Everything You Need to Know About Social Enterprises

Oxford County is seeing more and more social enterprises pop up within the region. At Rural Oxford Economic Development Corporation (ROEDC), we continue to provide resources and support to social enterprises so that they can continue to better the community.

If you are unfamiliar, you may be wondering “What does the term social enterprise mean? Furthermore, what do I need to know if my business falls under the ‘social enterprise’ category?” That’s why we have comprised some information to help you better understand social enterprises.

What is a Social Enterprise?

A social enterprise describes a business or organization whose business model is driven by the primary objective of bettering society and the environment. This goes beyond the non-profit sector. A social enterprise can be commercial or for-profit while also still seeking to maximize its social benefits.

Social enterprises are part of the larger social economy. The social economy refers to one of three overlapping spheres of the Canadian economy, the others being the private sector and the public sector. The social economy includes social enterprises as well as cooperatives, unions, civil society organizations, credit unions, and non-profit organizations. Rural Oxford EDC would be considered a part of the social economy.

The History of Social Enterprises

The term social enterprise is relatively new, having grown in popularity as the social economy has grown. Social enterprises began emerging two decades ago as government funding and philanthropic contributions became decreasingly reliable as sources of revenue for the non-profit sector. Non-profits were forced to look towards earned income as their main source of revenue.

In Ontario, this shift coincided with the economic crisis of the 1990s as governments made huge spending cuts. Combined with the rising cost of living, this put increasing pressure on the social economy. Provincial governments began encouraging social organizations to take on more responsibilities and services.

Former Prime Minister Paul Martin, who was perhaps the biggest political proponent for social enterprise in Canadian history, insisted that the future of social innovation would be through the private sector rather than government funding. Today, that seems to be increasingly true.

Resources and Support for Social Enterprises

If you fall under the category of social enterprises, there are a ton of resources to help you out. Rural Oxford EDC is, of course, here to help you better the Oxford community and beyond. We offer boundless access to resources, connections, and support programs so that you have everything you need to best support the community.

You can also look towards other community supports for information, resources, advice, mentorship, training, networking, and financial assistance. In Oxford County, you can look towards Community Futures Oxford, Community Employment Services Oxford, and the Small Business Centre. You can also check out SEOntario, Verge Capital and the Rural Social Enterprise Constellation.

Oxford County has also committed to the Future Oxford Community Sustainability Plan, which works towards building a sustainable community that balances community, environmental and economic interests to improve the future quality of life in Oxford County.

In Ontario, the government offers some support through the Ontario Trillium Foundation, which provides grants that support social enterprise. In 2012, the government also created an Office for Social Enterprise within the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment to assist in building capacity and understanding of social enterprise.