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Welcome to the new website and resource database for the Social Enterprise Sector of Nova Scotia! We’re excited to launch this site, which will host the work and research that has happened through SENNS, and in the sector overall, since our inception in 2015.

So, how did we get here? Well, two large pieces of work relating to the social enterprise sector’s development took place last year: one was the third Social Enterprise Sector Survey, and the other was the creation of the Social Enterprise Resource Portal. After a relatively short period filled with considerable effort and dedication on the part of many, the results of these two projects now find their home here at www.senns.ca.

How did it all get started? In the summer of 2017, seven youth of diverse educational backgrounds were hired on at Common Good Solutions CIC, the secretariat for SENNS, to work as a team and carry out the initial research on the Resource Database and Survey.

For the Database, the team (affectionately referred to as Team Dazzle) scoured every corner of Nova Scotia’s web resources, using the six pillars of social enterprise as their guide, to find information that would be useful to people at all levels of the sector--those in government, the private sector, and perhaps most importantly, social entrepreneurs themselves! You can check out the six pillars by following the link, but to give you an idea, they relate to: developing skills; capital and financing; access to markets; regulatory frameworks; networks and community engagement; and demonstrating value.

A Brief, Recent Timeline of Social Enterprise in NS

Social enterprise is a term many people are just now becoming familiar with, but its roots in this province go way back, and development of the sector was a focal point in the influential 2014 Ivany Report. Of the many recommendations in the final report, there was recognition of the “potential contributions of social enterprise and social innovation to building a new economy, particularly with regard to ‘green economy’ as a source of employment, value added production, and enhancement of community strength and resilience" (pp. 7). The Ivany Report has since been used to support changes on a provincial level, and its positive repercussions continue to resound through all levels of policy-making.

In 2016, the province’s growing commitment to social enterprise was further cemented by the provincial government legislating to allow companies to incorporate as a Community Interest Company (CIC), thereby instituting a legal designation for social enterprise. This was an incredibly important move! Combining elements of both traditional business and non-profit organizations, CICs are legally obligated to reinvest a majority of revenues into their social, cultural, or environmental beneficiaries. According to the Registry of Joint Stock Companies, there are currently 5 active CICs in the province, a number which is sure to grow as more social enterprises establish themselves.

Following the 2016 legislation, in early 2017 Minister of Business Mark Furey announced the release of a provincial Framework for Advancing Social Enterprise, in partnership with our own SENNS Sector Strategy. The Framework draws on data collected from the 2014 Social Enterprise Survey, and outlines provincial policies for support in the sector based on the six pillars of social enterprise.

Continued data collection about social enterprise in the province is clearly an important task, as proven by the legislation around Community Interest Companies and the publication of the Framework. The province undertook both actions after the 2014 Survey results and Ivany Report were released, and the need for another, updated survey was obvious to us here at SENNS.

The 2017 survey was the third of its kind (following 2014 and the first in 2011), and the results reflect the widest view of social enterprise, or even socially engaged organizations, that’s yet been taken in Nova Scotia. This is not only because the sector continues to expand, but because many organizations around the province that operate with social, cultural, or environmental goals may fit the model of social enterprise and not even know it.

In one way, through reaching out to diverse communities around the province, the work of the survey falls under the fourth pillar of social enterprise: promoting and demonstrating the value of the sector. More importantly, however, the survey supports this pillar through the aggregation and presentation of respondents’ data in Mapping the Social Shift, the newly released survey report.

This latest survey report, in conjunction with the launch of the Resource Database, will support and reinforce all six pillars of social enterprise. With this new database, SENNS is carrying the crucial work of the last few years forward into the future of the sector’s growing provincial network.

Follow us here and on our social media for highlights and stories from the 2017 Sector Survey, as well as profiles and snapshots of SENNS member organizations and supporters.

Interested in becoming a member or a supporter of SENNS? Click here.