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

Introduction to Grief Intervention Over the Life Course @ Online
Oct 15 all-day

Death is an unavoidable part of life that becomes increasingly more apparent with age. It is beneficial for your practice to obtain the fundamentals of grief intervention and be equipped to address dying and death circumstances.

During this 4-week online workshop, you will be provided with a concise overview including resources, exercises and an opportunity to share so you gain comfort with the topic and insight in order to help others with confidence through death related circumstances of loss and grief.

This workshop series is hosted by the University of Toronto.

West Niagara: Shared Learning Local Hub Session @ Employment Help Centre
Oct 16 @ 9:30 am

Shared Learning Local Hub sessions are being held in 5 areas across Niagara for front-line community service and outreach workers to:

  • Connect for shared learning;
  • Share ideas and best practice information to enable client success; and
  • Strengthen relationships concerning clients’ access to services and benefits.

Presentation: Karen Fraser, Niagara Poverty Reduction Network

Please RSVP your attendance to flowe@employmenthelp.org.

Research and Innovation in Aging Forum: Aging, Technology and Privacy @ Online
Oct 16 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Apps in wearable tech such as fitbits and smart watches, and phones, are used to collect small pieces of health data such as pulse, heart rate, and regularity as well as information including what appointments (e. g. with doctors, chiropractors, physiotherapists etc) are being made and the health-related products purchased.

Like credit data, these detailed health markers could be used in algorithms, grouping users by behavioural and risk assessment parameters. All of this data could then be gathered into a ‘wellness report.’

Like credit reports, the wellness report would be susceptible to errors that could take days or months to correct and may require experts and medical tests to disprove errors. Credit reporting companies are financially supported by banks, businesses and lenders.

The wellness report would be a resource that insurers, long term care facilities, health care providers could exploit to gauge the risk associated with the provision of service.

This scoping review examines existing knowledge concerning the data currently being collected and explores novel data combinations and the risk to privacy and autonomy that these pose to older adults. Results confirm the privacy challenges of Big Data and suggest remedies that need to be explored before these usages become commonplace.


  • Review technology that ‘supports’ healthy aging for people aging in place and in their community
  • Discuss data collected and novel applications of that information
  • Promote the prevention of unintended and intended violations of older adult’s privacy and autonomy

This webinar is hosted by the Centre for Studies in Aging and Health.

Financial Concerns and Role of the Power of Attorney @ Alzheimer Society of Niagara Region
Oct 16 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

The Alzheimer Society of Niagara Region invites you to attend this public forum focused on Financial Concerns and Role of the Power of Attorney.

This forum is presented by:

  • Dion McParland, Family Support Counsellor for the Alzheimer Society of Niagara Region
  • Bryce Murray, Heelis Little Almas & Murray LLP

Registration is required by phone (905-687-3914) or by filling out the online registration form.

This event is hosted by the Alzheimer Society of Niagara Region.

Fall Lecture Series: Music That Moves Us – From Rhythm to Social Behaviour @ Armenian Community Centre
Oct 17 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm

Lifelong Learning Niagara offers a six week lecture series twice a year, spring and fall in a variety of academic topics to stimulate and enlighten our senior population in the Niagara Region.

Speaker: Dr. Laurel Trainor, Professor of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour, McMaster University; Director of LIVELab, McMaster University; Research Scientist, Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest Hospital, Toronto

Rhythms are powerful because their regularity enables us to predict when important information will occur next. Dr. Trainor will talk about how rhythms shape our perception, how they are processed in the brain, and how rhythm processing develops in children.

She will describe brain studies that explain why music makes us want to move in time to its beat, and show how moving in synchrony with others affects our willingness to cooperate with those people, even in infancy.

This event is hosted by Lifelong Learning Niagara.

Working With Patients Who Use Substances: Assessment, Brief Interventions and Strategies @ St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton - Upper Auditorium
Oct 17 @ 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm

This intensive 3-hour interactive educational session will focus on assessment, practical brief interventions and strategies that can be incorporated into working with patients who use substances.

This session can be attended in-person or remotely.

Presenter: Megan Hemlow, Project Manager, Mental Health and Addictions Hamilton, Niagara, Haldimand, Brant Local Health Integration Network.

This session is hosted by the Concurrent Disorders Capacity Building Team.

Dementia: Community Resources, Caregiving and Research @ Niagara-on-the-Lake Public Library
Oct 17 @ 6:30 pm

The Alzheimer Society of Niagara Region invites you to join a special presentation on Dementia: Community Resources, Caregiving and Research.

Come and be part of the live audience, as this presentation will be taped for YouTube.


  • Dr. William Brown, Professor of Neurology, McMaster University Medical School
  • Gerry Bucsis, Family Support Counsellor, Alzheimer Society of Niagara Region

This event is hosted by the Alzheimer Society of Niagara Region.


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.