Alberta’s growing cities, rural communities share a common bond: an entrepreneurial mindset for social good
[Calgary, Canada] – Research released today by Mount Royal University, Simon Fraser University and Trico Charitable Foundation shows that communities across the province, in urban and rural environments, are active in and benefit from social enterprise. The Alberta-wide research marks the third installment of a survey seeking to better understand the profile and activities of social enterprises in Alberta. The timing of the research is complemented by the recent Alberta Speech from the Throne which articulates a need for both urban and rural community issues to be at the forefront of a new government mandate. The survey research shows a strong role for social enterprise across the province by enabling employment, generating volunteerism, and creating social capital for the development of healthy, resilient communities.
Social enterprises are business ventures owned or operated by a non-profit organization selling goods or providing services into the market for the purpose of creating a blended return on investment, both financial and social/environmental/cultural. The survey, based on over one hundred social enterprises across the province, examines how social enterprises in Alberta engage in their communities. In addition to the survey responses, Trico Foundation has helped advance the 2014 Alberta Social Enterprise Survey through the inclusion of interviews with key intermediaries around the province and questions to advance the field. The results uncover that many social enterprises are community-based, community-driven, and have strong social and cultural missions.
- Social enterprises in Alberta revealed that they are most likely to operate at the scale of a neighbourhood or local community (60%), at a city or town scale (69%), and/or a regional district scale (51%).
- Survey results suggest an individual may have multiple, intersecting connections within a social enterprise. These connections may be as a customer, but extend to engagement as a member, a recipient of training or services; as an employee and/or as a volunteer.
- Results revealed that social enterprises exist for a number of different purposes with the most commonly cited responses as follows:
- 79% of social enterprises operate to achieve a social mission.
- 64% of social enterprises operate to achieve a cultural mission.
- Responding social enterprises provide paid employment to at least 3,590 workers in the province, which includes full-time, part-time, seasonal and contract workers. In 2013, employees in the responding social enterprises earned at least $28 million in wages and salaries.
- Total revenue in 2013 for the respondents who reported financial data was at least $57 million. This includes the sale of goods and services of $32 million, accounting for 56% of total revenue reported.
Well-known organizations across the province include Vecova, Centre for Newcomer’s EthniCity Catering, Meticulon, Habitat Enterprises, The Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton, Sage Savories, and Chrysalis’s Woods and Plastics. All are businesses that support their communities, including employment, training and volunteerism, while seeking market opportunities for their products and services in support their social mission. “Social enterprise plays an important role in Alberta. Not only does the revenue generated contribute to economic performance, social enterprise also engages and provides services to Albertans within the communities in which they reside,” shared Peter Elson, Senior Research Associate, Institute for Community Prosperity, Mount Royal University.
Social enterprise increasingly builds capacity – not simply capacity within an organization or its surrounding community, but also for some of Alberta’s most vulnerable citizens. For some observers, this may be perceived as an unintended consequence, however for other stakeholders, the fact that social enterprise may be used as a tool to train, to empower as well as build social capital, may indeed be one of its greatest assets and its potential promise going forward. Tim Carson, CEO Alberta Association of Agricultural Societies contributes, “the role of the agricultural society has shifted and continues to evolve as we look for more innovative ways in which to engage and contribute to our local communities. There are huge opportunities to volunteer, which we believe is essential to building social capital in rural areas.”
Entrepreneur Doug Anderson, President, PeavyMart observes, “The real value of social enterprise in my mind is frankly not so much about the money; actually in a smaller community I think it is more about the deep connections that are built with the people who support your enterprise and who work in your enterprise. That is its power.” Wayne Chiu, CEO, The Trico Group and Chairman, Trico Charitable Foundation agrees that “Alberta’s strength is the resilience of its communities and embodied in those communities is a deep sense of entrepreneurship. Social enterprise infuses the entrepreneurial mindset into our pursuits for social good.”
The Social Enterprise Sector Survey is a nationwide initiative to better understanding the social enterprise movement within Canada’s social economy. The methodology has received acknowledgment from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED) in their recent Social Impact Investing: Building the Evidence Base for both developing specific ties to local organizations, enhancing the value of the data, while providing a broad evidence base for understanding the characteristics of social enterprise. Similar surveys have been conducted in British Columbia, Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and the Canadian Territories. The full report is available at www.tricofoundation.ca. All Provincial reports can be found at www.sess.ca.
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About Trico Charitable Foundation
Established in 2008, the Trico Charitable Foundation seeks to promote innovation and capacity in social entrepreneurship in the Canadian context. It does this through a support program called Enterprising Non‐Profits Alberta, helping develop Enterprising Non-Profits Canada, the biennial Social EnterPrize Awards, grants and partnerships. In 2013, Trico brought the Social Enterprise World Forum to Canada, and continues to learn from the global field with the addition of its UK office. Additional research from Trico Foundation can be found at www.tricofoundation.ca/research/.