social delta

Consulting and support for social enterprise in Canada

Jonathan Wade: Social Enterprise Expert in Residence at HUB Ottawa

I am pleased to offer Impact HUB Ottawa members free consultations on social enterprise once a week during the fall of 2017.  I will be at HUB Ottawa, 123 Slater Street, 6th Floor on Tuesday mornings from 9:30 to 10:30. Check the events page each week in case there is a last minute change in timing.

Not a member of the HUB yet?

Consider the Experts in Residence program as one of the many benefits of being a member, and drop by the space to chat with the host to ask about their very reasonable co-working rates.

If you are at the HUB when I am there, and are interested in a chat about social enterprise, please feel free to come and find me if I’m not busy.

Jonathan

 

Free Training for Mental Health Social Enterprises

The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) is offering free online course coupons to social enterprises through the Social Enterprise Institute (SEI)

If you are a social enterprise that hires individuals with mental illness, take advantage of this coupon offer by completing the online request form. This coupon offer is available to social enterprises in Canada that employ people living with mental illness.  There is no deadline to complete the online request form but there are a limited number of coupons available in each category.  Coupons will be distributed on a first come first serve basis to eligible applicants.

The Social Enterprise Institute (SEI) was created to help anyone, regardless of location or economic ability, to set-up a social enterprise to address issues and causes they care about.  SEI was also created to make learning easier to implement; to take the hassle out of learning new skills by delivering seamless, short, on-demand eLearning produced by industry professionals. Learn more about SEI at www.socialenterpriseinstitute.ca.

COMPLETE THE COUPON REQUEST FORM

SEI  is one of the partners in the Social Enterprise Ecosystem project (S4ES).  The S4ES project connects training, marketing, and impact measurement resources for social enterprises anywhere in Canada.  The project is funded by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the Government of Canada’s Social Development Partnerships Program, and the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation. Learn more about S4ES at www.s4es.ca.

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A case against defining social enterprise.

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet. William Shakespeare

As if to refute Shakespeare’s famous line, we all like to define things that are new to us.  Scientists will define new stars, species or diseases. Social workers and teachers will define new approaches to learning and social improvement. Business people will define their brand, or a new trend in consumer behavior. Academics spend their entire careers reading about previously defined concepts and trying to invent new ideas and label them.

It comes as no surprise that many people who first hear the term social enterprise want a definition. This is why you’ll see a “definition” of social enterprise in the margin to the right of this post. For most, to understand the meaning  of a term is the first step to embracing the idea. The words are familiar but are not fully understood as a pair. Is social enterprise a chatty workplace? Is it a new media term? Is it a collection of similar businesses?  Amalgamating the known definitions of the two terms leads to many interpretations.

Social Enterprise, in essence, basically refers to a commercial activity with a primary goal of creating some sort of social benefit.  However, this is not the only definition. There are many nuances and variations, including legal structures, ownership, profitability goals, success measurements, hiring practices, asset locks, target beneficiaries and a host of subjective qualifications depending on the personal perspective of the entrepreneur.

It is significant to note that even people who work as social entrepreneurs or as supports to social enterprise can’t agree on a definition. This is confusing for the newly initiated and leads to a great many people dismissing social enterprise as a fad, a new label on an old idea, or even an insidious effort to undermine the market economy, or the charitable sector. Without a definition, social enterprise runs the risk of being marginalized–possibly even shunned–by the establishment.

However, it is my belief that the fluidity of the definition, the nuances, and the many interpretations is actually what makes social enterprise so powerful as a tool for social change. In our modern world the silos of social structures—non profits, coops, government, business, clubs—have led us to myopic perspectives on how to provide value to society. In order to really start to address the social problems that are a result of the current structures, we need to look for more malleable, more dynamic, more intangible, and less defined tools. Social innovation requires new thinking to old problems and new hybrid approaches to put that new thinking into action.

It is no longer sufficient to simply “partner” with another sector actor to seek effective change. Partnership and collaboration are strong tools to bring different perspectives to a problem, but they are just the beginning. Social enterprise, in all of its many forms and definitions, is a structure that allows for many approaches and many perspectives to be used simultaneously. Social entrepreneurs can glean from the best practices of a diverse group: non profits, private businesses, public sector institutions, co-ops, voluntary associations, charities, community associations, etc.

As if to punctuate the value of a vague definition of social enterprise, the Harvard Business School’s Social Enterprise Initiative’s mission, “applies innovative business practices and managerial disciplines to drive sustained, high-impact social change…[while we] engage with the nonprofit, for-profit, and public sectors to generate and share resources, tools, and knowledge.”

The challenge of no clear definition is that our laws, our financial services and our social support networks remain somewhat confused by social enterprise. Interpretation of the term’s meaning leaves us wondering: does a social enterprise run on grants or through investment?  Does it require volunteers or paid staff? Are they taxed or not? Must they incorporate or be informal? Are they out to make financial gains or generate social value? The answer is that social enterprise can do all of these things…sometimes all at the same time.

Confusing? At first yes, perhaps. However, if we embrace the concept of social enterprise rather than a strict definition, then we may indeed see innovative solutions that will improve our society for generations to come.

Community Impact Bond: invest in social innovation through HUB Ottawa

Impact Hub Ottawa has been in existence for more than five years providing space, resources, information and a network to many of Ottawa’s most progressive citizens and organizations. They have recently moved to a new location as they continue to grow.

The staff and board of HUB Ottawa are hosting a mix and mingle event in which they will share their growth plans, launch their new Community Impact Bond opportunity and answer any questions you may have about this new investment vehicle.  If you are interested in investing in the changemakers, innovators, and social entrepreneurs making our city a better place to live, you’ll want to attend their information session.

Monday May 8th, 5:30-7pm at 123 Slater, 6th floor

This community bond offers a fixed rate of return based upon either a 2 or 5 year term. You can download a more complete prospectus at the HUB Community Bond Offer.  For more information, you may always connect with Katie Miller, HUB Ottawa’s Managing Director to discuss the opportunity further. Her full contact details are in the prospectus. I also recommend that you visit the HUB website to learn more about the programs and services offered by HUB Ottawa.

It is exciting to see Ottawa  offer social investors an opportunity to participate in creating a more vibrant, just, and healthy city;  I encourage you to find out more.

2016 Gift Guide featuring social enterprises and progressive businesses

Social Delta is pleased to recommend the holiday gift guide that has been produced by Social Enterprise Ontario. Please consider supporting these businesses, as you share holiday cheer with friends, family and colleagues.

Each gift you buy this holiday season can have significant impact on your community. Thanks to the newly launched Social Enterprise Gift Guide, extending the impact of your gift giving is now easier than ever. The Guide features a wide variety of products created by Canada’s diverse social enterprise sector, representing for-profit and non-profit organizations, cooperatives and B Corps.

The Social Enterprise Gift Guide includes a broad range of products and is fully searchable by product type, price range, region and other categories. For example, you’ll be able to purchase calendars or greeting cards from Options Mississauga Print and Office Services, beer from Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company, meals cooked by Syrian refugees from Newcomer Kitchen, Inc. and order a gift basket of local preserves made by Youth Opportunities Unlimited in London.

In addition to the main online guide there is a printable Feature Product Gift Guide (PDF) with selected products from different social enterprises from across the province

The Guide is available in English and French (ESontario.org).

This project was made possible thanks to a collaboration of various community organizations and the financial support of the Government of Ontario.

You can find the full catalogue of 100+ products and services online at http://seontario.org/social-enterprise-gift-guide-2016.

If you’re a social enterprise and you’d like to showcase your products & services please fill out this form. (Deadline: December 9)

Funding–yes grant money–to reduce homelessness

Employment And Social Development of the Government of Canada recently launched two calls for proposals for innovative projects that aim to prevent and reduce homelessness. This is an excellent opportunity for social entrepreneurs with a social mission related to homelessness.

Below is a message they have sent out to be shared:

The call for proposals for microgrants has been extended and will end on November 14, 2016.

  • The call for proposals for microgrants – Apply for funding up to $25,000 for small-scale projects. Projects must focus on exploring effective and innovative practices, tools or initiatives that prevent or reduce homelessness in Canada.

Note that there is also a more comprehensive funding program for larger scale initiatives, also with a deadline of November 14, 2016. For more information, please visit the Innovative Solutions to Homelessness funding page.

Why invest in a social enterprise that doesn’t break even?

The goal of a social enterprise is to create positive social change.

To sustain its social impact it has to make enough money to pay all its expenses… in order to remain financially viable, correct?

Would you believe that a $50K investment in a financially unsustainable social enterprise (generating revenue that never exceeds 80% of its costs) can still create more than four times the social impact than making the same donation to charity, while at the same time creating more than $360K in retained earnings, keeping the business in operation over 22 years without any further investment?

There is a strong case to make a social investment in a business that doesn’t break even. If your investment goals are to create social change, then better to invest in a business that can use your money to multiply the social benefit.

Read my guest blog post at SEEChange Magazine for the full story and calculations.

Market share equals what to social enterprise?

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One key measurement of success in a for-profit business is market share. Does this also apply to a non-profit housing cooperative?  An employment-based catering company?  An up-cycling storefront?

The goal of a social enterprise is to maximize the positive impact on those who benefit from their business: affordable housing to all, new job opportunities for the disenfranchised, tons of diverted waste from landfills.  In many cases, mission maximization can only be achieved by increasing the scale of their business; therefore,  unless the market expands, scaling up means someone else must scale down or be joined.

However, it is almost “un-social enterprise” to be creating a vision in which market share is a goal, or evemarket-share-graphicn plausible. Most social enterprises operate locally, and all work with a social mission that drives them. The thought of putting a for-profit out of business—or even acquiring that company—is likely not in their initial thinking, nor explicitly in their business plan.

But why not? Why shouldn’t a social enterprise seek to minimize competition and/or take customers from another local business? Why wouldn’t they attempt to buy that local business in order to increase their inventory, maximize their social mission, minimize competition, and benefit from economies of scale? There is no imperative to leave your competitors alone when you are a social enterprise.

Of course, it is possible that putting competitors out of business, or challenging their cost structure by using grants to get a competitive advantage, or taking them over in order to employ a disadvantaged segment rather than their existing employees, may have unintended social costs. No social enterprise ought to decrease the employment of others in favor of their “target” population, or diminish the value of for-profit colleagues in the marketplace. Healthy competition is good, arguably even necessary for innovation and improved social outcomes, and seeking market share without recognizing the social costs could potentially jeopardize the net social impact on the community.

Social enterprises are modest by nature, in my experience, and aggressive business practices are seen as unsavoury at best and downright nauseating at worst. However, if increased market share means increased (net) social benefit, then by all means a social enterprise ought to be unabashedly bold in their business aspirations to increase market share.

Charities are selling… more than ever!

As a follow up to an earlier post,  Social Delta is pleased to report that there has been an increase of $2 billion in annual revenue earned by charities in 2014. This represents a 12.4% increase from the 2012 returns. (which in turn was 3.8% higher than 2011)

Charities are expected to file T3010 forms at the end of each fiscal year. As part of this annual reporting, they submit financial statements in a specific format and these documents are then made public at the CRA Website.  Blumberg Segal LLP has painstakingly aggregated the data for the 2014 submissions to help define the scale and scope of the charitable sector in Canada.

Some key facts from the April 10th Blumbergs’ Snapshot of the Canadian Charity Sector 2014:

  • Total revenue from all sources in 2014: $246 billion
  • Total sales revenue (not including to government): $19.9 billion
  • Total  membership revenue: $1.6 billion
  • Total value of tax receipts issued: $15.7 billion

As was the case in the 2012 report, earned revenue by charities is greater that donated revenue for which tax receipts were issued.  Admittedly, not all of these revenue generating activities would be considered social enterprise, but the data underlines the growing importance of earned revenue in charitable activities in Canada.

For more details on the report, and the host of other resources available from Blumberg Segal LLP, visit their web page devoted to legal issues facing the charitable sector in Canada.

 

Key Ingredients of Flourishing Social Enterprises

Poverty & Purpose

It is no accident that some of the hotbeds of new and successful Canadian social enterprises are in specific, economically depressed regions: North end Winnipeg, Downtown Eastside Vancouver, Regent Park in Toronto,  and rural Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. It is said that necessity is the mother of invention, and indeed, the needs of the population in these regions are acute and entrenched: discrimination, drug use, alcoholism, obesity, crime, unemployment, marginalization… Where there is poverty, inequality, and significant loss of livelihood there is a need to try anything; poverty creates an irrefutable purpose to develop a mechanism to arrest human suffering. Social enterprise is one such mechanism, where a business model is employed specifically to address community and human needs.

Innovation & Investment

Desperation may be a driver for change, but someone has to create an idea for the business. In my experience, social enterprise business ideas are rarely conceived by committee.  More commonly, a single person is responsible for a creative social enterprise idea, and they need to then invest their time, energy and often finances to bring that idea to the market. That individual can work independently as a solo-preneur, or as an intrepreneur within government, the private sector, co-operatives or non profits. Growth and development of the idea will of course require support from many actors within these organizational structures, and even from a broader community, but innovation and investment typically starts with one person who has a dream to make life better for others.

Risk & Reslience

However, business is not easy; ask any entrepreneur. Social entrepreneurs face an increased challenge because they live in a world where success is measured in social wealth, not in financial returns. Creating a business where maximizing social benefit drives all business decisions can—and in most cases does—suppress financial returns. Risk is therefore large and the expectation of future financial wealth is optimistic at best, and frequently a myth.  In the private sector, individuals and organizations assume risk on the presumption that future financial rewards will compensate them for risking their time, energy, money and social capital. Social enterprise flourishes when the innovators have a resilient constitution, and a way to accept, manage and even embrace personal losses for the sake of a common good.

Patience & Prudence

The worst part is that starting a business creates risks that last for a long time. For many individuals and organizations launching a social enterprise, the initial energy can be whittled down by a thousand tiny cuts, often over years. In my experience, social enterprises that are spearheaded by an innovator in the non-profit sector may take up to three years to launch, and perhaps five  years to break even (if ever). Accepting, managing and embracing losses and risk over that length of time—all motivated by a sense of optimism and altruism—requires exemplary patience and a strong, informed, and flexible plan to succeed. A full-fledged business plan may seem excessive, but there has to be at least an understanding of the market, the risks, the operational requirements, proposed budget including both projected income and expenditures.

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