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Tools & Coaching

Alberta Social Entrepreneurship Support System: A.S.E.S.S.
Helping Social Enterprises Move Their Ideas Forward


                                 “The problem is not the problem; the problem is how we think about the problem” 

                                          (Change: Principles of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution, Watzlawick, P., Weakland, J.H., Fisch, R. , 1974)

Our Mission is to build capacity in social entrepreneurship. To do this, we use the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)’s definition of capacity building (CRA sets rules for Foundations like the Trico Charitable Foundation): working with an organization “… to develop the skills, tools, and resources necessary to address their own problems.”

As a result, A.S.E.S.S. seeks to train the mind to solve problems rather than simply offering solutions. This is where true capacity building lives as it is about developing skills and strategies that can be called upon when challenges arise throughout a social enterprise journey. This is important because more and more, Trico Foundation is finding that traditional approaches to training entrepreneurs struggle to meet people where they are at and build skills that can be called upon as they move their idea forward out in the real world.

We also feel that social entrepreneurs will be better off in the long run if they are trained to solve their own problems. There are lots of programs and people that will tell you what to do, but they don’t really train you to solve these challenges for yourself. We want to fill that gap. It’s like the famous saying “Give a person a fish, they eat for a day. Teach them to fish and they eat for a lifetime.” So a key question you have to ask yourself is do you want someone to tell you how to solve a problem or do you want to learn how to solve problems? If it is the latter, you may be perfect for A.S.E.S.S.!

In fact, we think a failure to teach problem solving – plus a need to rethink social enterprise – is what’s really stopping many social entrepreneurs from reaching their full potential. We believe this so strongly another big part of your going through our program will be:

  • helping us learn how we can get better at training the minds of social entrepreneurs to solve problems, and
  • empowering us to share those insights with the rest of the world so we can grow the number of problem solvers and close more gaps in society. If that excites you; again, you may be perfect for A.S.E.S.S.!

By training your mind to problem-solve, A.S.E.S.S. also lays the ground work for other supports in the social entrepreneurship ecosystem. It will help you make the most of the other supports you access and will help you decide what supports make the most sense for your needs.

A.S.E.S.S.  builds capacity through:

  • Tools (including associated videos): On your journey to starting up and/or scaling your social enterprise there will be a number of problems and opportunities that you will need to navigate. Within A.S.E.S.S. we have done our best to condense the best expertise we could find to help you move your idea forward;
  • Coaching: Organizations that have watched the videos and filled out the tools are able to apply to take part in our Coaching process. This process has been designed to work one-on-one with social entrepreneurs to build your capacity (train your mind) to use the A.S.E.S.S. tools. We require the completion of the A.S.E.S.S. videos and tools as a shared foundation is key to the sessions. We are only able to intake a limited number of organizations per year into the coaching process and further details on how we coach and the application process can be found in the below ‘Coaching’ section;
  • Funding: If your organization is an Alberta based charity that feels that don’t need tools or coaching but only needs funding to help you get to the next level of your venture, check out the A.S.E.S.S. Funding page for details.

On this page:

  • Your Journey: Tools & Videos (including links to the available resources and our Cheat Sheet)
  • Coaching (including the application process and FAQs)

Your Journey: Tools & Videos

If the above seems like something that will help you move your social enterprise idea forward, as a first step we encourage you to watch the below video that will lay out the goals of A.S.E.S.S. and flag for you some key things to keep in mind as you make your way through the associated tools (please note a transcript of this video is available here):

Now that you have an high-level overview of A.S.E.S.S., this roadmap identifies a number of key issues we have seen social entrepreneurs at various stages in their journey’s face time and time again. Below you will find links that will take you to the corresponding videos/ tools we have available:

You: Key Mindsets & Techniques

Your Idea: Rethinking Social Entrepreneurship

Your Actions: Zoom Out/ Zoom In, Spare your Ingenuity, Key Steps & Costs, and Testing

Please note that, our understanding of these challenges grows everyday as we work with more social entrepreneurs, as such the above resources are our attempt to share these learnings beyond the groups we work with one-on-one and we will do our best to keep them as up to date as possible.

Based on the above, we have developed a fill-able ‘Cheat Sheet’ that can help you work through a problem you are facing/ challenge that you are stuck on. This resource will help guide you through the A.S.E.S.S. tools based on the type of challenge you are experiencing and has been designed so you can work through the challenge you are facing yourself or be used as part of our below mentioned coaching sessions.

Please keep in mind that:

  • These tools have been developed for social entrepreneurs who want help figuring out their key issues (what they are and/or what to do about them) and are open to everyone. However, they have primarily been developed for social entrepreneurs that have settled on a social enterprise idea that they wish to explore further (i.e. it’s post-ideation). If you have a specific social enterprise idea these tools should be able to help you, whether you are at the early idea/concept stage, ready to launch, looking to grow or looking to scale (and everything in-between);
  • The Trico Foundation strongly believes social enterprises are most effective when they own their own journey – driving their experience in selecting what, if any, resources they choose to utilize. We have provided all the videos and tools so they are available and you can access them at your own pace. The A.S.E.S.S. videos and tools are in a logical sequence, but organizations are also able to pick and choose which address the challenges they are currently facing. That said when it comes to taking part in coaching, we require participants to have watched all the videos and filled out the tools as our process heavily draws from these materials;
  • On “profits”: Given the Canada Revenue Agency and some laws, the idea of profits can be tricky for Charitable organizations and even trickier for not-for-profits without Charitable status. While TCF will occasionally use the word “profit” in our materials that is really short-hand for “return (revenue minus expenses)”. To add more clarity, from now on we will try to use the word “return” instead of “profit” when we speak and will use  “return (revenue minus expenses)” in all legal agreements we have with you. You are encouraged to consult with a lawyer in determining when and how you can use the word “profit”. When we do hear you say the word “profit” we will assume you mean “return (revenue minus expenses)” unless you tell us you mean “profit” as defined by Revenue Canada;

  • We occasionally offer workshops on the above issues and corresponding worksheets via partner organizations and/or in small groups to those taking part in our below coaching process. If you are interested in either hosting or attending one of our workshops, please reach out via


By working with a targeted number of organizations one-on-one (who have watched the above videos and filled out the tools), our coaching seeks to train the mind to solve problems rather than simply offering solutions.

Below you will find further details on our coaching process. As mentioned above, organizations are required to have completed the above tools and videos as the coaching is structured around these materials. We are only able to work with a limited number of organizations and they will be selected based on the alignment of a) their needs and our tools and b) the Trico Foundation’s areas of focus. To apply to take part in our coaching process, Click Here to to be taken to an idea submission.

Given the high volume of inquiries we get, we cannot respond to every submission and we also ask that you please refrain from contacting the Trico Foundation Team directly. Should the need arise to contact us, please email . If we see a potential match, you will hear from us within 10 business days and the next step is typically a conversation.

Telling you what to do is outside of our capacity building mandate and does not align with CRA’s definition of capacity building (or “training of the mind” as it is sometimes called) which as a Private Foundation we must comply with. But more than that, we strongly believe that telling you what to do falls into issues of funder/ fundee power dynamics and that is something we are dedicated to overcoming. See the above section ‘Why A.S.E.S.S.’ to better understand our reasoning on why we feel that you will be better off in the long run if you are trained to solve your own problems.

We are experts about A.S.E.S.S. but A.S.E.S.S. itself is an iterative learning process – it’s not perfect! That in and of itself means we shouldn’t be telling you what to do. But more than that, to successfully solve any problem you need two types of expertise: process expertise and subject matter expertise. We are not experts on your particular situation (the subject of you) or the many subjects you will be dealing with, from the specific sector you are in to specialized areas like marketing, supply chain management and human resources (to name a few). That’s why the A.S.E.S.S. training will encourage you to always seek that kind of expertise. Indeed, it is a key part of a process that tries to empower you to do your best in making your own decision for what you think is best for you.

We can provide coaching on how you use the A.S.E.S.S. tools to grapple with a legal issue. That said, legal advice falls outside of our coaching scope. To be very clear: in no way are we seeking to give you or should you in anyway take what happens in coaching as legal advice. Not only is advice outside of our mandate, we are not lawyers and we are not the best-suited people to provide advice on this. We do encourage organizations to discuss their specific needs with a lawyer who has experience with organizations exploring social entrepreneurship. In addition to coaching, we can provide a few resources that may help you in your research and to prepare for your legal discussions. Please keep in mind, even these resources are just meant to provide some basic information and are to be used in conjunction with consulting a lawyer.

First, the above videos and tools train you on our A.S.E.S.S. approach to solving problems and then coaching sessions will be available to delve into an identified issue you would like to work through. A coaching session will typically have:


  1. You layout the issue identified and your goals. Some areas you may touch on include:
    • How are you struggling with this issue?
    • How does this issue fit into your overall goals/ vision?
    • What avenues and routes have been tried?
    • What resources do you have to draw on?
  2. How have you have overcome past issues:
    • What has worked in the past?
    • Could these problem-solving tools be used in this instance?
    • What other tools are available to you?
  3. You will apply A.S.E.S.S. concepts to solve your problem;
    • if we notice you are applying any of the A.S.E.S.S. concepts differently than we do, we will point it out, explain to you how we understand that A.S.E.S.S. concept, and you will decide how to use that information to solve your problem. 
  4. Meeting wrap up- including confirming next steps and evaluating the usefulness of the session