Written by: Jenna Marino & Chris Janzen
The Ontario Government recently announced its strategy to accelerate the growth of Ontario’s social enterprise sector. Great news! But first, what’s a social enterprise? And second, what does this mean for Niagara? The following insights aim to explain what a social enterprise is, why it’s important, and what Innovate Niagara is doing to be part of the movement.
A social enterprise can be a non-profit or for-profit organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human, economic and environmental well-being. The key distinction between a social enterprise and a Corporate Social Responsibility strategy (CSR) is that a social enterprises’ core mission is to do good and this intent is embedded into their business model, whereas a CSR strategy seeks to minimize the harm done as a result of their work, while not compromising the pursuit of profits. Social enterprises begin with the intent to do good above all; all actions and decisions are made with the core social mission in mind. It is also important to note that when it comes to sustainability, these enterprises function like all businesses: they must generate revenue to continue to do the good work that they do.
The social enterprise sector has a positive effect in Ontario by creating jobs, growing entrepreneurs, protecting the environment, empowering Ontario’s most vulnerable residents, reducing poverty, among other impacts. It is all around good for business. Innovate Niagara is a founding member of the Social Enterprise Southwest (https://www.sesw.ca) partnership, which includes partners from London, Windsor and Huron. This partnership will provide tools, resources and support to social enterprises and social-entrepreneurs across South-Western Ontario.
Along with our partners we will be sharing our knowledge, resources and tools to support and encourage Southwestern Ontario’s social economy. This project is funded by the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Growth, as part of the Ontario government’s strategic investments in social enterprises. Aside from this partnership, Niagara has its own advocacy group for social enterprises. Social Enterprise Niagara is an independent group who is committed to finding creative and sustainable solutions to the world’s challenges by creating profitable, purpose-driven social enterprises.
Do you think you might be a social enterprise? Are you thinking about starting a social enterprise? If so, connect with us for an in-person meeting. Or, spread the good word using our hashtag #SocEntSWO on all social media platforms.
This article originally appeared in The Business Link Niagara.