The Social Enterprise Toronto Conference 2016 marked the second such event for the organization. This year Social Enterprise Toronto (SET) brought together their growing community of social entrepreneurs to the Learning Enrichment Foundation in Toronto with the mission of fostering dialogue around building long-term support, enabling employment opportunities and community resilience.

A network of non-profit social enterprise practitioners, SET is committed to supporting and growing their community. Over 100 diverse and dedicated attendees spent the day of March 10 adding to the conversation surrounding the ever-growing sector. The event facilitated numerous discussions on growth and provided opportunities for social entrepreneurs to network and exchange ideas. The conference also provided local socially responsible business owners with support and encouragement as they embark on worthy and difficult social missions.

The event included a range of expert speakers, a guest panel from the UK, interactive group sessions, and workshops. There were a few themes that had particular resonance. Collaboration, for one, was a recurring topic as global-local linkages were discussed in depth, while networking within the community was reinforced too. Working together is always better than working alone, was the overall message, and the need to rely on fellow social entrepreneurs for support was an encouraging piece of advice repeated by many.

With a focus on poverty alleviation SET’s priority, the organization has successfully enabled a number of employment and training opportunities in the GTA.  But to succeed, regardless of one’s mission, effectively marketing one’s social enterprise is key. In fact, according to Philip Yan of Genesis XD, a large contributing factor of an enterprises’ success or failure, is the level of awareness it raises through its marketing efforts. It comes down to finding “what sticks,” he says.

Yan offered his advice during a workshop session entitled The Art of Storytelling for Impact. Marketing campaigns that emphasize the desired impact on communities are often the most impactful, and therefore successful, he offered. As chief experience designer for a marketing company responsible for campaigns like Project Get Reel, Yan expertly outlined the core principals of a successful social enterprise campaign. Simply put, the theme, attitude, and personality of your social enterprise should be apparent and clear.

Lessons on policy, storytelling and capacity building, such as the one delivered by Yan, were plentiful throughout the day adding to the constructive and positive spirit of the conference. The attitudes of the participants created an atmosphere of hope for current and future social entrepreneurial endeavours. A network such as the one created at the Social Enterprise Toronto Conference offers an invaluable advantage for today’s practitioners and the next generation of social entrepreneurs. Perhaps the most impactful takeaway from the conference is the fact that social enterprise can play a major role in our business and our lives, here in Canada and across the world – we just need to harness the lessons learned and put them to use.


SEE Change intern Samantha Scalise is a recent graduate of McGill University’s international development program. Focusing on culture and society she hopes to use her degree to promote positive social change locally and globally.

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