Potential for Social Enterprise to Boost Niagara’s Economy

In Niagara we enjoy an abundant quality of life. In recent years our local economy has seen some major transformation. We’ve shifted away from jobs provided by large manufacturers, to jobs with small to medium sized firms, many of which employ 10 people or less.

Many well-educated Niagara citizens struggle to find jobs that pay above minimum wage. We’re competing globally to attract new employers and retain top talent in our labour force.  New technologies are transforming the notion of what it means to have and keep a job. These developments bring exciting opportunities as well as upheaval.

Community service organizations are stretched to meet the complex needs of vulnerable citizens in our midst, and as consumers we’re growing more socially conscious. In the wake of the loss of what were traditionally deemed ‘secure jobs’ in Niagara, there’s a movement to bring back business with a purpose. This is driving a conscious shift to support local, environmentally responsible, sustainable businesses that value people along with profit.

One Solution: A thriving social entrepreneurial community

The social enterprise movement presents a solution. Social enterprises are businesses that:

  • Create community impact and social values
  • Have a defined social, cultural or environmental value while selling their products or services to customers (they can’t continue to operate if they don’t fulfill their mission)
  • Limit or don’t distribute profits and assets to individual shareholders

— Social Enterprise Canada

Social Enterprises in Ontario

To give you an idea of the impact of social enterprises on Ontario’s economy alone, here are some facts from Ontario’s Social Enterprise Strategy 2016 – 2021:

  • Ontario is home to about 10,000 social enterprises
  • Across the province, our social enterprises generate an average of $1.2 million in revenues, including $0.9 million in sales
  • Those social enterprises employ an average of 38 staff
  • 68% of Ontario’s social enterprises have a poverty reduction focus.

The next five years will be critical for social enterprise – the Ontario government has committed to invest more than $6 million in the first year of its renewed Social Enterprise Strategy.   The province’s vision is to be recognized as a global leader in social enterprise and social finance by 2021.

What We’re Doing in Niagara

A passionate local group of social entrepreneurs, educators, civil servants and others is on a mission to educate, raise awareness, build community and to connect people interested in  establishing a social enterprise to the necessary resources.  We’ve declared 2016 as the Year of Social Enterprise in Niagara. We’re just beginning to lay the foundation of our region’s social entrepreneurial community. In January, the Social Startups forum brought about 145 people together to begin co-creating what social entrepreneurship and enterprise training in Niagara will look like. By the end of the day, forum participants had identified some of the gaps and opportunities to be  collectively addressed,  and began planning meaningful next steps. (Read a wrap-up of the forum here.)

Since then, we’ve  hosted monthly meetups to connect with social entrepreneurs and stakeholders in Niagara, as well as meet people in communities across Ontario who are just as passionate about social entrepreneurship as we are. Within the next few months, we’ll be launching a website – a community hub where Niagara’s social entrepreneurs can find updates, explore resources and join the conversation.

Our Challenge to You: Get involved today

We’re open to anyone who wants to learn more about social entrepreneurship and how they can contribute. You are invited to join the conversation.

Attend a Meetup

We host  monthly Social Startup Meetups  at Mahtay Cafe in downtown St. Catharines. Each event features a speaker with valuable knowledge and experience in the area of social entrepreneurship. Past guests have included Jeff Sinclair, community builder, and facilitator Jasmine Olah; Trevor Twining, president of the co-operative coworking space Cowork Niagara; and successful social entrepreneurs such as Trivium Industries (David D’Angelo) and Loop Recycled Paints (Jillian Berswick). We’re always looking for more advocates and community builders to share their perspectives.

Look for upcoming Social Startup Meetups, or other related social enterprise learning opportunities, such as this Social Enterprise Opportunity Identification Webinar and this Social Enterprise Workshop posted on the Niagara Knowledge Exchange Community Calendar

Connect with Social Enterprise Niagara

We would love to stay in touch! Join our Facebook group to connect with active social entrepreneurs, receive updates about upcoming events and learn more about social entrepreneurship and its impact.

Share with Others

Download this Social Enterprise in Niagara Postcard and share the information with people in  your networks.

This is the first of many blog entries that will bring you the latest news from Niagara’s social entrepreneurial community. Stay tuned for more!


Allison Smith

Allison is a community-minded content developer and member of Cowork Niagara’s board of directors. She is also an active participant in Niagara’s social enterprise community. Find her on Twitter on @aesmithwriting.

Niagara Knowledge Exchange & Community Calendar

15th Annual Mayor’s Au Marché @ 13th Street Winery
Aug 17 @ 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm

The 15th Annual Mayor’s Au Marché will take place at 13th Street Winery on Friday, August 17th in support of the Investing in St. Catharines Youth Fund. Guests will enjoy sampling from local wineries and craft breweries along with an array of culinary delights from local restaurants. This special event will also include the talents of local up and coming musicians.

The Investing in St. Catharines Youth Fund helps young people in financial need fully participate in the recreational, sports and cultural life of our City. More than 3,000 children and youth have benefited from this program since it began in the summer of 2004. With your support of this year’s event, we can increase this number.

A portion of the net proceeds will be permanently endowed in the Investing in St. Catharines Youth Fund in the St. Catharines Community Fund, which is an affiliate of the Niagara Community Foundation.

The event takes place on Friday, August 17th from 7pm to 10pm at 13th Street Winery. The price of a ticket is $125 (all inclusive). A tax receipt will be forwarded for a portion of the ticket price.

This event is hosted by the Niagara Community Foundation.

SHRED-IT in Support of Niagara-on-the-Lake Palliative Care @ Meridian Credit Union Parking Lot
Aug 18 @ 9:00 am – 1:00 pm

SHRED-IT provides residents with a convenient and economical way to dispose of confidential documents and at the same time raise funds for this important community organization offering free services to residents with life-limiting illnesses and their families.

Organized by Niagara-on-the-Lake Community Palliative Care in partnership with Meridian Credit Union, confidential materials are professionally shredded for $6 a banker’s box or 3 for $15.

Volunteers from Meridian, Community Palliative Care, the community along with students from Royal Elite International Academy will be there to greet resident and receive their materials for shredding.

It’s an initiative where everyone benefits – Meridian customers and residents help protect themselves from identity fraud, student volunteers demonstrate their involvement in the community and the proceeds raised stay in the community to support palliative care.

This event is hosted by Niagara-on-the-Lake Palliative Care and Meridian Credit Union.

Game-Bling: Where Gaming Meets Gambling @ Online
Aug 21 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am

This webinar will explore how technology has changed the gambling market, the blurred lines between gambling and gaming, the increased risks and how to stay safe if one chooses to engage in gaming and gambling activities.

Content is designed for parents/guardians, teachers, counselors, college/university students and adults involved in young people’s lives.

Key objectives of this webinar:

  • Discuss impacts of excessive use of technology and affects of parents’ technology use on children (parent version)
  • Explore underage gambling opportunities: E-sports, Fantasy Sports, In-game ‘gambling’, Skins Betting, etc. and other impacts of technology in gaming and gambling
  • Question the blurred lines between gaming and gambling
  • Notice warning signs of problematic behaviors (video gaming, excessive technology use, social gaming and gambling)
  • Provide support resources and harm reduction strategies
  • Make informed decisions with regards to gambling and gaming

This webinar is hosted by the YMCA of Greater Toronto.

Skills for Substance Use Engagement @ St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton - Upper Auditorium
Aug 21 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Presented by: Elisha Dekort, Interim Manager of Community Psychiatry Services and the Concurrent Disorders Capacity Building Team

This presentation will provide an overview of the different evidence based practices for working with clients who use substances and how to utilize those practices to build engagement.

Attend on August 21st or 22nd in-person or remotely via webcast.

These sessions are hosted by the Concurrent Disorders Capacity Building Team.

Using Health and Demographic Information to Support Community Services @ Online
Aug 21 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

This one hour webinar explores three available online health data sharing websites:

  • Public Health Ontario Snapshots
  • Public Health Ontario Social Determinants of Health Mapper
  • Niagara Region Public Health & Emergency Services Niagara’s Village of 100

Improving the health of everyone in the Niagara community requires collaboration between public health and community partners. Access to community demographics as well as behavioural and health outcome data is important for better understanding the needs of the Niagara community.

By the end of this session, participants will be able to:

  • Better understand priority populations in the Niagara community
  • Inform programs and services that address the community’s needs
  • Support funding proposals

This webinar is hosted by Niagara Region Public Health.

Skills for Substance Use Engagement @ St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton - Upper Auditorium
Aug 22 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Presented by: Elisha Dekort, Interim Manager of Community Psychiatry Services and the Concurrent Disorders Capacity Building Team

This presentation will provide an overview of the different evidence based practices for working with clients who use substances and how to utilize those practices to build engagement.

Attend on August 21st or 22nd in-person or remotely via webcast.

These sessions are hosted by the Concurrent Disorders Capacity Building Team.

What is Healthy Food in Health Care? @ Online
Aug 23 @ 12:00 pm

The question of what qualifies as “healthy” food is highly contested in healthcare and beyond.

This webinar will bring together varying perspectives of dietitians, a chef and an Indigenous speaker for a rich discussion around how hospitals and health care facilities can lead the charge in expanding the definition of healthy food related to how it is produced, prepared and consumed which generates impacts on patient, population, and planetary health.

Join panelists: Joshna Maharaj, Take Back the Tray; Dr Janice Sorensen, Langara College; Diane Imrie, University of Vermont Medical Centre; and an Indigenous speaker (TBC); to explore ways to better connect food and health through the patient meal experience, food service operations, food environments, and making connections from health care settings into community.

This webinar is hosted by Nourish.


Ontario Trillium Foundation

Explore Our Network

Get Connected

Sign up to receive communications from Niagara Connects! We will keep you connected with what’s going on in our community, without spamming your inbox. Get started now!
Niagara Knowledge Exchange is powered by a Niagara-wide network of people for collaboration, planning, learning, innovation and community action toward a stronger future for Niagara. We work hard to help foster a culture of Niagara-focused research and evidence-informed planning to support your community development innovations. To learn more about Niagara Connects, please visit our central website: www.niagaraconnects.ca or contact us: Email: info@niagaraconnects.ca, Phone: 905-688-6236
Copyright © 2018 Niagara Connects. All rights reserved.