Event recap from Marketplace Impact: Social Enterprise Research and Stories

Sep 26th, 2023

Marketplace Impact: Social Enterprise Research and Stories successfully shared insights on social enterprise while nurturing conversation between engaged community members, purchasers and suppliers from across Canada. Participants engaged in community discussion and networking between sessions that highlighted new research insights into the sector, tools and supports for social enterprise capacity building, and calls to action.

During the event Buy Social Canada launched a report, Sell with Impact: Stories and Research from the Canadian Social Enterprise Sector, which showed that with $4.1 billion in annual revenue and many stories of community impact, social enterprises are a force for good.

Did you miss the event? You can view the session recordings here to relive the highlights.

This was part two of a two-part event series exploring what’s happening in both the supply and demand sides of the Canadian social value marketplace. Read this blog post to see insights from part one, a national conversation on social procurement.

Key takeaways

Understand the power of social enterprise

Social enterprises create significant impacts through business activities. New research from the Sell with Impact report shows that by starting with their mission at the centre, and reinvesting 51% or more of profits back into that social, cultural or environmental mission, social enterprise offers solutions to issues like poverty, affordable housing, social exclusion and more. The research also shows that social enterprise is not a fad, and that this is a viable business model generating impressive revenues and creating supportive employment.

Collaborate with others

A theme throughout the event was the value of collaboration to increase social enterprise capacity and impact. Speakers encouraged social enterprises to consider collaboration to grow capacity and respond to opportunities that are larger than they could take on alone, while growing experience with large contract bidding and delivery.

“We have been taught in the non-profit sector to fight with each other. We need to stop that and work together,” encouraged Gurbeen Bhasin, Executive Director of Aangen.

Raise awareness and share stories

Speakers highlighted that social enterprise still needs to become more mainstream, and more purchasers and consumers need to hear about what social enterprise is, and the impacts it generates in community. Without increased awareness and visibility, social enterprises can have a hard time competing in the marketplace.

Social enterprises can boost awareness by connecting to the larger movement in Canada, and sharing stories to highlight the systemic and individual outcomes they create. Purchasers and consumers can share social enterprise stories in their networks, and advocate for increased social procurement policy design and implementation.

Wisdom from speakers

“Social enterprises are vital partners in building an inclusive and thriving economy. They contribute to social cohesion. They are a driving force for social innovation and bring an entrepreneurial spirit.” – Corinne Baggley, Employment and Social Development Canada

“When I think of the role of social enterprises in the context of our business, we as a builder cannot do the social work that’s required. Social enterprises help fill this gap, so we don’t need to do it ourselves.” – Tim Coldwell, Chandos Construction

“If social enterprise can’t figure it out, nobody can figure it out.” – Carolann Harding, SmartICE

“There’s this myth that if you do social enterprise, you walk away from social funding. It’s not the case. As long as you are incurring social costs you should be getting support for this.” – Andy Horsnell, Social Enterprise Council of Canada

“The only place I believe we’re going to get it right is social enterprise. And social procurement has to have that door open for us to walk through.” – Gurbeen Bhasin, Aangen

“Not only are we helping them overcome barriers and stigma, but we’re also helping them see the value in what they create.” – Barb Ellis, Circle of Eagles Trading Post

Calls to action

We asked speakers what action they’d like to see on the ecosystem to further support the social enterprise movement to grow and increase impact, here’s what we heard from speakers:

  • Tim Coldwell, Chandos Construction: You’ve got to have a policy and you’ve got to actually do it!
  • Corinne Baggley, ESDC: More of everything! More investors in the Social Finance Fund, more people investing in social enterprise, more research and stories of success, more shared learnings with peers.
  • Gurbeen Bhasin, Aangen: Vote with your dollar.
  • Carolann Harding, SmartICE: Create more regional supports.
  • Andy Horsnell, SECC: Get all the networks of the alternative economy (co-ops, CCEDNet, etc) connected and working together.
  • Anca Roman, EthniCity Catering and Cafe: Help small local social enterprises to become more mainstream.
  • Barb Ellis, Circle of Eagles Trading Post: We need to see more integration with corporates, and more sharing and reconciliation into the mainstream.

And here’s one final call to action from the book Marketplace Revolution by David LePage, Buy Social Canada’s founder:

“It’s time to transcend the dogma and practices of extraction economics that result in social exclusion and income inequality. It’s time for social enterprise, social procurement, and social value finance to converge to create community capital. It’s time for a Marketplace Revolution.”

Thank you to everyone who joined us and participated in discussions. The many achievements and stories showcased at this event would not be possible without so many of you contributing to the momentum we’re seeing across Canada. We look forward to continued collaboration in coming months.

More resources to take action:


Social enterprises:


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