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Social Enterprise in Ontario – Making a Lasting Impact

Social Enterprise in Ontario – Making a Lasting Impact

The social enterprise sector in Ontario is rich, diverse and growing at an incredible pace. With over 10,000 social enterprises in Ontario, employing an estimated 160,000 people and serving 3.4 million customers a year- the importance of this sector cannot be understated. The benefits of the sector are incredibly impressive including job creation; environmental protection; local food promotion; community development; empowerment and up-skilling of vulnerable individuals and communities and poverty reduction.

The sector is being led by a wave of bright, conscious entrepreneurs who are not only concerned with making a profit but also with contributing to the strength of the social fabric in Canada. However, while ‘doing good is important. Doing it well is also important’. Although the social enterprise sector is continuously gaining a higher profile, there remains work to be done to achieve a wider understanding of the social business model and create a favourable climate in which social enterprises can flourish. In response to this, the Government of Ontario has launched an exciting new strategy ‘Impact – A Social Enterprise Strategy for Ontario’.

This Strategy is in-keeping with the Government of Ontario’s impressive record of recognition and investment in the social enterprise sector in Ontario:

    • In 2007, the Ontario government began a series of investments of more than $6million in the SIG@MaRS (Social Innovation Generation) Program.
    • In 2011, the Ontario government and SIG@MaRS co-hosted a Social Innovation Summit which brought together stakeholders from the political, business and non-profit sectors and facilitated a discussion on how to collaboratively create innovative solutions to the issues in Ontario.
    • The Ontario government has created Grants Online which is a site for administering grant applications and where individuals and organizations can access information on 60 different provincial programs.
    • In 2013, the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment established the Office for Social Enterprise. This is an office dedicated to promoting social enterprise across Ontario and creating partnerships   with private, non-profit and co-operative sectors to assist in the growth of the social enterprise sector.
    • In 2013, the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment launched the Ontario Catapult Microloan Fund – the first of its kind in Canada.  This fund was created by the Ministry partnering with the Centre for Social Innovation, Toronto Dominion Bank, KPMG, Microsoft Canada, Alterna and Social Capital Partners to provide qualified enterprises with loans of up to $25,000 along with support services and expertise.
    • In 2013, in recognition of the opportunities and challenges faced by social enterprises in Ontario the Office for Social Enterprise teamed up with the Mowat Centre and held a series of roundtable consultations with relevant stakeholders. These consultations identified policy, program and operational gaps in the social enterprise sector in Ontario and provided insights and recommendations as to how to bridge these gaps and also how to make the Government of Ontario a more effective partner in the social enterprise sector. It was from these insights and recommendations that the ‘Impact – A Social Enterprise Strategy for Ontario’ was devised.

The ‘Impact – A Social Enterprise Strategy for Ontario’ is a $25million strategic plan to be enacted from 2013 until 2016. The Strategy was created in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders and interested parties including social entrepreneurs, impact investors, researchers and academics, social innovation networks and hubs, policy makers and regulators.

The Strategy aims to increase the number of social enterprises starting up in Ontario; leverage private sector investments in social enterprises and to create approximately 1,600 new jobs in the sector with a particular focus on youth, Aboriginal people, persons with disabilities and other marginalized groups. The ultimate goal of the Strategy is to ensure that Ontario is the leading social enterprise jurisdiction in North America. These goals are ambitious and will require significant work to become reality but the Strategy itself is well defined and is based upon four practical key areas of focus called ‘The Four Pillars’:

  • Pillar 1: Connecting, coordinating and communicating – Pillar 1 aims to create a reliable, coordinated and interconnected system of services and support to assist social entrepreneurs and social enterprises in their invaluable work with open communication being a key element within this system.
  • Pillar 2: Building the social enterprise brand – Pillar 2 aims to promote and raise awareness of the social enterprise sector. Through networking, marketing, branding, a dedicated web portal and social media the profile of the social enterprise brand will be raised significantly to attract the interest of investors and partners.
  • Pillar 3: Creating a vibrant social finance marketplace – Pillar 3 aims to create more social finance opportunities for social enterprises and social entrepreneurs in order to create a sustainable social finance marketplace where social enterprises have steady access and exposure to capital, funding and investors.
  • Pillar 4: Delivering service, support and solutions – Pillar 4 aims to combat the issue of lack of reliable, standardized data through the provision of additional expertise, support and integration of social enterprises into the same public procurement processes as other enterprises.

Download Ontario’s Social Enterprise Strategy

Now is the time…

The Social Enterprise sector in Ontario is growing at an incredible rate, examples of innovative social enterprises are scattered all over the Province, the benefits are proven and the opportunities are unlimited. With the added strength of the Government of Ontario’s weight firmly behind social innovation – now is the time to build on previous success and to work together to create a vibrant, sustainable and well-financed sector for the future.