Social Enterprise and Entrepreneurship

About Us

Social Enterprise & Entrepreneurship (SEE) Northern Region Partnership includes NORDIK Institute, the Northwest Regional Innovation Centre in Thunder Bay, the Timmins Economic Development Corporation’s Business Enterprise Centre, YouLaunch with the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre in Sault Ste. Marie and PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise in Thunder Bay are partnering to support social enterprise development in Northern Ontario.  Social Enterprise and Entrepreneurship (SEE), Northern Region Partnership is funded, in part by Ontario Ministry of Economic Trade and Growth and the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation.

Social Enterprise & Entrepreneurship (SEE) Northern Region Partnership (formerly Social Enterprise Evolution, focused on youth social entrepreneurship) has expanded to serve all ages of social innovators, creating a network between and among entrepreneurs, service providers and the broader community.

SEE seeks to address Northern Ontario’s social and economic challenges by encouraging a movement of social enterprise and entrepreneurship that stresses community resilience, innovation, support and mobilization.

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.

What is Social Entrepreneurship

Social entrepreneurship is the process of pursuing innovative solutions to address social, environmental and economic problems in a variety of ways.

Here are the five forms of social entrepreneurship:

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:

La Maison Verte

La Maison Verte in Hearst, is owned by the non-profit Association Parmi-Elles, a group of women whose objective since the early 1980’s has been to set up business ventures that create jobs for women. Over the years, La Maison Verte has contributed greatly to the regional economy through the production of tree seedlings for reforestation and the supply of fresh produce to local markets.

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.

Example in Northern Ontario:

Cloverbelt Local Food Co-op

The Cloverbelt Local Food Co-op (CLFC) In Dryden, aims to strengthen food security by encouraging diverse local food production, thereby enhancing overall rural sustainability. This cooperative is unique in that it uses an online platform to connect producers and consumers from a multitude or remote and rural communities in Northern Ontario.

For more information on co-operatives:

4. 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 (people, planet, profit) to measure their success.  Social Enterprises take many forms, including non-profits, co-operatives and sole proprietorships to name a few.

Typically initiated by an NPO, the social enterprise leverages business operations and strategies to generate private market revenues to support the primary services of the organization. A social enterprise can take the following form:

  • Training for those with challenges in the job market
  • Job creation for vulnerable populations
  • An NPO that houses a social enterprise to subsidize its services
  • A business partnership between an NPO and a private company to support the objectives of the NPO
  • Companies conducted and managed by Aboriginal communities

Armstrong, A., Mook, L., and Quarter, J. (2009). Understanding the social economy: A Canadian perspective. University of Toronto Press Incorporated: Toronto, ON. (pp. 107-109)

A social enterprise is a company that seeks to make a profit but also to have a positive social or environmental impact. Social enterprises are said to aim for a “triple bottom line”: the individual, the planet, and profit.

Examples in Northern Ontario:

Roots to Harvest (Urban Youth Garden)

Thunder Bay’s Roots to Harvest’s mission is to provide transformative educational opportunities for youth to engage with local agriculture and cultivate healthy communities. They have a vision of a future where youth are leaders, connecting a diverse community and cultivating food that’s healthy and accessible.

ThunderBird Rock

ThunderBird Rock, Nimkiibneshiinhaszhibik, Sault Ste. Marie & Batchewana, offers educational eco/culture tours and activities near Whitefish Island; focusing on First Nations culture and historical elements of Sault Ste. Marie. Throughout the tour, the following specialties are available: craft making, nature walks and teachings.

5. Social Purpose Business

A social purpose business is a profit-making enterprise that also has a positive social and/or environmental impact. Another way to describe a social purpose business refers to having a blended value or triple bottom line: people, planet, profit.

Examples in Northern Ontario:

The Great Spirit Circle Trail

The Great Spirit Circle Trail on Manitoulin Island offers nature-based and cultural tourism from an Aboriginal perspective on beautiful, majestic Manitoulin Island and the Sagamok region of Northeastern Ontario, Canada. Tours are hosted by Aboriginal people who have carefully planned itineraries that offer a true reflection of the history and culture of the region and its original inhabitants – the Ojibwe, Odawa and Pottawatomi peoples.

Creative eLearning Design

Creative e-Learning Design in Sudbury aims to develop pedagogically sound education and training opportunities online that could address the various accessibility needs of Northerners seeking to acquire training and education.

Who is a Social Entrepreneur

Are you curious about social innovation and social impact?
Do you want to make a difference in the world?
Are you looking for a more effective way to bring about change in your community?
Do you believe it’s possible of doing business and doing good at the same time?

If yes, then you are a Social Entrepreneur.

The social entrepreneur is an agent of change – that is, he or she is inclined to develop innovative solutions to urgent social, economic or environmental problems. He is merging his entrepreneurial skills with his commitment to change and social impact. The social entrepreneur has known or has come into contact with social injustice and is urged to correct this injustice.

The social entrepreneur aims change through alternative ways. He will choose to put his energy into a community project ; or work with others to establish a non-profit organization (NPO) . The social entrepreneur can also decide to work towards the development of a cooperative , a social enterprise , or finally, a social enterprise .

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

Why Social Entrepreneurship (in Northern Ontario)

It contributes new approaches to community needs;
It offers creative opportunities to address social / environmental issues, both locally and regionally;
It provides opportunities of self-employment for young people;
Gives NPOs alternatives for revenue generation;
Increases entrepreneurs’ interest in return and social and environmental impact – and provides an opportunity to join a movement;
Provides empowerment and employment opportunities for people facing barriers in the labor in your community.
New approaches are needed to respond to community needs;
Opportunity to creatively address social/environmental/cultural issues in your community or on a larger scale;
Provides non-profit organizations with an alternative way to generate funds;
Social Enterprises can be formed by people with little capital;
Profits are not removed from the community, rather they are reinvested in the overall mission of the organization;
Social Enterprises measure their success differently – although they must ‘balance their books’, they also measure the social return on investment, for example:

Number of people they employed/trained;
Quality of the employment;
Promotion of long-term sustainability and stewardship of the environment;
Benefits extended to the local economy/local people/environment.