Social Enterprise Canada

September 24, 2013

New study provides hard data on Ontario’s social enterprise ecology

From the number of Ontario residents employed to the sales figures, a new study released Sept. 19 provides the first-of-its-kind hard data on Ontario’s social enterprise ecology.

The study, Inspiring Innovation: The Size, Scope and Socioeconomic Impact of Nonprofit Social Enterprise in Ontario, was released by the Canadian Community Economic Development Network (CCEDNet) with the support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Of the 1,000 social enterprises identified, 363 responded to a survey. The data provided includes that the enterprises collectively employed at least 5,355 people and paid a minimum of $117 million in wages and salaries in 2011.

Other findings include that in 2011 the respondents:
• generated at least $143 million in sales
• trained 65,900 people
• involved almost 18,000 volunteers
• provided services for at least 2.7 million people, excluding their customers.

Paul Chamberlain, Ontario program director in the Toronto office of CCEDNet, says given the relatively new use of the term social enterprise, a key challenge in conducting the study was the identification of the enterprises. “We did identify a thousand, but we know that there are still many more. . . So many non-profit organizations have been running revenue-generating activities but not thinking of themselves as social enterprises.”

Paul adds he was surprised by the range of social enterprises ascertained through the study, as well as how established many of them are. The study splits the identified social enterprises into five types: arts and culture, farmers’ markets, thrift stores, social purpose enterprises providing employment or training to those facing barriers and miscellaneous enterprises. Ontario’s oldest social enterprise, a farmers’ market based in Kingston, was established in 1780.

The study yields a pleasant surprise in demonstrating how social enterprises are actively engaged in reducing poverty, Paul says. “That’s one of those things that anecdotally we hear about, but it’s nice to have a way of showing that.”

In sum, the study will be valuable for those looking to build support for social enterprise, whether that’s financially or through partnerships, Paul says, as it clearly demonstrates that social enterprises are having an impact in the province. Having this additional support is noteworthy given that the research also reveals access to capital is a top challenge social enterprises in the province face.

This study was co-authored by CCEDNet-Ontario staff in partnership with Peter Elson of Mount Royal University and Peter Hall of Simon Fraser University, who have conducted similar surveys in other provinces.

The research provides a baseline for both future studies in Ontario and comparison studies with other parts of Canada.

To read a blog by Paul on the study, click here.

The report is now available for download at this link. Full colour printed versions are available from CCEDNet for $10.00.

Additional note: CCEDNet is an organizing partner of SEWF 2013, slated for Oct. 2-4 in Calgary.

Peter Elson of Mount Royal University is speaking at "Lessons from Quebec: Issues, Policy, and Politics" 

Peter Hall of Simon Fraser University is speaking at "Using Cases and Data to Build a Policy Agenda: The Story of EnP (Enterprising Non-Profits)" 

Writer: Michelle Strutzenberger, Axiom News

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