Inner City Renovation book cover
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The Book: Inner City Renovation: How a Social Enterprise Changes Lives and Communities, written by Marty Donkervoort, published by Fernwood Publishing.

The Blurb: With the backdrop his work with Inner City Renovations, a social enterprise in the construction industry dedicated to helping those on the margins in Winnipeg’s North End find productive livelihoods, Donkervoort profiles his own efforts and examines the value of social entrepreneurial initiatives and their potential to impact communities and create a more just society.

The History: Before Marty Donkervoort took on the role of General Manager at Inner City Renovations, he was a corporate executive on Toronto’s Bay Street. His career then transitioned from working with co-ops to policy work, before it landed in social enterprise. It was quite a transformation, as Donkervoort shares in the book: “I went from wearing business suits, flying in corporate jets and traveling around the world to working in one of the most challenging inner city communities in all of Canada.”

The Basics: The book is divided into three parts: the first is a compelling depiction of the highly respected social enterprise that Donkervoort led, Inner City Renovations. Next, we get a personal account of the author’s career trajectory, what prompted his career choices, the challenges and successes along the way. Finally, Donkervoort offers his take on social enterprise, its opportunities and obstacles as well its impact here in Canada and around the world.

The Impact: Donkervoort’s experience running one of Canada’s venerable social enterprises provides important lessons and takeaways for anyone wanting to learn how it’s done – right. Bringing readers beyond theoretical constructs into the real-life ups and downs of a venture-in-action has tremendous resonance and impact for anyone interested in this complex field of social enterprise.

Read our interview with Marty Donkervoort here.

The Takeaway:What compels a corporate big-wig to give up the glamourous life of Bay Street mid-career in favour of social justice and social enterprise? How does business savvy come into play when running a venture that must somehow balance profit with purpose? What struggles does a social enterprise face when working with marginalized communities? How are social enterprises effecting lives in Canada and beyond? How does policy impact the empowerment of communities? Those and other questions are examined fully in this book with honesty, candor and the use of compelling, on-the-ground narratives.

The book also provides important lessons learned for any practitioner or social entrepreneur-wanna-be. Rather than offering a rah-rah-rah tale of social enterprise, Donkervoort intersperses the feel-good sentiments with realistic fodder of the challenges involved with running this type of venture. In that way, it’s a veritable must-read for anyone interested in effecting change through social enterprise. They come away with knowledge, reality checks and inspiration to move forward.

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