Ontario Social Enterprise Check-up
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Last month, we brought you a round-up of social enterprise developments across Canada. We continue this month with a special focus on what’s happening with the movement in Ontario. Thanks to Ethel Cote for compiling the updates to share with our audience.

Ontario government appoints special advisor on social enterprise

One of the big stories in recent months was the appointment of Helen Burstyn to the Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation as Special Advisor, Social Enterprise. Helen will assist the ministry in building capacity and understanding of social enterprise. She will be supported in this initiative jointly by the Policy and Strategy and Open for Business Divisions. Helen is a co-founder and director of The Pecaut Centre for Social Impact and sits on the boards of a number of community service organizations. Previously, Helen served as the chair of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, an agency of the government of Ontario that strengthens the capacity of the not-for-profit sector through investments in community-based initiatives.

Outcomes from Government-Sector Open for Business Roundtable

Over the past year, many nonprofit sector representatives with the leadership of the Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) participated proactively in the Government of Ontario’s Open for Business strategy. The sector made substantial recommendations to the provincial government on how to reform, streamline and modernize the sector-government relationship to improve public benefit services and programs and foster new opportunities for the creation of community wealth in Ontario. This is a groundbreaking moment for the nonprofit sector, given that, prior to 2012, only the for-profit sector was engaged in the Open for Business process.

Social enterprise thriving in Ottawa

from Jonathan Wade, social enterprise sector developer at Collaborative for Innovative Social Enterprise Development (CISED)

CISED now has an up to date database of almost 400 social enterprises, media contacts, sympathetic funders and other social enterprise supporters in the Ottawa area. It is not exhaustive, of course, but it is an important tool that allows us to communicate effectively with the community. With this data, we’ve been able to easily contribute to the LIAISOn/Balta research project, and we have just launched a map of social enterprises in the city.

In collaboration with HUB OTTAWA, CISED is launching the Impact Academy on January 15th. This 20-hour workshop series offers tools and specific resources to aspiring social entrepreneurs and changemakers in the Ottawa area. The instructors are expert practitioners in market research, project planning, crowdsourcing, financial administration, social finance and business planning. This is a pilot, with the anticipation that participants will form a cohort of approximately 25. The hope is that we can recruit sufficient participants for two to three Impact Academy programs per year, generating, over time, a veritable army of well informed and focused social entrepreneurs and social activists.

We are also working in collaboration with The Natural Step Canada, the Otesha Project and HUB Ottawa to develop a program to provide social enterprise training and support to youth interested in developing environmentally, socially and economically sustainable business. We are currently pitching the project to Trillium as part of their Future Fund program, and to the Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation (Youth Enterprise Program), and we have support from the Cooperators, and…with luck…Capital One.

Finally, we are planning a Business to Business (B2B) networking event for January/February designed to broker supply chain relationships/contracts between social enterprises in Ottawa. This is the first step in developing a series of social procurement supports in 2013. In part, the B2B event will help us determine the capacity (and strengths) of social enterprises in Ottawa to meet specific types of procurement needs, so that we might be able to address the needs of purchasers from the wider economy at a subsequent public event.

Collaboration is king in rural Ontario

from Ethel Cote, founding member of the Social Enterprise Council of Canada

Rural Social Enterprise Constellation-Ontario (RSEC-O)

An initiative that builds on important work developed over years by its leadership team and many rural champions, including individual social enterprises, United Ways, community economic development organizations, Community Futures Development Corporations, municipalities, and organizations in the co-op sector. The leadership team is comprised of the following partners: Canadian Centre for Community Renewal; Canadian Community Economic Development Network; Ontario Nonprofit Network; Opportunity and Innovation Network; PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise; United Way of Greater Simcoe County; University of Guelph; Huron Business Development Corporation; Eko Nomos ; and C. Lang Consulting.

The first project of the Rural Social Enterprise Constellation is designed to connect, support, and grow social enterprise (SE) work in rural Ontario, with a focus on four rural regions: Huron-Perth, Greater Simcoe County, Peterborough-Kawarthas-Durham, and Thunder Bay region. Constellation partners will work alongside Francophone networks and organizations in two of these regions. This boils down to four areas of work: capacity strengthening support; coaching and mentoring support; community support; and regional support.

In the spirit of learning from each other and building the collective strength of social enterprise in Ontario, we hope that our partnerships in these areas and across Ontario’s rural communities will continue to grow.


A three-year collaborative project to bring together information and resources for social enterprise development in Ontario, making it more available. Funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation and led by the Canadian Community Economic Development Network in Ontario this project will:

• Create a profile of the SE sector

• Develop an online database and marketplace of Ontario SEs

• Create a “First Stop” webspace linking to a compendium of accessible resources and effective SE models

• Develop online and in-person events that share effective SE models

• Work with the Rural Social Enterprise Constellation project hosted by the Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN), to improve investment infrastructure in four rural regions of Ontario: Huron-Perth, Peterborough-Kawarthas-Durham, Thunder Bay region and Simcoe County.

Social Innovation PopUp Labs

In partnership with Rural Ontario Institute, Ontario Nonprofit Network, and Canadian Centre for Community Renewal, the Centre for Social Innovation is hitting the road! We’re traveling across the province and offering a range of pop-up labs designed to help nonprofits accelerate their social impact and implement social innovation strategies that heighten their capacity to respond to the changing needs of the communities they serve. Topics covered by the Social Innovation PopUp Labs include: Trends in Social Innovation, Community Bonds, Innovative Collaborations & Social Enterprise.

And finally, some funding news…

Anne Jamieson, senior manager, Toronto Enterprise Fund at United Way of Greater Toronto, reports that the Ontario Trillium Foundation’s Future Fund will invest $4.4 million to build the infrastructure to support youth social entrepreneurship in Ontario.


Thanks to everyone who participated in this Ontario social enterprise check-up.


If you know a social enterprise leader or policymaker who would like to take part in our next check-up, or if you would like to send your own update about developments in your region, please contact us ateditor@seechangemagazine.com (include “social enterprise check-up” in your subject line.

Nicole Zummach
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Nicole Zummach is the co-founder of SEE Change Magazine. She has worked in the publishing industry for more than two decades, and has spent most of her career researching and writing about civil society and the nonprofit sector. Contact her at nicole@seechangemagazine.com.

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