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How 2020 Transformed Social Entrepreneurship 101

People are waking up to social entrepreneurship. Our collective crises continue to reveal the failings and fault lines of ‘business as usual.’ In this liminal space, individuals are forging new paths, prioritizing people and planet, as well as their bottom line. 

At CSI, we saw this influx firsthand. When the world shut down and our lives went online, individuals from different corners of the globe signed up in droves for Social Entrepreneurship 101 (SE 101), CSI’s eight-week course on social entrepreneurship. Why? As one SE 101 participant, Michael Szego, emphasizes “social entrepreneurs are going to be essential to help author a new social contract and reset the economy. […] SE 101 is a great place to start.” 

So, what happened? We checked in with our Social Enterpreneurship 101 Program Lead and Facilitator, Peggy Sue Deaven, to find out how 2020 transformed the program and what’s next for social entrepreneurship at CSI. 

What is Social Entrepreneurship 101? 

SE 101 is an eight-week, part-time online program that covers the foundations of social entrepreneurship, from making sure you’ve identified the right problem, to developing a solution, to turning your idea into a sustainable business model. As the world looks to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s no better time for the entrepreneurially-minded to step up to address pressing social and environmental challenges, and to develop the skills needed to succeed. That’s where Social Entrepreneurship 101 comes in. 

You don’t have to consider yourself an experienced entrepreneur or really, an entrepreneur at all, to sign up. In fact, that’s kind of the point. The program is for anyone who sees a problem or need in the world, wants to take action, and is asking themselves: 

  • How do I do that? 
  • How do I turn my idea into a social enterprise? 
  • Or even, what is social entrepreneurship?

The program was developed in partnership with Lean4Flourishing (a group of experienced social entrepreneurs, coaches, facilitators, and educators) and based on the learnings of over a decade of training social enterprises.

As we saw in 2020, it’s also an amazing way to build community. SE 101 alumnus, Mateo Tobar, put it best: “This course allowed me to understand how to transform ideas into feasible projects. I would recommend this course to any person that is looking to build connections […] and share their ideas with others. This course was one of my highlights of the year 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic! This was an opportunity for me to get outside of Ecuador and learn with an international cohort from my house.”

What happened in 2020? 

Peggy Sue reflects back on the year: “So much about 2020 revolved around loss, and rightly so. However, last year, I also experienced the joy of discovery and creation as 125 strangers came together onto a digital platform to actively collaborate, vulnerably converse, and share ideas of how to make the world a better place with social entrepreneurship pursuits.” 

The initial move online left many of us with a lot of questions. Namely, how will we foster a sense of community from a distance? What will programming look like? Will people show up? While working online isn’t always easy, our SE101 cohorts proved we didn’t need to worry. As Peggy Sue explains, people not only showed up, they dug deep: 

“The needs for community were so strong that it compelled participants to dig deeper, share more boldly, and imagine in a more innovative way. In 2020, the SE 101 course more than doubled in it’s offering size and reached an international audience that even extended beyond North America. As important and necessary as social change is, it does not happen in a vacuum, nor does it thrive in the dark. I witnessed BIG, bold dialogues about race, homelessness, prejudice, financial and social wealth, and mental health. The participants of SE 101 are some of the most fearless and courageous change-makers I had the privilege to facilitate.”

As we’ve seen, crises can become a catalyst for change. Many people who never considered themselves social entrepreneurs before, signed up for the program. Their reasons? When the pandemic forced many people out of work, they took a hard look at their life and realized they desired something more. Or, unable to look away, long-standing systemic inequities motivated individuals to reconsider their role in society. Social Entrepreneurship 101 is the perfect place to hone and direct that reinvigorated sense of purpose. 

Sensing an urgent interest in social entrepreneurship across Canada, CSI’s Social Innovation Specialist, Jo Reynolds, reached out to the Kingston Economic Development Corporation to see if they would be interested in offering the program. The call expanded. The SE 101 program has now been developed and run by the Small Business Economic Development Centres of Markham, Richmond Hill, and Vaughan. We can’t wait to see where SE 101 lives next! 

What are people saying about SE 101? 

Siddan Chandra from Toronto says: 

Social Entrepreneurship 101 has laid the groundwork for ongoing self development in an optimistic and promising realm. It has helped me begin to build the muscle of financial thinking and offered a vocabulary that honours both my values and my needs. 

Ashley Goff from Edmonton reflects: 

SE 101 strikes a thoughtful balance between the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of social entrepreneurship. The deep knowledge of the facilitator and the thoughtful support and engagement with the other participants was invaluable. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in social entrepreneurship.

Tim O’Hara from Kingston says: 

Amazing course that allows all users to feel supported and comfortable sharing and encourages individual and group learning of self and business. You are thoroughly guided along a well lit path and emerge a stronger and more confident entrepreneur on the other side. Complete with resources and learning tools and a network of like-minded business people that become friends. 

What’s Next? The Future of SE 101 

With that, the program is growing! Building on last year’s momentum, Social Entrepreneurship 101 is running six times in 2021, more than doubling the size of 2020’s offering. Continuing online, CSI’s program is expanding its reach across the globe, while also being replicated by social enterprise partners in other regions across Ontario. That means more people are identifying needs AND stepping up to spearhead solutions. SE 101 is one way we are building the Next Economy together. 

Want to learn the fundamentals of social entrepreneurship?

Registration for the June-July 2021 cohort is now open and will close May 30th.

Five fully-funded scholarships are available (thanks to Alterna Savings!). Apply by May 23rd to be considered for a scholarship. Head here for more program information.

Are you interested in offering SE 101 in your community?                                                                               

Reach out to Peggy Sue at peggysue@socialinnovation.ca

WOSEN’s Troop Closes Pre-Seed Funding at 300K

CSI’s WOSEN participant, Troop, is at it again. Named one of Canada’s Top 100 Recovery Projects in 2020, Troop recently participated in our Investment Readiness Supports program. Now, the tech-for-good startup just closed its pre-seed round of funding at $300,000. 

“It wasn’t easy.” Troop’s Founder, Kelly Emery, writes on social media: 

“I’ve spent the past 18 months building out a MVP, getting users and proving the product-market fit.  I have a previous startup and exit under my belt.  I should have been confident about raising, right? I wasn’t.  

Only 2.3% of funding goes to women-led startups

My frustration at the inequality of the system fuelled my drive to succeed. I met (virtually!) with 49 different angels, VCs and personal investment firms. With every pitch, I was fighting for the money, but I was also fighting for every other woman founder in the same boat.”

She’s right. That’s why we are part of the Women of Ontario Social Enterprise Network (WOSEN). CSI’s WOSEN program supports women and gender non-binary entrepreneurs from ideation to acceleration to investment. Last year, Kelly participated in WOSEN’s Resilience program and Investment Readiness Supports, a program designed for social entrepreneurs who are preparing for funding or investment in the coming year. 

She explains, “At the beginning, even the smallest ounce of support can be the catalyst for success. For me, it was the phone call with [CSI’s WOSEN Senior Program Manager], Mitalie Makhani, when she told me about the WOSEN program. There I met a mentor, that led to an introduction to someone who would become an advisor, and from there, the first investment cheque.” 

Look at her now. This is what happens when we invest in individuals underrepresented in entrepreneurship: 

“Today, I closed the round at $300K.  Eleven investors are backing my idea and ME.”

More from Troop on the announcement: 

Founded in 2019, Troop will use the new capital to further develop their software that drives community giving by connecting businesses and their employees with local needs.  With 50+ charity and nonprofit partners in the GTA, Troop aggregates tangible needs and allows employees to vote monthly on the local needs they want their business to fulfill.  The contribution is captured in a monthly Impact Report that is easily shared with staff and customers.

The round was led by Sand Hill North, a private investment firm that focuses on software solutions that make the world a better place, followed by several angel investors from the Toronto area, including former CEO and founder of HomeStars, Nancy Peterson. 

“It’s fantastic to have this support from our investors and to be in a position to grow what we started with Troop,” said Kelly Emery, founder and CEO of Troop.  “Customers and employees are demanding greater social responsibility from companies, but that’s tough for SMBs operating on minimal resources.  Troop offers a cost effective giving program that engages all employees.  Because it happens every month, the team develops a stronger understanding of the needs in their community and how they fit in. When it’s this easy to do good, everyone wants to get involved.”

We’re so glad we are. Congratulations, Kelly! 

Keep reading: https://hitroop.com/blog/troop-closes-pre-seed-funding-round/

Need support preparing for the right grant, loan or investment opportunity? 

Registration is open for women and gender non-binary people who lead established social ventures, who have a defined capital need, and who are preparing for funding or investment in the coming year.

Our 2019/2020 Annual Report

Yep, we know, after the maelstrom of 2020 it’s hard to recall anything that occurred before the pandemic! But, of course, things did happen and there are stories to be shared, so without further ado please dig in to our 2019/20 Annual Report.

2019/20 annual report cover

Right now, in the early months of 2021, our story is still unfolding: despite Covid-19, we’ve made great progress in our journey towards the Next Economy. We’ve taken time to solidify our programming approach and honed into our core areas of focus. We’ve taken on Labs and Challenges, and even worked with the City of Toronto on a Homelessness and Hygiene lab in the height of the pandemic.

We’re investing even more in the success of early stage enterprises that are developing solutions to the world’s biggest problems. These are the innovators that call CSI home; whether they’re ventures in one of our accelerator programs, participants in Social Enterprise 101, or members with or without office space (oh yeah, you can be a CSI member without office space – it’s true), they’re part of a community of changemakers who are working on the Next Economy.

If you haven’t already,
sign up for our weekly newsletter for the full scoop on what’s happening in our ecosystem.

Break Free of Breakout Rooms

Entering break out room in: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

Panic!

This has been my experience again and again. Despite being an extraordinarily extroverted individual, there’s something about being told that you will spend the next 20 minutes with a random selection of strangers that triggers my anxiety.

Most online spaces aren’t designed for serendipity. They’re strictly regulated: every meeting is prescribed with purpose and a set list of attendees. This is great when you need to hit a deadline, but terrible when you’re looking to truly connect with people. It’s even harder when you’re trying to meet that one person you need to talk to when you’re faced with the Hollywood-squares-on-steroids of a Zoom call. The question of how to design a networking event to ensure you meet not just the most people possible, but the right people, is something that CSI has been working on for years.

Those who’ve joined us for our in-person events will remember “What I Need” and “What I Have to Offer” stickers, Sustainable Development Goal coloured wristbands, and even a social capital marketplace. Over the 16 years we’ve spent gathering folks in space we’ve honed our skills at breaking through the awkwardness of early interactions and providing space to return to the people you need to have a longer discussion with.

With that in mind, here’s the big reveal: CSI is taking everything we’ve learned from our in person events, combining that with our learnings from our Holiday Gathering and Virtual Coworking Office and launching 8(bit) Degrees.

Alright, I hear you: You just derided online networking events! How is this one any different?

8(bit) Degrees is a virtual networking event series that gives you the ability to talk to just that one person in a room of a hundred, lets you walk into and out of conversations as you like, and connects you to people while freeing you to experience it how you want to. It’s hosted on our favourite platform: Gather.town.

We want to make these events the best they can be, and we know the key to creating a valuable networking experience is not wrapped up in the perfect mix of facilitation and open time. Instead, it all comes down to one thing: clarity.

Pixel illustration of person with dark skin, brown buzz cut, black jacket over green shirt, and blue pants.

How do you know who you should talk to?

Pixel illustration of blond person with thick black-framed glasses in blue clothes.

How do you make the most of your conversations?

It’s part of our responsibility as hosts to help you answer question one. The second question is yours to answer, but we have a few helpful tips:

Know why you’re attending

There are hundreds of valid reasons to attend a networking event – being clear on yours will go a long way. It can be as specific as “finding a graphic designer for an upcoming project”, or as general as “meeting new folks in your sector”. The key is deciding beforehand and acting accordingly.

Have fun with it

While not everyone you meet will be the person you thought you needed, you might be exactly who they’re looking for. The great thing about these events is that they open spaces for serendipity. The power of community grows with each new addition, so don’t close yourself off from expanding your understanding of who you’d like to chat with.

Follow up

Time and time again we hear that folks make a bunch of interesting and valuable connections only to have them fade after the event. So for those you wish to stay in contact with, be sure to follow up in some way. Hint: If you are both CSI Members, The Common Platform is a great way to do this!

Our first 8(bit) Degrees will be February 25th from 4pm-6pm. Space is limited, so get your tickets today!

New opportunities at the Centre for Social Innovation

Every One Every Day

Our Regent Park Community Manager, Denise Soueidan-O’Leary, wrote this piece for the February 2021 issue of the bridge, a community newspaper. We are republishing with permission.

The Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) has called Regent Park home for the past eight years, building deep connections with the community from the third floor of the Daniels Spectrum building on Dundas Street East. We have worked with the Social Development Plan and the Community Civic Engagement Collaborative, curating the Regent Park Community Newsletter, running the Regent Park Potluck, starting Regent Park Open Mic nights, and partnering in many neighbourhood initiatives. We are committed to making this vibrant community stronger every day.

Last October we launched the Every One Every Day: Toronto Our Neighbourhood Project, modelled after the British Participatory Cities framework for resident engagement. The purpose of the project is to grow, build and connect social ecosystems – especially important during this time of physical distancing and increased social isolation. Building social capital and linking with social ecosystems is the foundation of strengthening any community, and it is particularly true in Regent Park.

Our Neighbourhood Project’s first phase ran from October to December, with more than 100 residents signed up. With community partners like Art Heart, Green Thumbs Growing Kids, Just Vertical, WOSEN, and others, we ran 30 workshops in six weeks that engaged 130 participants in community mural painting, hydroponic growing, cooking together, yoga, tree planting and even entrepreneurial journaling! We were able to do a few workshops in person, observing social distancing, but also successfully moved much programming online to respect COVID-19 restrictions.

Collage of screenshots from the Every One Every Day workshops that were run in Fall 2020.

Phase 1 of the our neighbourhood project ran over six weeks:

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workshops
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participants

The second phase is currently under way. We have released four new project starter kits into the community:

  • Our Neighbourhood Pollinates: designing pollinator gardens to support natural ecosystems;
  • Our Neighbourhood Reads: sharing books and stories, and creating story installations, story walks, and book exchanges;
  • Our Neighbourhood Blooms: planning and planting beautiful gardens in public spaces; and
  • Our Neighbourhood Stories: building a living tour of Regent Park to connect neighbours and collect their stories.

We would love to have you join the project! For more information and to sign up, check out the Every One Every Day: Toronto project on the Centre for Social Innovation website. Send questions to everyoneeveryday[at]socialinnovation[dot]ca.

This opportunity is open to everyone, of every age and demographic, as long as you are living or working in Regent Park. Registration is open until the end of February.

Bringing small businesses to the global stage

Person in a peach-coloured blouse sitting at a wooden desk using a black calculator. The desk is covered with notebooks and printouts with calculations.

A spotlight on Agent of Change Maheshi Wanasundara

Today’s youth are the leaders of tomorrow. They’re filled with passion, drive, and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty to create a more sustainable, prosperous, and equitable world for all.

We’re profiling five participants from Agents of Change: Sustainable Development Goals — an 8-week, impact-driven course that taught 100 youth how to use the tools and tactics of social entrepreneurship to work towards the achievement of the SDGs. Maheshi’s work touches on a number of Sustainable Development Goals, namely SDG 8: Decent Work & Economic Growth, SDG 9: Industry, Innovation, & Infrastructure, and SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities.

Even though she has moved often, Maheshi’s heart remains in her homeland, Sri Lanka.

Fiercely proud of her cultural heritage and determined to share its beauty, she hopes to elevate the profiles of Sri Lanka’s creative artists, innovative thinkers, and sustainable producers while preserving the authenticity of their work.

“There are amazing products and businesses [from Sri Lanka],” said Maheshi. “I want to bring them to the global market and make sure those creators and business owners get the recognition they deserve.”

She’s doing this in the form of Musey, her social enterprise.

Maheshi’s passion brought her to CSI’s Agents of Change: Sustainable Development Goals program, where she met other young people hungry for change. Over the eight weeks, she began to finetune her purpose as a social entrepreneur, and started to map out her business structure.

“The biggest plus for me was connecting with individuals and hearing their stories. It encouraged me to take a step back and look at my ideas, and figure out how my ambitions matched what I want to do,” she recalled. “I was able to identify how my personal values connected to what I wanted to invest my time and energy in.”

Musey is the culmination of Maheshi’s love for her home country and her newly-gained knowledge of social entrepreneurship. At its essence it’s an online shop, but really, it’s a platform where Sri Lankan small business owners can shine on a global stage. Shoppers will be able to find anything, from health and lifestyle products to furniture and home decor.

All of the young businesses Maheshi collaborates with have to meet three requirements:

  1. They use sustainable material, sourced locally in Sri Lanka;
  2. They are environmentally-friendly and minimize waste; and
  3. They provide opportunities of employment to their community.

Most of these ventures are owned by women or young families.

One of the brands she is working with uses “end-of-roll” materials from large garment factories to make their clothes. In this way, they are saving this fabric from being thrown away, and each piece of clothing will be unique. The brand also provides an opportunity for the women in their neighbourhood to earn some extra income and develop new skills through casual employment.

As Maheshi helps these young entrepreneurs reach and connect to an increasingly-online world, she plans to reinvest profits into the communities of these original artists. Decolonizing wealth is one of her main goals.

“I’m really excited to be a part of their journey, to help lift them to the next level of income or knowledge, and to learn and grow alongside them.”

Next steps for Maheshi involve finding ways to collaborate with the artists. Although she can’t conduct informational interviews in person in Sri Lanka, she’s been continuing her research and connecting with people virtually.

“I want to [gather] information and knowledge in the community and facilitate the sharing of it,” she said.

Currently, Maheshi’s days are filled with work, a newborn, and two beagles. But despite the strangeness and novelty in her life (and the world!) right now, she stays positive: “Being responsible for my daughter makes me a bit more focused and determined. It really helped me see what I want in our future.”

As she continues on her social entrepreneurship journey, Maheshi is constantly on the lookout for people she can learn from. If you have advice for an up-and-coming entrepreneur, or experience bringing businesses to the global market, definitely get in touch!

Our Agents of Change: Sustainable Development Goals program is designed to equip the next generation of changemakers with the skills, resources, and coaching they need to make an impact. Check out other stories from program participants here!

Agents of Change: Sustainable Development Goals is made possible with the support of the Government of Canada.

We can give more when we give together

Pine needles
Buy Good Feel Good

Believe it or not, the Holiday season is upon us! And after the stress and isolation of 2020, we’d love to spread some cheer. To make that happen, we are doing what we’ve been doing since COVID (and CSI itself!) started. We’re giving you the chance to support each other.

(Think: “The rent pool … but make it festive.”)

What that means is that this year for Giving Tuesday, you can give to your community as your community gives back to you. Namely, when you buy something from our Holiday Giving Catalogue, you will get a discount on your purchase, while our Community Resilience Fund gets a portion of the proceeds.

That’s right! Each item you buy will let you support local social entrepreneurs, access exclusive discounts, and help our Community Resilience Fund to:

  1. Contribute to direct member support and services.
  2. Host a crucial series of Next Economy Conversations.
  3. Help women-lead social enterprises retool and adapt.
  4. Launch the Common Platform and Community Resilience Dialogues.
  5. Systemically respond to the social and economic impacts of COVID-19.

So dive in and start shopping! We’ve selected a few members below to draw you in, but be sure to check out the whole list. Our catalogue has everything from delicious snacks to designer sacks!

We can’t wait to hear about what you get! Be sure to use the code “CSIHolidayGiving” at check out!

Telling your story unapologetically

Tonya Surman smiling and speaking to crowd

At CSI we have seen over and over what incredible things can happen when people come together to make change. One of the ways we are doing that is through one of our newest programs, Women of Ontario Social Enterprise Network, a provincial partnership which is part of the Federal Government’s Women Entrepreneurship Strategy.

Media Equity for Entrepreneurs is Part 1 of WOSEN’s Women-Centered Innovation Learning program, an online interactive workshop will offer entrepreneurs a personalized media training toolkit that will help you determine how your story should be told.

An excerpt from the course description:

as women and non-binary leaders from various backgrounds, being boxed into a story of a phoenix rising from the ashes of oppression can be difficult. it limits the scope of your business and changes your story for those learning about your work for the first time. and yet, press and media is a necessity for getting your business out there to potential clients, leads, and partners. as social enterprise owners, it is essential for your message to be disseminated to those you want to reach while staying true to your entrepreneurship journey. your story is your first impression to the market. that means you must fiercely and unapologetically protect who is telling your story and how.

in this interactive workshop, sisterhood media will offer you a media training toolkit personalized to your triumphs as a social entrepreneur that will help you determine how your story should be told. we will focus on key descriptors of your mission and impact and how that translates into press about you and your business. by identifying your brand’s story and how it should be documented, we will work through case studies of exemplifying when you should or should not continue with media engagements that will undermine what you are working towards. at the end of this session, you will be empowered to have your story reported on your terms.

If you’d like to learn more about — and register for! — this program, click here.

 

Social entrepreneurship 101: What is social entrepreneurship?

What do you do if you want to change the world, but you can’t even figure out what people are talking about? First of all, don’t feel bad. The social impact sector has a lot of terms that sound like they all mean the same thing, but it is important to make sure you are using the right one.

Once you have an understanding of the language, you are really able to level-up your impact. Using content from our Social Entrepreneurship 101 program, let’s get you the vocabulary you need.

WHAT IS SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP?
We like this definition from the Ashoka Foundation: Social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social, cultural, and environmental challenges. They are ambitious and persistent — tackling major issues and offering new ideas for systems-level change. They create value, whether through a social sector organization or a business, that sustains and spreads their solution.

WHAT IS SOCIAL INNOVATION?
Here at CSI, this is the definition that resonates with us most: Social innovation refers to the creation, development, adoption, and integration of new and renewed concepts, systems, and practices that put people and planet first.

WHAT IS A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE?
One key element of all social enterprises is the fact that some percentage of revenue is directed to addressing a specific issue. The Government of Canada uses this definition: A social enterprise seeks to achieve social, cultural or environmental aims through the sale of goods and services. The social enterprise can be for-profit or not-for-profit but the majority of net profits must be directed to a social objective with limited distribution to shareholders and owners.

WHAT IS A B CORP?
A B Corp is a company that adheres to specific legal and ethical requirements, but does not direct part of its revenue towards making social change. The official definition is: Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.

WHAT IS NOT A SOCIAL ENTERPRISE?
A business that practices ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ – These days, virtually every large corporation has a department that works on corporate social responsibility. But this work sits apart from the core business lines, it does do not shape those business lines. These departments can do a lot of good, but they do not make the company a social enterprise.

A ‘good’ business – There are a whole lot of “good” businesses that operate in socially responsible and sustainable ways. Generally, businesses that do not make their money through addressing a social or environmental issue are not considered social enterprises no matter how ethically they operate.

A businesses where impact is a by-product, not a strategy – There are companies who deliver a good or service that improves the life of a group or an individual, but this does not make them a social enterprise. You might buy a book at a book store that changes your life, but that doesn’t make the book store a social enterprise.


Is it your dream to create a social enterprise? We can help! Learn more about our Social Entrepreneurship 101 program. It covers all aspects of social entrepreneurship, from making sure you’ve identified the right problem, to turning your solution into a sustainable business model.

Investment Readiness Program now open for second round of funding

Investment Readiness Program blog graphic

It’s not every day the government announces an $805 million investment in social innovation, but on November 21, 2018 that’s exactly what happened. We were excited then, and we’re just as excited now to share the first cohort of recipients funded through the Toronto Community Foundation thanks to the Canadian Government’s Investment Readiness Program!

Social Finance Fund Backgrounder

In June 2017, the Government of Canada created a Social Innovation and Social Finance Strategy Co-Creation Steering Group. Just over a year later the Group delivered its final report, Inclusive innovation: New Ideas and New Partnerships for Stronger Communities.

One of the report’s key recommendations was to create a Social Finance Fund to help close the financing gap faced by organizations that deliver positive social outcomes, and to help accelerate the growth of the existing social finance market in Canada.

And it happened! In late 2018 the Government made $755 million available on a cash basis over 10 years for a new Social Finance Fund and an additional $50 million over two years for social purpose organizations to improve their ability to successfully participate in the social finance market.

The fund gives charitable, non-profit, and social purpose organizations access to new financing to implement their innovative ideas, and connects them with non-government investors seeking to support projects that will drive positive social change.

Poised for Impact: the Investment Readiness Program

Working closely with the Community Foundations of Canada and the Toronto Foundation, CSI is pleased to have contributed to the local grant review (but not to the final selection process) and provide backbone financial support to help flow dollars to recipient organizations. 

As a part of the Social Finance Fund, the Canadian Government created the Investment Readiness Program (IRP). The IRP supports social purpose organizations (SPOs) as they contribute to solving pressing social, cultural and environmental challenges across Canada. Its goal is to help SPOs build their capacity to participate in Canada’s growing social finance market and prepare for Canada’s broader investment in social finance.

At the start of 2020, the Community Foundations of Canada opened applications for a first round of IRP funding. Organizations were invited to apply for $10,000-$100,000 in non-repayable capital to help launch, design, measure and scale their social enterprise and prepare to access investment in Canada’s growing social finance marketplace.

The Results of Round One: CSI Members Funded

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost two years since the Government’s original funding announcement, and that today we are able to share the results from the first round of IRP funding.

The Investment Readiness Program provided $8.9 million in funding to 257 organizations across the country through its first intake. In Toronto, York and Durham, 23 organizations received funding. The issues the national projects address include poverty, well-being, economic opportunity, equality and climate change.

We are overjoyed to share that CSI members RainStick Recirculating Shower, StopGap Foundation, The Spent Goods Company, CSI alumni the Ontario Nonprofit Network and ZooShare Biogas Co-operative Inc., and community members, the Newcomers Kitchen, were among the organizations to have received IRP funding in round one!

“CSI is pleased to work alongside the Toronto Foundation and others to support the delivery of the Investment Readiness Program in the Toronto, York, and Durham regions. Helping to build the investment readiness of these organizations is so vital (especially in these uncertain COVID-times) to the ability of good ideas many of them with a triple social, economic and environmental bottom line to take root, to scale, and for their implementation,” says CSI’s Chief Operations Officer, Seana Irvine, “This is the work that CSI has been proud to support its members with over the past 16 years, through acceleration, education and connecting. The IRP funds are helping to build the field for this work to flourish.”

The first round of the program was highly competitive with over 200 applications submitted for these three regions alone. Toronto Foundation reviewed all the applications with their regional partners and volunteers. 

For a more interactive view, check out this map of all the first round IRP recipients in Canada.

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CSI is proud to be a part of this historic moment in Canada’s social innovation history and we look forward to supporting the Canadian Government in its efforts to strengthen the social innovation and social finance fields. With this funding we can grow the Next Economy and Build Back Better.

Maybe you’re interested in doing that with us.

Applications for the second and final round of funding for CFC’s IRP program will be accepted starting September 8, 2020 until October 9, 2020. Apply today!