Community Futures South Fraser (CFSF) and Mennonite Central Committee, Employment and Community Development (MCC-ECD), together with the community economic development movement across Canada, acknowledge the value of the social economy, and recognize the importance of connecting economic and social values. The BC Centre for Social Enterprise was founded in 2005 by these two community-based organizations.
Social enterprise applies an entrepreneurial approach to addressing social issues and creating positive community change. In its most narrow definition, it means non-profits acting entrepreneurially and earning some of their revenues through selling goods and services instead of relying solely on grant writing and donations. In its broader sense – the definition that the Centre embraces – social enterprise involves the business sector in mentoring or investing in social enterprise, or moving beyond corporate social responsibility to start its own social enterprises.
Originated locally, the concept for the Fraser Valley Centre for Social Enterprise was supported by Western Economic Diversification Canada. The Centre identity changed to the BC Centre for Social Enterprise in 2008 to more adequately reflect the main scope of client focus. In April 2010, responsibility for maintaining the Centre migrated to Resilient Communities Canada, a non-profit organization dedicated to sustainable community development.
The main activities of the BC Centre for Social Enterprise are:
- community capacity building, outreach, advocacy and education;
- the creation and hosting of networking events and relevant summits;
- NPO-specific enterprise and feasibility / market research-related workshop development and delivery;
- the offering of a current library of social enterprise resources;
- business plan and enterprise implementation assistance for non-profit organizations (both by the Centre itself, and through mentorship relationships between businesses and social enterprises in complementary or non-competing industries);
- analysis and research;
- social enterprise loans distribution and connection of clients to other lending bodies;
- connecting groups / resources to avoid duplication and working in ‘silos’; and
- setting a strong example for its constituents and community by engaging in its own social enterprise activities.
Active contributions of the BC Centre for Social Enterprise include:
- support of fledgling social enterprises across Canada via the provision of a combination of free and fee-for-service technical assistance;
- provision of social enterprise feasibility study and business plan supports;
- leadership in the area of Canadian social enterprise structural considerations;
- service as an information hub for the communication of social enterprise funding and capacity building opportunities across Canada;
- the project lead for the creation and delivery of capacity building workshops for charities across Western Canada, funded by the Canada Revenue Agency;
- provision of presenters to a variety of groups, events, and programs in order to continue to build a framework of discussion about various social enterprise issues across the nation.
Social enterprise involves entrepreneurial approaches. Some comments on an entrepreneurial approach to the management and activities of non-profits, in meeting of community needs:
“Entrepreneurship" is defined as the pursuit of personal, business and societal success through informed decision making and the acceptance of responsibility for the consequences of actions.
Entrepreneurial people possess skills such as creativity and innovation, decision making, communication and action planning. They are focused, motivated and tenacious with a propensity for change.
Entrepreneurial skills may be manifested in a new or existing business, government and society. Their application usually creates change and betterment.” Acadia Centre for Small Business and Entrepreneurship
“An entrepreneurial culture involves developing enterprising attitudes within the private, public and third sectors. Such a culture requires people who are dynamic, flexible, adaptable and quick to learn new ways when conditions change. The community can succeed and prosper in the years ahead, but to do so it must embrace change as an opportunity.” http://www.entreplexity.ca/cfe/constituents.htm