lot to be learned from how Clan Mothers does business.

“Social innovation has been an Indigenous worldview for centuries — it’s a part of our culture,” Harrison says. “We see this as a circle, not as a pyramid. If one person in the community does well, everybody in the community does well.”

Harrison believes that many people are starting to “look to the Indigenous worldview. You can see that throughout the impact around climate change, or micro-economies for creating more fair opportunities.” She emphasizes how important that equity is to Indigenous women. “As we move forward and follow this landscape, we know that our women have incredible skills that are marketable. I think we’re going to see a different economy emerging.”