Although certainly not new (think of the cooperative movement in the 1840s, or the first thrift shop in the 1890s), the power of social impact investing has captured the imagination of those seeking to meet a wide range of social, environmental and cultural challenges.
The Canadian Task Force on Social Finance has defined social enterprise as “any organization or business that uses market-oriented production and sale of goods and/or services to pursue a public benefit mission.” Social entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes, but are united in their passion for change, using business to power that change, and a desire to be more self-reliant in creating the change they seek in the community.
The Social Enterprise Fund was created to provide financial support, in the form of loans, to organizations across Alberta that are developing a social enterprise.
SEF was established in 2008 through a unique collaboration between the Edmonton Community Foundation and the City of Edmonton. Other contributors to the fund have included the United Way, Alberta Real Estate Foundation and several private contributors.
So far, the fund has invested over $35 million in more than 65 projects. More than $14 million has been paid back, ready to do more good in the community as new loans.
SEF plays a role in the larger community of those who are interested in the concept of social enterprise. We work with partners and organizations across the province, the country and internationally to expand the practical understanding of how social enterprise works “on the ground,” as well as contributing to the training opportunities available to social entrepreneurs.
The Social Enterprise Fund recognizes that it works within a diverse community. Without equitable participation by community members of all backgrounds and abilities, community cannot thrive. SEF is committed to ensuring our work truly reflects our community, and strives to appreciate the lived experience of everyone in that community.
SEF works within the context of the Equity Statement of the Edmonton Community Foundation. In particular, we recognize the need to understand the varied challenges and conditions created by institutional and structural barriers. We know we must actively take into account those realities in how we approach the work that we do.
It is our responsibility to go beyond simply understanding. We must have intention in how our work can respond in the most beneficial way for all who come to us, and not simply perpetuate the status quo.
This commitment informs our work, both in terms of presence in community and in our internal processes. We work strategically to understand how our internal work culture and approach can disadvantage others with different backgrounds, and actively seek ways to rectify both attitudes and processes.