Here’s how social enterprises define success

Mar 1st, 2023

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For social enterprises, success is all about creating community impact.

We wanted to learn more about what that means to them, so we asked our Certified Social Enterprises, “what does success look like for your social enterprise?”

Here’s what we heard:

Marketplace revolution

“Success is city councils and administrators recognizing the community benefits that social enterprises deliver. I would love to see certified social enterprises on the tip of the lip of all decision makers.” – Raquel, SPICE

“Continuing to develop advocacy and support for social enterprise and continue to build awareness about the value of social contractors and vendors.” – Rudi, Construct

“It is outwardly facing and engages the public so they can see how social enterprises benefit their community.” – Dave, MetroWorks

“Looking outwards, the best metric of success for us is to see more social procurement and more social enterprises at the community and regional level. We believe the more of these we see, the stronger a community’s social, cultural, and economic capital will become. Good work leads to good jobs, and that leads to better lives.” – Kurt, CleanStart Property Services    

“Success is having our social enterprise viewed as a legitimate and viable competitor in the marketplace. It seems that, in the minds of many, the word “social” implies something less businesslike, or even less professional relative to private sector organizations. In fact, social enterprises are very innovative, and are often able to deliver services more cheaply, more effectively, and more efficiently than private sector providers. Let’s keep raising awareness!” – John, Threshold School of Building

Employment equity and inclusion

“People experiencing barriers to traditional employment have increased dignity, value and income through meaningful, supportive work … a sustainable hand UP instead of a handout in life.” – Rebecca, The Raw Carrot

“Our trainees feel proud about their work and the work conditions (wage, schedule, culturally-sensitive training), take initiative in the projects and work towards developing a career pathway in the landscaping industry.” – Jose, RAINscapeTO

“The success of a social enterprise has all been driven behind how can we change the course of future employment … Our goal is to shape the way youth see the ability to take pride in their work during a time when there is so much acceptance of being able to move from job to job.” – Nicholas, Launch Pad

“Success at Building Up is when a graduate of our program becomes a red seal journeyperson in their trade. We used to measure our success based on whether we connected someone to a job. We now measure it based on our ability to support people to retain that job and advance in it over the long term so that they can truly break the cycle of poverty and build financial freedom for themselves and their families.” – Marc, Building Up

“As a training institute we want to empower and educate people so they have the tools and resources to thrive in their life.” – Dean, DIVERSEcity

“When asked what success looks like for CleanStart, it’s not hard to find an answer because we see it every day. 44% of our workers have significant barriers to employment and have full-time, consistent work with us. 55% of our workers have said that working here has significantly improved their housing situation. These (among others) are real, tangible differences being made.” – Kurt, CleanStart Property Services

“We are successful when we empower employees with barriers to the workplace to produce high quality goods & services to customers.” – Russell, JustWork

Financial viability and business growth

“Success for us looks like deepening impact by growing our revenue and margin – i.e. growing our top and bottom lines will enable us to do more for our ecosystem.” – John, Realize Strategies

“Success for us as a social enterprise would be that we could generate or receive enough revenue yearly to offset scholarships and funding for our students in our hospitality training programs across Canada.” – Don, D.I.C.E.D.

“Adding another 3 trucks to our charity infrastructure (to support business customers while reaching 5000 client families supported each year).” – Dan, Furniture Bank

“Social enterprise success looks like the fulfillment of our social mandate while achieving financial sustainability. Staff are invested in the business mandate, provided with meaningful roles, and share in its success.” – Shaugn, CIRES and Washington Community Market

“Since Jonnon’s goal is to provide meaningful work for people facing barriers to employment, success for us would be when there is enough work so that our team members can rely on a steady source of income. One day, we hope to grow Jonnon to a point where we can increase our team’s size and to be able to hire full-time employee(s) to manage day-to-day operations.” – Azadeh, Jonnon

“Success for Aangen looks like continued growth in food security, employment creation and sustainability (eventually leading to a FULLY circular economy).” – Gurbeen, Aangen

“Success for us looks like steady growth with increased capacity to hire and train more youth!” – Meagan, Thirteen: A Social Enterprise

Final words

You can see from the responses that this core dedication to social value outcomes and community wellbeing is what makes social enterprise such a powerful business model for good.

We’ll let Nadine from The Binners’ Project have the final words:

“Our success is rooted in the health and resilience of our community – mental, physical, social, environmental and financial.”

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