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

Christmas Day
Dec 25 all-day
Boxing Day
Dec 26 all-day
New Year’s Day
Jan 1 all-day
Program Evaluation for Youth Wellbeing @ Online
Jan 4 all-day

A free 10 week online certificate course about the main concepts, approaches and practices relevant to conducting evaluation of youth sector programs and initiatives.

In this certificate, participants will learn how to develop an evaluation plan, implement this plan and use the findings to improve their programs and share their impact.

This certificate is structured in a way that is flexible and easy for you to complete. All course content is available to you at once so that you can work through the modules at your own pace.

Applications are due on November 30, 2018.

This program is hosted by YouthREX.

Brock VolunteerFEST @ Brock University
Jan 16 @ 10:00 am – 2:00 pm

Brock University’s Student Life & Community Experience and Career Education invites community organizations to attend their biannual VolunteerFEST on January 16, 2019.

Student Life & Community Experience and Career Education recognize the benefits students, staff and faculty gain from volunteering in their community. This is an opportunity to assist members of the Brock and Niagara communities to find volunteer opportunities that fit their school and work schedules, as well as personal strengths and interests.

By reserving a booth, you will have the opportunity to promote your organization to many students, staff and faculty as well as foster a positive community image. This year VolunteerFEST will again be taking place in the Guernsey Market Hall. A four foot table, two chairs, and a parking pass will be included in a $15.00 registration fee.

This event is hosted by Brock University.

Frank Lloyd Wright Revisited @ Carnegie Building
Jan 16 @ 7:30 pm

Frank Lloyd Wright Revisited Ken and Linda Bauman – Grimsby Historical Society

During a period of 15 years, Ken and Linda Bauman travelled across the United States to tour 40 houses, commercial and institutional structures designed by the American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright’s productive period spanned more than 70 years. His visionary creations were strongly influenced by the natural world and he emphasized craftsmanship while embracing technology’s ability to make design accessible to all.

Ken and Linda revisit some of Wright’s iconic buildings and we learn how many of his creative ideas are reflected in the interior design of our homes and in the architecture of new development in our community.

This event is hosted by the Grimsby Historical Society.

Disco Ball in Support of Niagara Region Sexual Assault Centre @ Holiday Inn and Suites Parkway Conference Centre
Jan 19 @ 7:00 pm

Come and dance the night away to all of your favourite decade hits!

By Request DJs will be your host for the evening as we raise funds for the Niagara Region Sexual Assault Centre and their public education and Child Assault Prevention Program.

This event is hosted by the Niagara Region Sexual Assault Centre.


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.