Social Enterprise and Entrepreneurship

About Us

Social Enterprise and Entrepreneurship (SEE) seeks to address Northern Ontario’s social and economic challenges through the development of a social enterprise ecosystem. As an emergent initiative, it has engaged multi-sector partnerships and diverse stakeholders in strengthening the region’s resilience by leveraging local assets to diversify economies. NORDIK Institute serves as a backbone organization to the collective. 

SEE aims to strengthen, support, grow and scale Social Enterprises (SEs) across northern Ontario through:

The provision of culturally appropriate services such as peer mentoring, training and networking;
The development of resources to support social enterprises and entrepreneurs, and service providers; and,
assisting social enterprises in overcoming challenges such as access to markets, capital and seed funding.

Current Initiatives

Wosen Logo

The 2019-2023 phase of SEE will concentrate on women-led social enterprises. The Women of Ontario Social Enterprise Network (WOSEN) is funded in part by the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev) and the  Northern Ontario Heritage Foundation Corporation (NOHFC). For more information click here.

History of SEE 

SEE launched in 2013 as Social Enterprise Evolution focusing on youth social enterprises and changemakers and was funded, in part, by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation and the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres. 

Originating from SEE in 2015, the Urban Indigenous Youth for Change (UIYFC) project works with youth to create community and capacity in the social economy through social enterprise development.

SEE changed its name in 2017 to Social Enterprise and Entrepreneurship when it expanded to serve all ages of social innovators, creating a network between and among entrepreneurs, service providers (Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs) and the broader community. The 2017-19 Northern Regional Partnership included the Northwest Regional Innovation Centre in Thunder Bay, the Business Enterprise Centre in Timmins, YouLaunch, a project of the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre, and the PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise in Thunder Bay. The Ontario Ministry of Economic Growth and Development (MEDG) and the Northern Ontario Heritage Foundation Corporation (NOHFC) were key funders. 

What is a Social Enterprise?

Social Enterprises have a mission to address social, environmental or cultural challenges by reinvesting profits above operational expenses back into their missions, and using a triple bottom line to measure their success.


Social Enterprises take many forms, including non-profits, co-operatives and sole proprietorships to name a few.

1. Community Project

A community project is a term applied to any community-based project or initiative. This covers a wide variety of different areas within a community or a group. Projects can cover almost anything that concerns the community and aims to address a social, environmental or economic issue.

Examples in Northern Ontario:

Paquataskamik Project

The Paquataskamik Project in Fort Albany First Nation, is a community-based research and learning initiative aimed at fostering inter-generational dialogue and understanding about the importance of traditional territory to social, cultural and economic well-being. The project involves the ongoing development of a community process bringing together youth, adults and elders.

Timmins Community Gardens

The Community Gardens in Timmins are parcels of land divided into small plots to provide residents with access to fresh produce, support nutritional health, strengthen neighbourhood connections, promote sustainability, and increase physical activity in the community. The Gardens is a volunteer project created through a collaborative partnership of the United Way, Timmins Economic Development Corporation, The Anti-Hunger Coalition, Timmins Family Health Team, The Porcupine Health Unit, The Mountjoy Farmers’ Market, Mattagami Region Conservation Authority and individuals from the community.

2. Non-Profit Organization

A non-profit organization (NPO) is an incorporated organization which exists for educational or charitable reasons, and from which its shareholders do not benefit financially. Surplus revenues are reinvested in the organization to achieve its goals, and used for its own expenses, operations, and programs.

In order to reduce dependency on traditional sources of funding and revenue, non-profits are financing their sustainability through a mix of revenue sources that include for-profit businesses, such as local thrift stores.

Examples in Northern Ontario:

Thinking Rock Community Arts

Thinking Rock Community Arts in Sault Ste. Marie, invites communities to share the stories and histories of rural and First Nations communities within the Algoma Region through collective, multidisciplinary and cross-cultural community arts projects. Thinking Rock accomplishes this by supporting young people to co-create the communities they want to live in and consulting for businesses and community groups.

3. Co-Operative

Co-operatives (or “co-ops”) are community-focused businesses that balance people, planet and profit. Co-ops are legally incorporated organizations owned by their members who use their services or purchase their products. Co-ops can provide virtually any product or service, and can be either non-profit or for-profit enterprises. The co-operative sector keeps dollars circulating within the local economy, provides secure employment and is a means to revitalize and sustain healthy communities.

Co-operative Young Leaders Program

Ontario credit unions and co-ops give young people a chance to attend Co-operative Young Leader programs every summer, an experience unlike any other. This week-long initiative brings young people together from all across Ontario to learn about, and practice, communication and leadership through co‑operative activities.

For more information on co-operatives:

How Can Social Enterprises Help Northern Ontario?

New approaches are needed to respond to community needs
Social Enterprises can meet community needs and contribute to the local economy; can be formed with little capital
Social Enterprises often employ people who face barriers to employment
Profits are not removed from the community, rather they are reinvested in the overall mission of the organization
Provides non-profit organizations with an alternative way to generate funds
Social Enterprises measure their success differently –although they must cover their core operational costs, they also measure their social return on investment

Who is a Social Entrepreneur?

If yes, then you are a Social Entrepreneur.

A social entrepreneur is an agent of change – someone who is inclined to develop innovative solutions to urgent social, economic or environmental problems by merging their entrepreneurial skills with their commitment to change and social impact.

A social entrepreneur aims change through alternative ways by putting energy into a community project, or working with others to establish a non-profit organization, or a cooperative. 

Whatever their choice, the social entrepreneur draws on innovation and collaboration, as well as their diverse capabilities and experiences, to contribute to the desired change.

A social entrepreneur is a CHANGEMAKER

Partners and Funders