“Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.”
There’s wisdom in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous (paraphrased) dictum. Find a new way to accomplish a goal more efficiently and sustainably and you might spark a revolution.
So we were disappointed, but not surprised, that a revolutionary report released in August didn’t get more media attention. The recommendations contained in Inclusive Innovation: New Partnerships for Stronger Communities could forever change how we do good in Canada.
“Amid the turbulence of trade negotiations and pipeline disputes, it sets out the steps by which Canada can become a more inclusive, sustainable and innovative society,” says Stephen Huddart, president and CEO of the McConnell Foundation, which contributed to the report.
The idea of social enterprise — a for-profit business whose core mission is to address a social or environmental issue — has caught fire globally in the new millennium.
Countries such as the U.S. and U.K. have for years invested heavily in laws and programs to encourage growth in the sector.
The U.K. is now home to 70,000 social enterprises, such as prison-based restaurants that employ and give career training to inmates, companies that provide affordable loans to low-income families and socially responsible supermarkets. In addition to tackling community challenges, they’ve generated more than $41 billion for the U.K. economy.
Although Canada has been identified as one of the world’s best countries for social entrepreneurs (a fact we can confirm, having founded our own social enterprise here), we lack the regulatory framework that would enable this valuable sector to truly flourish. The report recommendations aim to change that.
One of the key report recommendations calls for amending business registration and tax laws to remove the regulatory hurdles for aspiring social entrepreneurs and existing non-profits that want to incorporate income-earning social enterprises into their work.
Another recommendation would promote social enterprise by requiring the federal government to consider social good in its procurement process.
Even if you’re not an entrepreneur, the recommendations include opportunities for all Canadians. Imagine taking that bundle you inherited from grandma and, rather than locking it away in savings bonds, investing in a courier service that creates jobs for homeless youth, or a First Nations-run sustainable salmon fishery?
Inclusive Innovation recommends creating a Social Finance Fund — like the U.K.’s Big Society Capital, or the U.S. Nonprofit Finance Fund — to build a market for social investment.
“It’s going to make it easier for people to invest their savings in social enterprises that generate positive social and environmental outcomes as well as profit,” says Huddart.
“The recommendations are designed to amplify and accelerate social innovation and social finance initiatives already happening across Canada and demonstrate Canada’s leadership on the global stage,” says Tania Carnegie, chief impact officer of KPMG’s Impact Ventures practice.
Years ago, we had to forge our own path to found a social enterprise.
The task was difficult and laden with challenges. That’s why this report is so ground-breaking. It represents an inspiring blueprint for a better way of doing good that will beat a path for a new generation of change-makers.
Craig and Marc Kielburger are the co-founders of the WE movement, which includes WE Charity ME to WE Social Enterprise and WE Day. For more dispatches from WE, check out WE Stories.