During recent municipal elections, Winnipeg’s Chamber of Commerce boldly called for the city to become the Social Enterprise Capital of Canada. And why not? Manitoba is already home to hundreds of social enterprises spread throughout the province, but with a deliberate development strategy, this could grow significantly.
What is a Social Enterprise?
Social enterprises are non-profits that use a business model to generate revenue in order to achieve social, environmental, and cultural outcomes.
Some focus on generating revenue for a parent non-profit, like Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, or the Mennonite Central Committee’s MCC Thrift Shops. Profits from sales are all reinvested toward achieving the social mission of the parent organization.
Some social enterprises exist to achieve environmental impact, like FortWhyte Alive. Others pursue a mission of cultural value like the Manitoba Theatre for Young People and the West End Cultural Centre. Others, like Farmers’ Markets, provide a service for the community. Again, they are using a business model to achieve social and environmental outcomes, and every dollar of revenue generated is reinvested toward that mission.
A growing number of social enterprises focus on creating jobs for people who face barriers to employment. There are many in our communities, including BUILD, Manitoba Green Retrofit, Inner City Renovations, Diversity Foods, Mother Earth Recycling, ImagineAbility, L’Arche Tova Cafe, and Aki Energy.
Planning for Social and Economic Impact
Social enterprises create jobs for hundreds of people, but there are hundreds more on waiting lists, people who really want that chance to build their skills, earn wages, and build a career. This is why the Canadian CED Network and the Province of Manitoba worked together to create the Manitoba Social Enterprise Strategy—a set of policy and program recommendations that if implemented would support the growth of social enterprises and result in reduced poverty, reduced crime, labour market growth, and decreased costs associated with health care, justice, and social services.
As Minister Kevin Chief stated, “Social enterprises are giving people the chance to get their first job, and sometimes even be the first person in their family to get a job. A first job is often the first step out of poverty and the first step in building healthier homes and communities.”
Sarah Leeson-Klym, the Manitoba Regional Director of the Canadian CED Network, noted that, “one of the highlights of this strategy was the ability for our network and members to work collaboratively with the government to create this strategy together, and now work together to make it happen.”
The Pillars of Success
The Manitoba Social Enterprise Strategy focuses on six key pillars:
- Enhancing Enterprise Skills
- Ensuring Access to Capital and Investment
- Expanding Market Opportunities
- Promoting and Demonstrating the Value of Social Enterprise
- Creating a Supportive Regulatory Environment
- Building Networks and Community Engagement
Assiniboine Credit Union was an active member of the Steering Committee that oversaw the creation of the strategy, and will be involved in the implementation. We are grateful for the vision and leadership provided by the Canadian CED Network and the Province of Manitoba in creating this strategy. We know that the opportunity to get a job will make a significant impact in the lives of many people, and supporting the growth of social enterprises in Manitoba will make this possible.