30 May 2012
Well here is a brief summary of the day! See the official write up below!
Insights from first Discovery Learning Workshop on Social Enterprise
On May 23rd, the Centre hosted the first in a series of Discovery Learning Workshops on Social Enterprise. This workshop series is designed to help participants learn about how we can, as a society, leverage the power of business to solve the world’s pressing problems. The first workshop, presented in collaboration with The Zügunruhe Project and MaRS Centre for Impact Investing, helped participants learn about the emerging social enterprise “for profit” sector – what social enterprise is, the players, metrics, and financing options.
The group learned that there is no simple definition for what a social enterprise is, as there are a variety of models ranging from a non-profit organization with income, to a for-profit company with a social mission.
“Social enterprise is not new – it’s a new label for the movement for transformational social change,” said Professor Tina Dacin, Director of the QSB Centre for Responsible Leadership. She indicated that social entrepreneurship is not that different from typical entrepreneurship, though the ‘social’ side has overwhelmed the ‘business side’ according to a research study she completed. Professor Dacin’s advice to social enterprises was clear: “A social mission is important starting out, but you need a strong business model to grow. Hone your business skills.”
Petra Kassun-Mutch, founder of The Zügunruhe Project and facilitator for the day, could not agree more. “As a practicing social entrepreneur, I have been through all the stages including start up, second stage funding calls, and have struggled with achieving the right balance between maintaining the mission in the face of adversity. It will take all the business acumen and conviction you have – plus the right regulatory, policy and cultural conditions, to make a triple bottom line truly succeed for the long haul.”
Adam Spence and Joyce Sou from the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing provided an overview of financing options for social enterprises and ways of measuring and reporting on impact. “Impact investing has two components: impact and return” summarized Mr. Spence. “It is an investment approach which aims to solve social or environmental challenges while generating a financial return.” Funding opportunities available for social enterprises include impact funds, the new SVX (which matches social enterprises with investors), and community offerings (such as community bonds).
The question of how to measure impact, an evolving field, was then explored and participants were provided with an overview of IRIS. “The Impact Reporting and Investment Standards (IRIS) is a catalog of metrics that can be used to describe an organization’s social, environmental, and financial performance” explained Joyce Sou. This is a free tool, with over 400 impacts catalogued to date, that provides impact investors with a common language to describe social and environmental performance.
Participants were also given insight into the difference between certifying as a B Corporation and proposed new legislation which engages in the possibility of creating a new form of corporate entity, the ‘Benefit Corporation’. A B Corp is a voluntary certification process with the Philadelphia based non-profit, B Labs, which allows companies to illustrate and quantify their commitment to socially responsible principles. Currently there are 43 certified Canadian B Corps. Companies can start the process of becoming a certified B Corp by taking the B Impact Assessment – a free on-line survey of 200 questions that will assess a company’s standards in four areas: Environment, Community, Employees, and Accountability. On the other hand, the Benefit Corporation is a new legal entity being considered during the current statutory review of the Canada Corporations Act.
Until major changes are made to Canadian legislation, the group learned from Natalie Mc Farlane, Founder of Positive Impact Law Group, ways in which entrepreneurs might approach the legal aspects of the creation of a social enterprise. As a result of a significant Supreme Court Ruling in late 2008, Canadian corporate directors have been signalled to allow for consideration of a wider scope of issues, including the environment, into their decision making. Further, Ms. Mc Farlane encouraged entrepreneurs to embed “stakeholder consciousness” into their corporate bylaws and letters patent as a way of establishing organizational intent and as a way of preparing for potential dispute resolution throughout the life of the enterprise.
“The information shared at the workshop was both informative and inspiring. I can’t wait for the next workshop installment on this evolving sector” said workshop participant Joe Davis, from Sustainable Kingston Corporation
The Centre will be offering further workshops in this series in the fall, which will explore specific topics such as social finance, social intrapreneurship and social innovation in much more depth. For more information on this workshop series, or to be added to the mailing list to be advised of upcoming workshops please contact ResponsibleLeadership@business.queensu.ca.