Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Social Enterprise Exchange (SEE) – 1st session was a success!!

The Social Enterprise Exchange is an agent for change. A place where individuals, enterprises, organizations and commercial business can come together to make social enterprise happen in London. 
What an amazing morning. Thirty people met today for the first time at My Sister’s Place in London. Lynn Blumas, MicroEnterprise Facilitator hosted our time together and shared about their homemade jewellery business that is growing. Many people who are interested in social change in London arrived for coffee and homemade muffins. We talked about how social enterprise is defined, what needs to change in our community and what we think this group could be about. Here is what we came up with:

What is social enterprise?
  • Nonprofit’s creating for-profit business to support nonprofit programs
  • Business model close to the efforts you’re trying to support
  • A philosophy that coincides with the vision/mission of the organization.
  • A blended return on investment (social good vs. revenue)
  • A reasonable expectation of financial sustainability
  • A community effort
  • Hard work
  • Risky
What needs to be done in London. What are the gaps/barriers:
  • Identify best practices collaboratively using this network to help each other
  • Educate the public about social enterprise that it is viable and good
  • Remove the stigma that a nonprofit is the poor customer to the business sector
  • Shift the mindset of nonprofit leaders to stop ‘hanging around’ waiting for funding
  • You might fail – how is that supported?
  • What resources are available, is this something that can be centralized?
  • Start up costs – funding/capital/investors
  • The community image needs to change to opportunities aren’t lost
  • Is promoting social purpose a strength  or weakness in the view of the community? How would this help/hurt the viability of the social enterprise
  • It takes a long time to make profit. How is this supported in the community?
  • Starting a business is a lot of work, what supports are there?
  • Is there possible private sector funding?
  • Can people from other sectors be involved in SEE to help us group these ideas?
  • How do we support the increased costs of managing a social enterprise (ie: staff with higher needs etc.).
  • How do we support the cost of ED’s or senior leaders doing front line tasks to get the business running?
  • How do we change the OW and ODSP systems to ensure employability of clients who have potential?
The purpose of the SEE (Social EnterpriseExchange):
  • A safe place to discuss ideas
  • Sharing knowledge
  • Not competition but collaboration
  • Foster a culture of innovation
  • Taking risks
  • Ensuring that there is conversation even when it’s hard (challenge ourselves)
  • A place to be realistic, ever-changing and dynamic
  • Figure out how we define success (Social ROI measurables)
  • Gather information from experts living social enterprise
  • We will be wheelchair and bus accessible for all members
  • Open to rural ideas but unable to travel, can rural leaders come into London to participate?
  • A comfortable place for friendly debates and healthy conflict
  • Shift the paradigm – blend the pillars of business, nonprofit and government (cross sectoral)
  • Teaching boards of directors about our ideas
  • Include all demographics of the London community
  • Have a tension between collaboration and competition
  • Sharing and learning from failures – create opportunities from mistakes
We will be having more SEE sessions starting monthly and the group voted to continue through the summer. Please contact me if you'd like more information.

United Way of London & Middlesex, The RichardIvey School of Business and Pillar Nonprofit Network have partnered to evaluate Social Enterprise as a tool to create social change. This has been made possible by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
For more information contact Chris Moss, Social Enterprise Program Manager