One third of new startups globally now have social impact baked directly into their mission, not as an afterthought. Entrepreneurs are becoming more social. The social sector is becoming more entrepreneurial. The anchors that resist change are being pulled up and there is growing momentum behind a movement of social entrepreneurship and social innovation. We are reshaping the economic model.
As those social entrepreneurs look to chronic challenges like climate change, mental health, affordable housing, homelessness, income inequality, and more, there is a major opportunity to accelerate existing solutions and the people behind them.
A social enterprise is an organization, for-profit, non-profit, or hybrid, that blends “the social and the entrepreneurial by using business models / markets to solve” community, social, and environmental challenges. Social innovation focuses on similar challenges but doesn’t necessarily use entrepreneurship to solve the problem; it uses other mechanisms like policy change or culture change.
You’re invited to be part of the movement. It’s a movement where you are welcome if you are willing.
Let’s talk about some real examples of people and organizations who are doing it.
Current Taxi – A taxi company that only drives Teslas. They are proving to the taxi industry that you can build companies that are radically better for our environment and customers love them. 180 tonnes of carbon eliminated and growing!
Healthy Essentials Clinic – A multi-disciplinary clinic for mental health. It’s expanding right now because of patient demand. The mild, moderate, and acute programs are seeing 90-100% of patients return to work/school and almost 100% reduction in hospital visits.
Elevation Outdoors – Runs outdoor mountain sports programs for youth. Anyone who can pay, pays. Those who can’t get a scholarship or partial scholarship. Kids gain life skills, confidence, employment skills, and positive role models.
Habitat for Humanity – Uses their home renovation stores (Restore) to fund affordable home ownership for families. Their stores are growing rapidly which means more affordable homes.
Big Brothers Big Sisters – Sells used clothes and household items to Value Village. This also is the primary revenue that funds social and emotional learning program for thousands of children each year in the Okanagan Valley / Interior BC.
One Big Table – A cooperatively owned grocery store which stocks BC products. This startup went from 0 to 1,000+ members in two years, broke even, and bought tens of thousands of dollars of local produce / products. This is helping to shift our food system.
There are hundreds of social entrepreneurs in our communities often operating without much public knowledge. Let’s celebrate them. And buy from them. It’s an easy choice.
To be clear, social entrepreneurship is not the silver bullet and doesn’t solve everything. But it’s a movement where you are categorically welcome.
Some people who are missing from the party so far are what we like to call the feeders. The social entrepreneurs we mention above are and should be the leaders; the feeders enable from behind the scenes. Curious about the role of leaders and feeders? Take a look at our blog on the Boulder Thesis for Social Entrepreneurs.
Here are some of the feeders:
Valley First – A member owned cooperative credit union. Valley First funds, invests, and reinvests in hundreds of community initiatives. They show up as a backbone and supporter enabling others.
KPMG – A big five accounting firm. KPMG has put social enterprise into their global priorities to support in local communities. They have initiatives around economic empowerment, Aboriginal youth, WE day, staff volunteering / expertise and more. A strong but quiet enabler of social entrepreneurs.
Community Futures – Provides loans and training to local entrepreneurs; often before a bank will get involved. They have, for decades, provided capital to entrepreneurs who are creating community impact. They rarely take the spotlight and see their role as powering the people in the spotlight.
Central Okanagan Foundation – Philanthropists gift money to foundations to enable them to invest in community projects. A very quiet supporter, COF puts dollars into the hands of social entrepreneurs and social innovators to led them lead.
BDO – A top Canadian accounting and advisory firm, BDO has for years supported local initiatives. They partner with others to provide education workshops about leadership, governance, incorporation, social enterprise fundamentals, and more. They position to support not to lead.
Lawson Lundell – A Western and Northern Canadian law firm, they dig in to support communities. They are building unique knowledge of social enterprise / impact investment models. They are quick to support community initiatives and happily open their networks to help. Subtle supporters aimed at enabling excellent leaders.
Accelerate Okanagan – A tech accelerator and community organization. As tech transforms sectors and community, AO helps to to enable the entrepreneurs and community builders who are taking the lead.
United Way – A funder. UW has been at the forefront of shifting their funding priorities to enable social enterprise development; their partners are hungry for the entrepreneurial skills training. UW is also taking on a role to collaborate with other funders and philanthropists to support this shift.
Municipal Gov’ts – Municipalities are increasingly in the spotlight trying to deal with social issues. The City of Kamloops enables social enterprise through funding, leadership training, policy, space, and procurement. A little bit of reading will uncover many examples of municipalities enabling social enterprise development.
Not a social entrepreneur? You are likely a feeder. Or perhaps a social innovator or intrepreneur. You might be initiating social procurement at your company, starting a new community initiative inside your organization, focusing on enabling leaders who don’t get chances to lead, shifting culture, working to change governance or policy, or more. These initiatives are equally important to the movement. Including and enabling these people to join the party is critical.
To those reading this list from communities outside of the Okanagan. This party is happening in every community. Seek out your leaders and feeders and join them.
Our priorities are changing. Entrepreneurs are becoming more social. The social sector is becoming more entrepreneurial. Investors and funders are prioritising social entrepreneurship. Communities are coming together to change the status quo. Together we are reshaping the economic model to become more inclusive, fair, equitable, and sustainable. By doing that, we can implement long term solutions to our toughest community, social, and environmental challenges.
If you are in the Okanagan and interior BC, come out on Thursday to ChangeUP. There are a few tickets left. It’s a celebration of social entrepreneurship and all are welcome. We will hear six (surprise, it’s going to be seven!) social enterprises present. We will be joined by Dana Bass and Joel Solomon for their first shared keynote. Dana ran Hollyhock for nearly 20 years. Joel runs Canada’s largest impact investment fund (Renewal Funds) at $98M.