The Women of Ontario Social Enterprise Network’s (WOSEN) final report Investing in Women Entrepreneurs: A case study for co-creating effective supports provides the sector with evidence-informed processes on ‘how to’ develop an equity-centric social entrepreneurship ecosystem. It reveals the significant role collaborative and co-creative processes contribute to building trust, shifting mindsets and identifying innovative equity-centred pathways forward. It illustrates ‘how to’:
The initiative is contextualized within systems change and community economic development principles, offering a critical analysis of ways of effectively building, enhancing and expanding equity, and ‘how well’ strategies work — the impact and responses in addressing systemic barriers diverse women entrepreneurs encounter.
The study also includes ten recommendations for increasing investments in women founders through equity-centred collaboratives, partnerships and advocacy, and program diversity, flexibility and duration, to name a few.
Previous WOSEN reports include:
WOSEN (2019-2023) was a province-wide collaborative composed of five social innovation and system change organizations led by Pillar Nonprofit Network in partnership with NORDIK Institute, Social Innovation Canada, Social Venture Connexion and Flourishing Startups. It was partly funded by the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario).
The Women of Ontario Social Enterprise Network (WOSEN) is a province-wide collaborative composed of five social innovation and system change organizations aiming to redesign the entrepreneurial ecosystem to meet the needs of women and non-binary founders from diverse, equity-seeking groups. WOSEN’s focus is women who have business solutions that put people and the planet first (i.e., social enterprises). Its approach intentionally moves away from current services and financing structures that are readily available and easy to deliver largely due to their limited relevance and accessibility for those that fall outside of the dominant culture, choosing instead to develop a model that holistically supports diverse entrepreneurs’ learning journeys and aspirations. Since its launch in 2019, this approach has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs across Ontario to start and grow their businesses and has unlocked millions of dollars in capital for these initiatives.
The collaborative intentionally developed three interconnected strategies to activate systems change and advance equity in entrepreneurial systems. The Centring Equity report illustrates how they engaged founders and ecosystem supporters (e.g., business developers, coaches, funders/investors) in emergent collaborative and co-creative practices that provide space for knowledge sharing and cogenerating innovative pathways forward to support women-owned and women-led ventures.
The report contextualizes the initiative within current social change practices and community development principles. Its aim is to advance equity, providing a critical reflection on WOSEN’s approach to and resulting impact on participants and the entrepreneurial ecosystem. It is the second publication capturing the initiative’s collaborative learning and impact. The first report, Outstanding By Standing Together, The Story of WOSEN, Interim Report is also available here.
The initiative is led by Pillar Nonprofit Network in partnership with NORDIK Institute, Social Innovation Canada, and Social Venture Connexion with support from Lean4Flourishing and funded, in part, by the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario).
The Women of Ontario Social Enterprise Network (WOSEN) is focused on catalyzing social innovation ‒ reorganizing (or reimagining) the way the current entrepreneurial system works to enable underrepresented and underserved women founders to participate and prosper in business and society. WOSEN is an innovative equity-centred collective impact initiative, incorporating a developmental evaluation approach, to create the critical resources, relational networks and stakeholder capacity that underpin a healthy, functioning and thriving ecosystem to foster more inclusive economies. The Interim Report captures key lessons and impact from the WOSEN experience that will shape the future of the program and may prove critical to the reorganization of the current entrepreneurial system, to foster the growth of women-owned and women-led ventures with a positive social and environmental impact.
Outstanding by Standing Together: The Story of WOSEN – Interim Report
Urban Indigenous Youth for Change is a collaborative project focused on urban Indigenous youth aged 13 – 35 to embrace their role as change makers in their communities.
UIYFC supports youth in co-creating a path of opportunity for themselves and others by becoming aware, engaged and informed of the social economy sector. The project creates opportunities for Indigenous youth to learn and teach one another – bringing together Indigenous culture, land based knowledge and entrepreneurship skills. UIYFC works to engage urban Indigenous youth by connecting young change makers with peers, elders and knowledge keepers and community organizations. The youth-led UIYFC steering committee collaborates by focusing on strengths to create a better future for youth.
Jordan Tabobondung, Kristia Bissiallon, Lauren Doxtater, Rebecca Commanda, Samantha Kyle, Taylor Jolin
Soup Ste. Marie is a public dinner designed to use community-driven financial support to democratically fund projects led by individuals, businesses and groups of community members. It is a recurring micro-grant model based on the international Sunday Soup program which uses crowd sourcing to finance creative projects through community meals. This years’ theme was “Engaging Indigenous Youth.” UIYFC were the lead organizers for the event supported by NORDIK Institute, Social Entrepreneurship Evolution and YouLaunch. Marek McLeod won over $400 to deliver youth paint nights where he would teach arts-based skills to create painting based on elder’s teachings.
2013 – Ongoing
Elizabeth MacMillan, Rebecca Commanda, Katie Blundt, Jamie McIntyre
Social Enterprise for Northern Ontario (SENO) CoStarter for Change supports the development of early-stage, high growth social enterprises in Northern Ontario by offering social entrepreneurs access to capital, educational and support programs, workspace, and other services to help launch and grow their non-profit and for-profit ventures. In 2013, Ontario launched the Social Enterprise Strategy (https://www.ontario.ca/page/ontarios-social-enterprise-strategy-2016-2021). The Social Enterprise Demonstration Fund (SEDF) (program closed) is one of the key commitments to the strategy, supporting 11 social finance projects throughout the province. A $4 million contribution has leveraged $6 million in private investment. Social Enterprise Northern Ontario (SENO) a collaboration led by PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise is one of the successful social finance projects, receiving $250,000 for two years.
If you are interested in applying for the SENO CoStarter for Change program, please download the Application package, the Required criteria and milestones toolkit and the Self-assessment toolkit.
Elizabeth Macmillan, Zach Falldien
Social Enterprise Demonstration Fund (SEDF)
Social Enterprise Northern Ontario (SENO)
PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise
Required criteria and milestones toolkit
Social Entrepreneurship Evolution (SEE) is an emergent pan-northern collaborative whose focus is to support the infrastructure for Youth Social Entrepreneurship (YSE) with an emphasis on collaboration, shared measurement and collective impact. Lead by NORDIK Institute and its various regional partners, this project focuses on building a sustainable network by providing supports, setting up connections, sharing resources, building capacities, engaging youth, using community based research methods, and promoting social entrepreneurship and the benefits it can bring to Northern Ontario. SEE has initiated a number of programs including Urban Indigenous Youth for Change, SENO CoStarter for Change, as well as leading a nine-week free workshop series, open to all, to learn about Social Enterprise, Entrepreneurship, and business basics, and how to begin a business that can help solve community problems.
Katie Elliott, Shannon Moan, Melanie Watson, Dr. Gayle Broad, Erika Luoma, Katie Blunt, Elizabeth MacMillan, Jamie McIntyre, Jordan Wettlaufer
Sign up for our updates and get involved with the movement of social innovation and entrepreneurship by heading over to our website seethechange.ca
The Metis Nation of Ontario’s Education and Training department delivers numerous services to the Metis population residing in Ontario. This department is also responsible to deliver services and programs that aid Metis citizens in the area of employment, education and training opportunities including financial resources, skill development and programming.
NORDIK Institute delivered and developed an Asset Map report that displayed the education and skill levels of the Métis citizen workforce in Ontario for the Métis Nation of Ontario’s Education and Training department, which is responsible for delivering employment, education and training opportunities for Métis citizens. While Metis people attempting to access the labour market are faced with numerous barriers and challenges, they possess significant assets. The report highlighted assets such as a strong sense of culture and identity of Metis people themselves, who bring together a unique set of skills, connection to the land, traditional knowledge and a vital culture that Métis people bring with them as they enter the workplace, whether as wage-earners, or as self-employed entrepreneurs. These assets can be enhanced and/or extended to build a stronger foundation for an even stronger and more diverse robust labour force participation for among Metis Métis people.
Dr. Gayle Broad, Lauren Doxtater, Connie Manitowabi
Asset Mapping Report – Labour Market Skills, Education and Employment Experience
In partnership with an Indigenous Youth Council, NORDIK has developed the innovative Indigenous Youth Lead Youth Anti-Racism Program. This important initiative is intended to empower youth leaders to deliver culturally safe, Indigenous-focused anti-racism workshops in school and community settings. The objective of this program is to promote understanding and a shared responsibility in creating respectful community relationships with all youth in Ontario.
The Indigenous Youth Lead Youth Anti-Racism Program will help promote understanding and shared responsibility to create respectful community relationships with all youth in Ontario. It is designed to engage non-Indigenous youth through interactive, age-appropriate workshops in elementary schools, high schools, post-secondary schools and other community settings.
Discussions on race and ethnicity are personal. Many choose not to share experiences due to traumatic events and can find it challenging to explain the interconnected nature of racism. For Indigenous Peoples, the legacies of Residential schools, implications of the Treaty-making process and negative stereotypes all play a role in their experiences today.
In these workshops, participants discuss the negative impacts of racism and biases on First Nations, Inuit and Métis people in a culturally safe, supported environment. Youth participants learn about the importance of building respectful intercultural relationships and dialogue.
The program was designed with input from First Nations, Métis and Inuit youth and elders. Funding for the development of the program was provided by the Ontario Ministry of Indigenous Affairs.
This flexible program includes six 90-minute workshop modules that can be tailored to suit the grade level of the intended audience. A training materials are also available. Facilitators can choose to run some or all of the modules:
The beautiful, unique artwork that accompanies the Program materials was created by Patrick Hunter: https://www.patrickhunter.ca
Download the Training Guide and Workshop Package in English or French.
NORDIK would like to thank the following people for their important contributions to this program:
The Indigenous youth and Elders who comprised the Youth Advisory Circle, the students and staff of Pelican Falls High School, Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School, and Keewaytinook Okimakanak Secondary School for hosting the Youth Advisory Circle and providing feedback on the program, and the Métis Nation of Ontario for reviewing content.
The Indigenous Youth Leading Youth Training Guide and Workshop Package have been developed by the NORDIK Institute and were funded by the Ontario Ministry of Indigenous Affairs. The views expressed in the Training Guide do not necessarily represent the views of the Government of Ontario.
Lauren Doxtater, April Wesley, Zach Low, Sean Meades