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
This research pilot began in the winter of 2014 to investigate urban beekeeping in the context of Sault Ste. Marie. The pilot project set out to assess the feasibility of an established, successful, working apiary within the city by fostering positive community relations; continual operation and/or expansion of bee colonies in the community; gathering a baseline of public perception of urban beekeeping; and the ability of public outreach and education in addressing community perceptions.
The Rural Agri-Innovation Network (RAIN) is began as a project of Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre and NORDIK Institute, with support from farmers and communities to enhance the agriculture and food sector in Algoma. RAIN’s vision is to build a resilient farm and food sector in northern Ontario through innovative research and agriculture development projects. To date RAIN has conducted research in Forage Improvement, Novel Crop Studies, Value Chain Development; and has developed programs such as the SNAPP (Sustainable New Agri-Food Products & Productivity) Program, and the Regional Tile Drainage and Land Clearing Program, to name a few.
Dr. Gayle Broad, Errol Caldwell, David Thompson, Mikala Parr, Melissa Watson, Jordan Danielewicz, Jessica Laidley
Follow RAIN on twitter @RAINAlgoma
Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rainalgoma
YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChowRsaQQgh2YppqMb25-pA
This initiative advanced the public awareness of local food producers and products, playing a vital role in the viability and growth of local agriculture and farming. NORDIK researchers compiled a list of local food sources into a printable brochure, providing consumers with an accessible entry point into the marketplace. This work enhanced economic opportunities in Algoma by making the connection between producers and consumers through promotion, education and cooperation.
2010 – 2014
Bring Food Home Algoma: Policy Paper on Building Resilient Futures, highlights needs and challenges within the current food system, including the need for education about food production and processing, meeting food needs related to the region’s existing and emerging cultural diversity, and increasing access to healthy local food. It also underscores the need for cross-sector collaboration and diversifying local food production and promoting sustainable production methods.
Dr. Laura Wyper, David Thompson, Sean Meades