2014 holds great promise for Nova Scotia’s social enterprise sector

Posted on January 13, 2014 on www.socialenterprise.ca  Writer: Michelle Strutzenberger, Axiom News

A number of activities in the province of Nova Scotia are hoped and expected to contribute to developing the social enterprise sector in a significant way in 2014.

The Nova Scotia Commission on Building our New Economy is an independent body created in 2012 and mandated to engage all Nova Scotians in a discussion about how they want to shape their economic future. The commission is releasing a report early this year and the hope is that it includes a strong piece on social enterprise as a tool to build prosperity and wellness in the province, says David Upton, president of the Atlantic Council for Community and Social Enterprise and co-founder of Common Good Solutions along with Andy Horsnell. David and other social enterprise proponents contributed to the report.

To help with strengthening the sector, efforts are also underway to create social enterprise study groups in partnership with Scotland. The initiative makes sense given that “Nova Scotia is the new Scotland,” says David. “The connection is direct and traceable in DNA. So there is all this interest in a reciprocal kind of trade relationship around social enterprise.”

Social enterprise proponents have also been working hard for the past several years to change government procurement policy to result in contracting more with social enterprises. “We’re hopeful that there will be some concrete policy that will translate into purchasing from the social enterprise sector. That’s not happening right now to any great degree,” David says.

It’s expected that this will be the year that regulations will be created for the Community Interest Company (CIC) designation, which Nova Scotia passed into law through the Community Interest Companies Act in December of 2012. The CIC is a new recognized hybrid corporation structure that aims to bridge the gap between for-profit companies and non-profit organizations.

And in 2014, Common Good Solutions is expanding on its Innovative Ideas Competition which it’s held for seven years. The Innovative Ideas Competition is designed to provide support to business ideas from post-secondary students and offers $10,000 in cash prizes.

The new Enterprise for Change competition also offers $10,000 in cash awards, but specifically for social enterprise ideas from post-secondary students. Both competitions are slated for March 20 and will start with pitches from students throughout the day. Three finalists from each of the two streams will have a chance to mingle with an anticipated 100 or so guests during an evening forum. Each guest will be looking to invest $100 worth of script they receive in exchange for paying a $100 fee to attend the event. “We’ll cash the students out at the end of the night, so they could walk out of there with a fair bit of money for their projects,” says David. “We’re really excited about the potential for this competition and think we’ll come out of there with some good projects.”

Common Good Solutions has also created Canada's first Social Enterprise Management Certificate Program. A first cohort of 15 students begins the six-module program this month. The organization hopes to partner across the country to offer the certificate program in other jurisdictions. “We’d like to start a new cohort every month,” David says. “There is an opportunity here and a real market and demand for this kind of professional training.”

Related Story: Nova Scotia has notable social enterprise wins in 2013

Writer: Michelle Strutzenberger, Axiom News