Recap: The Role of Public Policy in Social Innovation

Last week we had our second Social Entrepreneurship event (here‘s the recap for the first) – this time focusing on the role of public policy. As much as entrepreneurs are empowered to make a difference, larger problems can’t be solved without collaboration. And as we learned during the event, the government needs to be part of that collaboration – especially for financing efforts! Special thanks to the McConnell Foundation for helping us host the event!

Do you have an opinion on the matter, or a social enterprise? Or maybe you’d like to share how we can use social innovation and social finance to build stronger communities? Be heard by clicking here! 

The event was divided into 3 parts: 1 for each speaker. There was also a breakout session at the end for active discussion regarding the issues that were discussed.

Part 1

WHO: Jonathan Glencross

• Co-founder, Canadian Entrepreneurship Initiative
• Director of Strategic Growth, Purpose Capital
• Director, Nexus Canada

Whereas much of the world is focused on problems and our growing set of difficulties, Jonathan showed us the roses among the thorns – startups that have done a tremendous job at both making an impact and showing rapid growth.

Here’s an example of one of those roses:

Takeaway: Social Innovation doesn’t have to be small

Gone are the days of small-scale social enterprises that never think about profit and growth. Although traditional business growth often leads to more inequality and increases in carbon emissions, it doesn’t have to be this way.

We may be seeing a new wave of social entrepreneurs. These are people who think that markets can be a force for good, and that having a large social component to it makes them a MORE viable business. It’s not enough to have morally good intentions, you need to be 10X better than current solutions.

Part 2

WHO: Jennifer Gammad Lockerby

• Social Innovation Fellow @ RECODE, McConnell Foundation

Are you aware of the McGill Bubble?

Jennifer certainly was when she was a student here, and she warned us of its dangers.

It’s like we’re in a cloud 30000 feet above from the community that surrounds us” – Jennifer Lockerby (on the McGill Bubble)

Although focusing all your time and energy within the campus is not inherently bad, it does make it difficult to get the surrounding community engaged. Since community engagement is a large part of social innovation, you can see how the Bubble can get us into trouble.

But should universities even care about responding to social challenges? Jennifer’s answer is a resounding YES.

2 examples of social innovation in universities

ECOLE (McGill)

The ECOLE project is a venture scheduled to begin its pilot year in September 2014 wherein 8-12 participants will pursue collective sustainable living and learning as they reside at the MORE house on 3559 rue University. Material (energy and water conservation, Carbon footprint) and social (collective living, social justice) sustainability are the focus of the ECOLE project and its coordinators have spent a year on networking and research to develop a base plan and guiding principles.

Diversity Food Services (University of Winnipeg)

Diversity Food Services is a joint venture of the University of Winnipeg’s Community Renewal Corporation(UWCRC) & SEED Winnipeg to deliver excellent food services to the University of Winnipeg while providing meaningful employment and ownership opportunities for the community. Together our specific community objectives include job opportunities in the food industry for new Canadians, Aboriginal people, community residents and University students. Diversity’s mission is to provide food services that demonstrate the desire to meet the goals of sustainability at the University within a work environment that reflects a high level of training for the diverse group of employees. We believe that together we can both enhance the quality of food services and develop competencies in all our employees.

Takeaway: Social Entrepreneurs need to collaborate with large institutions in order to scale, not just a grassroots approach

Bootstrapping and doing things that don’t scale is probably the best way to start your journey as an entrepreneur. It helps you develop the mental models necessary for building a business. This includes getting feedback from your customers, learning how to give them a 10X experience, and getting used to making pivots as you see fit.

But there comes a time when you’ve proven your assumptions, and what you really need is GROWTH.

You can continue to putter along, or you can get some help from the big guys. As a social entrepreneur, getting help from educational institutions is one way to expand your reach. And as you can see from the examples above, it works if you can align your mission with the  school’s .

Part 3

WHO: Stephen Huddart

•CEO & President, McConnell Foundation

The government of Canada has committed to developing a Social Innovation & Social Finance Strategy for the country, which will be co-created by June 2018.

The purpose, is to help us attain the Sustainable Development Goals laid out by the UN:

Stephen also talked about 6 areas that the government should be investing in to advance social innovation, as identified by The Steering Group:

Takeaway: Enabling framework legislation could serve to recognize the contribution of the social economy, direct
government to consider social impact in designing and implementing policies and programs and support
collaboration between government and social purpose organizations.

Do you have an opinion on the matter, or a social enterprise?

Or maybe you’d like to share how we can use social innovation and social finance to build stronger communities?

Share your thoughts by clicking here! 


Mo Akif

Mo Akif

The Editor-in-Chief of the McGill Dobson Chronicles. Never having started a lemonade stand as a child and tired of reading blog posts about entrepreneurship without actually doing anything, he was on the verge of giving up and joining a pyramid scheme. Luckily the McGill Dobson Centre decided to adopt him, allowing him to get a closer look at what it takes to build something valuable.