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Learning About Social Enterprise

When I joined the Trico Charitable Foundation three weeks ago, I thought that I had limited knowledge of social enterprise. However, today I am realizing that working for a non-profit organization really is a hands on experience in social enterprise.

Previous to my position with the Trico Foundation, I had worked at a non-profit art gallery and museum. This non-profit organization sold artwork on behalf of artists, while retaining a commission to be re-invested in the organization. The art gallery and museum has a small gift shop that features Alberta artists and artisans, retailing fine craft, local authors and art. The museum offers historic tours by donation, while the gallery holds regular workshops for artists and art enthusiasts. The organization also has a popular elementary school art education program and successful summer camp.

After attending the Enterprising Non- Profits (enp-ab) workshop “Building Your Social Enterprise”, I realized that I had been working in a budding social enterprise. The organization I had worked for provided multiple opportunities for Alberta artists and craftspeople to retail their artwork, while preserving and promoting the history of the founders, the organization and the community. As well as providing arts education to artists, the public and children. Most importantly, their numerous programs furthered their mission and vision by making arts and culture more accessible to Alberta’s public.

Since starting at the Trico Charitable Foundation, I have realized that social enterprises help to create healthy communities. They do this while obtaining a blended return on their investment, meaning a combination of social and financial returns. The Business Model and Non-Profit Continuum diagrams helped me to better understand the premise behind social enterprise and visualize where my previous organization would sit on the spectrum. I think that it is interesting to note that this organization did not just fit into one of the categories but rather, was a blend of two or three.

I am excited to continue learning about social enterprise and sense that a lot of non-profits are already on their way to becoming social enterprises. The Trico Charitable Foundation is the Alberta chapter of enterprising non-profits and is available to provide advice, training and access to grants.

If you are working in a non-profit, know of an organization that is interested in social enterprise or you are interested in learning more on the subject I would suggest enrolling in one of the Trico Charitable Foundation and enp-AB’s “Building your Social Enterprise” workshops. More information is available on the Trico Charitable Foundation website.

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