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Lawsuit between Vancity and former vice-president ripples the waters of Vancouver’s small circle of social-enterprisers

October 8th, 2012 · 57 Comments

The lawsuit that has been filed by former Vancity senior vice-president David Berge against his ex-employer is hard to fathom, pitting, as it does, people who have normally been part of a small world unified in their aim to approach business, development and the environment in a different way from the usual corporate capitalist model.

Now Berge, who is renowned in certain circles for his pioneering work on social-venture funds, is suing Vancity to get it to live up to a commitment he says they made when they hired him: investing $10-million in another social-venture fund they were going to be jointly involved in.

My story in the Globe provides only the most basic elements of the suit, which I’m attaching in full below. It also doesn’t begin to explain the close relationships among many of the parties involved.

One that I omitted: both David Berge and his former boss, Tamara Vrooman, were both advisors to Joel Solomon’s Renewal2 operation. Another that I couldn’t squeeze in: Berge, at Vancity, helped the City of Vancouver, aka Vision Vancouver, with financing for a couple of projects dear to their civic hearts, the Olympic Village co-op and a energy-retrofit program.

I know that those who delight in the whole Tides Canada Foundation conspiracy story will make hay of this (although the Tides connection arose in a strange way in the lawsuit).

But it seems to me that there’s a deeper story at play here, one that this lawsuit doesn’t really get at — one that’s more about the difference in culture between Vancity and the American social-venture movement possibly? Or something else beyond that?

BTW, I made a couple of errors in describing some of the many links in the story: Berge’s Underdog did not invest in Ben & Jerry’s; ice-cream maker Ben Cohen, of B & J’s, invested in Underdog. As well, although Joel Solomon’s Renewal did invest in Underdog, Underdog did not invest in Renewal 1 or 2. Instead, Berge was an adviser to Renewal 2.



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