Social Enterprise Canada

November 29, 2013

Alberta social enterprise survey released

A survey on the Alberta social enterprise scene by research teams from Mount Royal University in Calgary and Simon Fraser University in Burnaby was released last week.

Now the researchers are looking forward to an upcoming conversation with representatives of the Alberta government, which has invited them to a discussion about the provincial social enterprise sector.

This outcome is consistent with researchers’ hopes and what has happened in other provinces where similar surveys have been conducted, says Peter Elson, senior research associate with the Institute for Nonprofit Studies of Mount Royal University.

“First and foremost, from our perspective, and from those of the people that we work with, this survey is a social enterprise sector community development tool,” he says, noting social enterprise surveys have only been conducted in provinces where he and fellow researchers have been invited by a cluster of social enterprise intermediaries who will be able to utilize the findings for their own benefit and that of the sector within their respective provinces.

Previous studies have analyzed social enterprises in Alberta and British Columbia (2010), Manitoba (2011), New Brunswick (2011) and Ontario (2012).

“(The surveys) have consistently provided the means for people to have quite fruitful and productive discussions with their respective provincial governments,” says Peter.

A key benefit to this type of survey is that people are able to move conversations from a policy, developmental and anecdotal view highlighting lead social enterprises to a more systematic contribution considering the collective impact, he notes.

Of the 65 social enterprises that responded to the survey, just over 82 per cent have a non-profit corporate structure. Just over three per cent are incorporated as non-profit co-operatives and two per cent characterize themselves as for-profit enterprises of their parent non-profit corporation.

The year of the survey, 2011, the respondents had generated least $96 million in revenues, including at least $71 million in sales. They paid close to $34 million in wages and salaries to 8,190 people, of whom more than 6,610 were employed as part of the mission of the organization. They also trained 6,120 people, provided services to more than 264,000 and involved 7,550 volunteers.

Social enterprises not only enable paid employment for people who would otherwise be marginally or completely unemployed, but they also provide multiple opportunities for the engagement of the range of an organization’s stakeholders, including trainees, employees and volunteers. This is a finding that struck him as particularly noteworthy, says Peter.

“There is a way in which I would say that these results reflect an emancipatory role that social enterprises play,” Peter says.

A report on B.C.’s social enterprise sector will be released within the next couple months.

To read the Alberta report, click here.

Writer: Michelle Strutzenberger

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