Research and Impact

Creating ripples of knowledge.

Supported Research

Investing in Impact_0For a number of years, Ashoka Social Financial Services (SFS) has focused on accelerating social change. By supporting social entrepreneurs and by collaborating with social investors to create new investment vehicles and funds we sought to address critical obstacles and foster innovation.

In 2013, Trico Foundation provided funding to Ashoka Social Financial Services to review the innovations and investment potential of the Social Investment Entrepreneurs in Ashoka’s Global Fellowship Program.  The following report communicates SFS’s initial understanding of how people are addressing social challenges at scale by using specific design principles to animate market forces, and the opportunities and implications for social finance.  Click here to read full report >>

re:learn SE In 2013, Trico Foundation and Futurpreneur with support from Social Asset Measurement embarked on a review of existing impact measurement methodologies, tools and software systems that are currently in use.

This presented an opportunity for the Trico Charitable Foundation to determine the best approach for developing an impact measurement system for its stakeholders. Social Asset Measurements conducted a scan of the impact measurement landscape to review methodologies, tools and software systems that have received widespread adoption.

More information on the methodology can be found here, along with the full spreadsheet comparing existing impact measurement tools.

2014 Social Enterprise Sector Survey – Alberta

Dr. Peter R. Elson, Dr. Peter Hall, Dr. Catherine ML Pearl, Dr. Pricilla Wamucii, and Trico Charitable Foundation 2015
Mount Royal University, Simon Fraser University and Trico Charitable Foundation

This Alberta survey is part of a national study of social enterprises being conducted by Simon Fraser and Mount Royal Universities in partnership with the Trico Charitable Foundation and the Alberta Association of Agricultural Societies.

During the Spring 2014, social enterprises in Alberta participated in a survey to discuss the unique attributes of their organizations. Supplementary questions were included by Trico Foundation, inspired by questions included in Inspiring Innovation: The Size, Scope and Socioeconomic Impact of Non-Profit Social Enterprise in Ontario, around capacity needs for non-profit social enterprises. In addition, this report presents a series of findings from key thought leaders across the province who were invited to participate in the qualitative interviews designed to explore in depth, the social enterprise milieu, emerging trends as well as perceived opportunities and challenges. Finally, the report highlights areas within the data that provoked new questions concerning the Alberta social enterprise landscape and future research possibilities.

Please click here for the complete 2014 report.

You can view the 2010 and 2012 reports at the Social Enterprise Sector Survey website.

Sample Findings & Conclusions

• Social enterprises engage people in multiple ways. The 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.

• 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. As well it is noteworthy that full-time, part-time and seasonal workers are estimated to represent 2,330 full-time equivalent employees.

• Total revenue in 2013 for the 101 survey respondents was at least $57 million. This includes the sale of goods and services of $32 million, accounting for 56% of total revenue reported.

Social enterprises make a significant contribution to the province’s economy through innovative approaches that engage community, build local economies and enhance social capital. They also make money as they address their organization’s purpose; whether economic, cultural, environmental or social. Notably, it is the latter aspect that has been most insightful in that, the promise of social enterprise for many organizations may in fact focus on building capacity – not just capacity within an organization, but building capacity among some of Alberta’s most vulnerable citizens.

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.

Dr. Peter R. Elson, Dr. Peter Hall, Dr. Catherine ML Pearl, Dr. Pricilla Wamucii, and Trico Charitable Foundation 2015

Mount Royal University, Simon Fraser University and Trico Charitable Foundation

Research Questions

This research is to better understand the social enterprise sector, primarily nonprofits, co-operatives, and other organizations that:

  • earn some, or all, of their revenues from the sale of goods and services; and
  • invest the majority of their surpluses/profits into social, cultural or environmental goals

A mixed method research design was used for this report and included an online survey for social enterprise practitioners and qualitative interviews with key informants within the Alberta social enterprise landscape. The information gathered through this survey will help guide the government, community, agricultural societies and social enterprises to develop new resources, programs and policies to help this important sector of our Alberta economy to grow.

The new regulatory regime for social enterprises in Canada:

Its potential impacts on the growth and sustainability of nonprofit, charity, and other social enterprise

Dr. Pauline O’Conner, 2014
Centre for Voluntary Sector Studies
Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University

This research was made possible with funding from the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada, through support of its donors, and the TRICO Charitable Foundation

It is available in both its full form as well as an executive summary.

Sample Findings & Conclusions

The  report’s  first  finding (Section  2),  not  surprisingly,  is  that  existing forms  by  and  large  are  not  a  great  fit for  social  enterprises,  particularly  in  financial  terms.

The  second  problem  is,  as  in  Canada,  the  growing  financial  pressure  on  the  U.K.  not-for-­profit  sector (the ‘Third  Sector’,  which  includes charities)  to  raise  more  income  through  ‘trade’,  and the  stated  need  for  social  enterprise  to access  new  forms  of  financing,  including  equity

The  differences  between  the  two  countries’  legal  regimes mean  that  the  U.K.  CIC  solves  one  problem  that  Canada  does  not  have,  since  it  already  has  the  non-profit  corporate  form.  Non-­profit  corporations  are  expressly  designed  to  serve  social  purposes.  (Non-­profits  are  not  completely  asset-­locked  in  some  provinces,  where  assets  can  pass  into  private  hands  at  the  non-­profit’s  dissolution).

For  U.K.Third  Sector  organizations,  the  CIC  form  now  allows  them  to  add  a  clear  social  purpose  ‘brand’  or  credential  to  their  corporate  incorporation,  most  commonly  the  company  limited  by  guarantee.

The  U.K.  experience  does  not  bode  well  for  Canadian C3s  and  CICs  on  its  face,  although  much  depends  on  the  state  of  social  investment  markets,  and on  social  enterprises’  readiness  for  investment,  in  the  two  countries.

In  addition,  the  B.C.  C3s’ dividend  cap  (40%)  is  set  somewhat  higher  than  even  the  new  U.K.  cap  (35%),  and  its  cap  may have  reached  just  the  right  threshold.  (Nova  Scotia  has  yet  to  issue  regulations  specifying  the caps for  its  CICs.)

Dr. Pauline O'Conner

Ryerson University

Research Questions

This report aims to increase our understanding of how Canada’s evolving legal framework for social enterprises is affecting, and is likely to affect, the future development of social enterprise in Canada.

Its main focus is the new legal forms, specifically designed for social enterprise, that have been recently introduced in Canada.


This report is based is primarily a literature review of refereed journal articles, government documents, charity lawyer blogs and other grey literature that document and analyze the changing regulatory frameworks for social enterprises in Canada and the U.K.

The literature review of the Canada’s regulatory framework, and of recent changes to the framework, is supplemented by a handful of interviews with experts

Perspectives of the Business Sector on Social Enterprise

Dr. Daniel Lai, 2012
Professor & Associate Dean  (Research & Partnerships)
Faculty of  Social Work, University of Calgary

In 2011 the Foundation commissioned Dr. Daniel Lai, of the University of Calgary, to perform a study examining the perceptions of the business sector towards social entrepreneurship in terms of perceived competitiveness, value, social mission and social impacts in British Columbia and Alberta.

Please see the presentation of research, executive summary and full research report for an in-depth discussion of these findings.

Sample Findings & Conclusions

  • Over three-quarters of the online survey participants indicated support for the mission, goals and business strategies used by social enterprises and felt that social enterprise activities can help charities and non-profits increase their financial viability.
  • Sixty-eight percent of participants felt that social enterprise may be a more effective strategy than the traditional charity approach.
  • Nearly 60% stated that they would be willing to offer their personal support (e.g. donate or volunteer to provide advice, guidance or training).

Strong support toward social enterprise from the business was indicated, with the business sector echoing the mission and benefits of social enterprise to bring social good, independence and sustainability to non-profit organizations.  Overall, the business sector surveyed sees the value of social enterprise and does not view as competition.

The business sector does not reveal a strong concern about social enterprise being a competitor of the private for-profit businesses. Many of the participants in this study agree that the for-profit market is often big enough to allow social enterprise to exist. Dr. Daniel Lai

University of Calgary

Research Questions
  • What are the perceptions of the business sector on the goals and objectives of social enterprise?
  • From the perspective of the business sector, what are the values and benefits of social enterprise?
  • What are the views of the business sector on social enterprise’s competitiveness, challenges and impacts, and roles in the market economy?

A mixed method research design online survey and qualitative telephone interviews.  Target participants business owners, operators, and/or administrators from different business sectors in Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver.