It’s an exciting time here in the social enterprise sector in Ottawa! 

The Centre for Innovative Social Enterprise Development (CISED) plays an integral role in the development of numerous social enterprises in Ottawa by providing a range of supports to support the social enterprise sector including coaching, technical assistance, and workshops.  Since my arrival this past summer as executive director, the sector has given me a warm and welcoming reception and I’m encouraged that we can play a growing role in the development of social enterprise. In this first post of a two part series, I’m excited to share our strategic direction and how we think CISED will continue to make an impact in Ottawa.

Our Beginnings
Since its inception in 2009 as a collaborative based out of Causeway Work Centre, an Ottawa-based organization that operates four successful social enterprises, CISED has had one single purpose; to support and build the social enterprise sector.  In the spring of 2013, CISED officially incorporated as a social enterprise not-for-profit and continues to operate through the generous support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation and ENP Canada.  Given the early success of CISED, I’m excited to share with you our new strategy to support and serve the burgeoning social enterprise sector in Ottawa.

Much of what comprises our strategy, and what lays at the ethos of CISED is underpinned by three key pillars.

Social innovation
CISED plays an integral role assisting Ottawa’s social enterprises, many of whom come from the charitable and not-for-profit sector.  To create systemic and transformative social change, we need to be collaborative and embrace multi-stakeholder partnerships.  There are many ways to embark on this.  One pervasive need facing the sector revolves around the ongoing need for the right financial supports to start and scale social enterprises, yet there remain significant gaps.  While capital tends to remain a prevalent issue for many social enterprises, CISED is committed to playing an important role in facilitating new and innovative funding models and social finance products and services to give the right supports to social enterprises.  Social innovation, however, doesn’t simply occur with a new funding model or financial product.  In order to enact transformative social change we all need to be engaged in the sector in meaningful ways not simply as consumers or entrepreneurs, but when we look to find new ways to leverage our community’s collective experiences, networks, and infrastructure to support the sector in a collaborative fashion.  This is a task that Ottawa is ready for.

Sector building
It has always been CISED’s goal to build a vibrant social enterprise sector in Ottawa.  This goal hasn’t changed, but we believe transformative change can occur when we dedicate the right resources to the right enterprises and partnerships.  When CISED first began there was a steep learning curve for many organizations interested in starting a social enterprise.  Today, however, many now understand the crux of what social enterprise entails, even if they don’t have an idea of what goods and/or services they will sell.  As a result, CISED must pivot to ensure our efforts and focus is directed to supporting social enterprises through all facets of their development, from ideation to maturity.  Our hope is that through innovative partnerships we can help create new social enterprise sector jobs and see new capital flowing into the sector that otherwise would not.

Knowledge sharing
I’m fortunate to be witness to CISED’s early impact with many of Ottawa’s social enterprises.  One area that we can play an increased and important role in the development of the sector broadly is to share our findings and key learnings.  Over the years CISED has assisted over 100 organizations and social enterprises and have amassed quite the knowledge-base.  Some of the lessons we’ve learned have been applied to help other social enterprises, but I believe there’s a real opportunity to share some of our findings with the sector here in Ottawa and across the country as we develop our programming areas over the next year.  To this effect, I’ll be looking to package key findings and takeaways in formats that are easily accessible, readily available and informative for the sector.

There is no doubt in my mind that CISED can continue to work to galvanize our community in meaningful ways to support the social enterprise sector in Ottawa.  In my next blog post I will highlight some of the key activities we’re undertaking to do just that, including our work on social procurement, social enterprise legacy transfer, and through our Mission Multiplier Grant program supported through ENP Canada.

Burning Questions? Comments? Share your thoughts with SocialFinance.caCISED or Douglas on Twitter!

Special thanks to the Jared & the team for posting.

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AuthorDouglas Pawson