Social Enterprises: The What, Why, How and Who

You’re having a get-together with friends. You’re having a glass of wine and discussing work when someone brings up the topic of social enterprise. You nod and smile politely, absently take a sip of Merlot. Enterprise? Sounds like a business. Social probably means the business works to better the community. But truth be told, you’re not completely confident using the term social enterprise in a sentence. You’re not alone. “Social enterprise” has a multitude of varying definitions, with no common international definition. And to add to the confusion, there is no legal form in Canada called a social enterprise. Nonetheless, the past decade has seen an explosion of interest in the subject of social enterprise — in Canada and elsewhere — as well as dramatic growth in the number of entities and ventures that fall within the “social enterprise” category. Here in Ontario, our government recognized that social enterprises represent an exciting emerging sector, creating The Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment’s Office for Social Enterprise in 2012, and its first Social Enterprise Strategy in 2013. They have defined a social enterprise as a business with two goals: achieve social, or environmental outcomes, and maximize revenue, and can take the form of co-operatives, for profit and not-for-profit companies. On June 21st The Ministry announced its new Social Enterprise Strategy 2016-2021 to help social enterprises accelerate growth, making commitments in 3 key areas:
  1. Equipping social enterprises with solid business fundamentals. Building a strong foundation to serve the communities of today and tomorrow.
  2. Connecting social enterprises to markets and capital to grow and scale. Unlocking new markets and capital to help maximize their potential.
  3. Demonstrating the value of social enterprise and social finance. Promoting their potential to investors, government, and communities.
Thanks in part to strategies like these, businesses with a social purpose are thriving across the province, making an important impact on their communities. Leading the movement is a new wave of young entrepreneurs – people who aren’t satisfied with just making a profit; they want their business to contribute to a social good. Today, Ontario is home to approximately 10,000 social enterprises, such as Building Up, CigBins, Options Printing, and Good Foot Delivery, organizations which create training and employment opportunities for people facing barriers in the labour market. Other examples include education-driven enterprises, such as Twenty One Toys, Textbooks for Change and Future Design School, while still others, like QoC Health, Lucky Iron Fish, SolarShare, and Fresh City Farms address various health and environmental challenges. There are many great examples here in Windsor Essex. If you would like us to showcase your social enterprise, we’d love to feature it! Please contact: Cathy Mombourquette Director of Social Innovation 226.773.2816
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