Backgrounder: Social Innovation and Social Finance Steering Group


Social Innovation and Social Finance Steering Group

In 2016, the Prime Minister asked the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, to develop a Social Innovation and Social Finance Strategy. On June 8, 2017, Minister Duclos announced the Social Innovation and Social Finance Strategy Co-Creation Steering Group to guide the development of a Social Innovation and Social Finance Strategy.

Steering Group members were asked to share their perspectives on three key challenges which have been raised during discussions with stakeholders on social innovation and social finance in recent years:

  • the skills and capacity of community organizations and governments to pursue social innovation and social finance, including their capacity to measure social outcomes and impact;
  • federal laws, regulations and policies that have an impact on the ability of community organizations to participate in social innovation and social finance initiatives; and
  • access to the capital needed to fund, replicate and expand the reach of social innovation and social finance projects.

The Steering Group was composed of 17 diverse leaders, practitioners and experts from multiple fields including the community, philanthropic, financial and research sectors with knowledge of social innovation, social finance and social enterprise. One government official served as the Steering Group Co-Chair, and officials from many government departments and agencies were also actively engaged with the Steering Group during working sessions.

Between August 2017 and May 2018 the Steering Group engaged with hundreds of Canadians and organizations working in many communities to identify how the Government can better support organizations to achieve their social purpose missions. Gathering first-hand input from a wide range of stakeholders and social purpose organizations informed the Steering Group’s recommendations.

12 Steering Group Recommendations for a Social Innovation and Social Finance Strategy:

  1. Anchor commitment and long-term policy action toward social innovation and social finance in Canada through legislation;
  2. Establish and fund a permanent multi-sectoral Social Innovation Council to advise the federal Government;
  3. Create a permanent Office for Social Innovation;
  4. Improve social purpose organizations’ access to federal innovation, business development and skills training programs;
  5. Establish a multi-departmental Social Innovation Ecosystem Program;
  6. Create a Social Finance Fund;
  7. Ensure federal funding practices support and enable social innovation;
  8. Incorporate social procurement guidelines, tools and training opportunities into the Government’s focus on a cohesive sustainable procurement plan;
  9. Address the legal and regulatory issues impeding charities and non-profits from engaging in social innovation, social finance and social enterprise;
  10. Initiate a series of controlled regulatory experiments, or “sandboxes,” to explore and experiment with new regulatory models;
  11. Establish a Social Innovation Evidence Development and Knowledge Sharing Initiative; and
  12. Coordinate a national social innovation and social finance awareness campaign.

Six key areas that could affect a social purpose organization’s ability to adopt social innovation or social finance practices:

  1. Skills and capacity to equip social purpose organizations with the knowledge and resources to adopt social innovation and social finance approaches;
  2. Funding and capital opportunities so that social purpose organizations have the financial resources to develop, test, adopt, and grow innovative solutions to social and environmental problems;
  3. Market access for social purpose organizations to be able to find buyers for their goods and services;
  4. An enabling policy and regulatory environment that creates the conditions for social innovation, social finance and social purpose organizations to flourish;
  5. Evidence and knowledge sharing to enable social purpose organizations and funders to work together based on what works, develop better goods and services, scale their impact and evaluate progress; and
  6. Awareness and mobilization efforts to spur interest and build support for the growth of social innovation and social finance approaches.

Key Definitions/Terms

Social Innovation:

A response to a social or environmental problem (including everything from a program or a service to different ways of structuring organizations) which, once adopted, results in better outcomes than existing approaches. Social innovations have a transformative impact, delivering improvements across organizations, communities, regions, or systems.

Social Finance:

Investments intended to create a measurable social or environmental impact as well as to generate financial returns.

Social Economy:

The social economy encompasses all of the economic activities carried out by charities, non-profit organizations, co-operatives and mutuals following key principles, including a mission to serve members or advance a social goal, rather than to generate profit; democratic governance by members; and independence from government.

Social Enterprise:

A business, for-profit or not-for-profit, that pursues a social, cultural or environmental mission through the sale of goods and services with the majority of net profits being directed back to its mission, and with limited distribution to shareholders and owners.

Social Purpose Organizations:

The entire spectrum of organizations with a mission to advance social or environmental aims. Social purpose organizations straddle the charitable and non-profit sector (including registered charities, incorporated non-profit organizations and non-profit co-operatives), the private sector (including market sector co-operatives and private businesses advancing a social or environmental mission) and hybrid entities such as Community Contribution Companies and Community Interest Companies, found in British Columbia and Nova Scotia respectively.

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