Social enterprises use business strategies to achieve a social or environmental impact. While generating revenues from the sale of goods and services, social enterprises also expressly intend to create positive outcomes, and measure their results. As their business grows, so does their social impact.
Ontario, the most multicultural province in Canada, is home to about 10,000 social enterprises, which are building solutions in the fields of inclusive employment, education, health and environmental sustainability. Now the province has launched a five-year strategic plan to strengthen a thriving marketplace of sustainable and scalable social enterprises.
Ontario’s Social Enterprise Strategy 2016-2021 will support social enterprises to grow their businesses, enter new markets and create jobs, while addressing complex social and environmental challenges. One of the key initiatives will be to integrate social entrepreneurship into mainstream entrepreneurship programs, such as those offered through the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs.
Other feature initiatives include developing a Social Enterprise Procurement Action Plan to increase the Ontario government’s procurement from social enterprises, exploring the design of a Social Venture Investment Fund to accelerate the flow of private investment capital to growing social enterprises, establishing an Impact Measurement Task Force to build consensus on uniform impact measurement standards for social enterprises, and establishing a Center of Excellence in Social Enterprise and Social Finance.
Social Impact Bonds
Ontario’s social enterprise strategy will include piloting one or more Social Impact Bonds (SIB) to improve social outcomes. Two SIB ideas are already moving forward. An SIB idea proposed by Mainstay Housing aims to provide stable housing and intensive support to 100 chronically homeless individuals. The program focuses on individuals struggling with mental illness who have been homeless for five years or more. Mainstay’s SIB proposal would use best practices from the Housing First model.
Another SIB idea proposed by the RAFT targets over 900 at-risk young people, primarily in underserved rural areas surrounding Haldimand-Norfolk County, Niagara Region and Hamilton, to increase high school graduation rates and improve housing stability. With the support of community partners, the proposed program will focus on helping young people make healthy lifestyle choices, while acquiring the necessary social, emotional and educational skills.
Some of the social enterprises that are already making an impact across the province include: Building Up, Groupe Convex, CigBins, Options Printing, and Good Foot Delivery, which support inclusive employment; Twenty One Toys, Forward Vision Games, Textbooks for Change, Jump Math, and Future Design School working in the field of education; SolarShare, KARIBU Solar Power, CoPower, and Fresh City Farms tackling environmental challenges; and QoC Health, Eve Medical, Lucky Iron Fish, Plan A Health Care Staffing Solutions, and TranQool, which are improving health and wellness outcomes for under-served populations.
Image Credit: Flick via Stern UC