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Potluck Cafe Society: Social EnterPrize Case Study


“Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me a truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever”

                                                                                                                                                     Native American Proverb

Recipient of the Social EnterPrize in 2011, the Potluck Café Society is featured in the latest edition of our case study series, our effort to more effectively tell the stories of amazing Canadian social enterprises.

Excerpt from the Trico Charitable Foundation’s Introduction to the case studies:

Established in 2008, the Trico Charitable Foundation seeks to close gaps in society by provoking innovation and building capacity in social entrepreneurship[1].


Trico’s biennial Social EnterPrize has celebrated and advanced leadership and excellence in social entrepreneurship in Canada since 2011. While the benefits to the recipients of prize money and profile are substantial, they pale in comparison to the power of the recipients’ stories, when told well, to enlighten, inspire, and galvanize a world desperately in need of solutions to its social problems.

The subjects and the authors of all of the studies are as follows[2] :

Social Enterprise Post-Secondary Institution

Target Release Date

The Cleaning Solution Sauder Centre for Social Innovation & Impact Investing, Sauder School of Business, The University of British Columbia November 01, 2017
Women in Need Society (WINS) Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary; Institute for Community Prosperity, Bissett School of Business, Mount Royal University; and Professional and Continuing Studies, Chiu School of Business, Bow Valley College September 13, 2017
Groupe Convex Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto July 12, 2017
Mission Possible Okanagan School of Business, Okanagan College May 10, 2017
Potluck Café Society RADIUS (Radical Ideas, Useful to Society), Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University March 08, 2017
JUMP Math QSB Centre for Social Impact, Queen’s School of Business May 20, 2015
EMBERS Staffing Solutions Sauder Centre for Social Innovation & Impact Investing, Sauder School of Business, The University of British Columbia May 06, 2015
TurnAround Couriers Diversity Institute, Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University April 22, 2015
YWCA Metro Vancouver Hotel/Residence Okanagan School of Business, Okanagan College April 08, 2015


While all of the case studies reveal interesting patterns (more on this to follow), each also has its unique aspects. The Potluck Cafe Society case study demonstrates a social enterprise committed to extensive and ongoing evolution – from pivots in its models, to changes in leadership, to impact that ranges from serving sandwiches to systemic food security.  An instant classic, the Potluck case study features prominently in our recent report “Building on Getting Beyond Better” (BonGBB).

The Potluck Cafe Society case study contains plenty of insights for any social entrepreneur, including:

  • Leadership Through Change
  •  A Hybrid Entity
  •  Potluck’s Approach to Supportive Employment
  • Expressions of Social Innovation- Resource flows, Relationships, Routines, & Beliefs
  • Food & Innovation
  • Employment & Innovation
  •  Mechanisms of Innovation
  • Structures for Innovation
  • Potluck’s Entrepreneurial Spirit
  • Leadership in the Wider Community

A special thanks to The Potluck Cafe Society and our authors, Shawn Smith and Teresa Edge, RADIUS, Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University.

Click here to read the case study.














[1] Social enterprises are organizations, for-profit or not-for-profit, that blend the social and the entrepreneurial by using business models/markets to solve social problems. Trico sees “social entrepreneur” as the person, “social enterprise” as the organization, and “social entrepreneurship” as the activity.

[2] The previously released case studies can be found at:

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