Staff Intro - Matthew Burke

Matthew just started his first year with us this past July, and is concurrently working towards his CMA designation and completing his MBA at the Sobey School of Business. Matt has been spending most of his time focused on our Social Impact Assessment tools, working at developing this capacity and delivering the product to clients. You can learn more about Matt on our About page and here in this blog post, where he writes about how he became interested in social enterprise development. --------

I will confess that through much of my time at university I did not know what social enterprise was. It’s only in the last year that I have been exposed to it. Explaining why I’m passionate about social enterprise begins with discussing how I ended up where I am today.

I didn’t go to university right out of high school. I worked in warehouses and kitchens in low income jobs for 13 years. Then, when I turned 30, I entered the classic “re-examine my life” stage, and made changes.

Ending up in a business program at university was an accident of circumstance; they had a computer program I was interested in, but I couldn’t declare a major until I was done my second year. In that time I almost became an economist before settling on a double major of accounting and finance.

Now what does this have to do with my interest in social enterprise? At this point I hadn’t been introduced yet to the idea of social enterprise. I had lived to this point thinking like many others that social responsibility and business exist in two separate spheres. Luckily, I couldn’t have been more wrong. As I finished my undergraduate degree and began my master’s program, I started meeting more and more people who had strong solid business backgrounds, and yet also had a passion for trying to make this world a better place through social work.

I’ve always been the kind of person that likes helping others and doing what I can to try and make their lives a little bit easier. I’ve been fairly lucky in life. I had a typical Canadian middle-class upbringing. I never wanted for anything and had every educational opportunity afforded to me even if I didn’t take advantage of that.

Working for many years in low income positions and drifting without any real idea of what I wanted to do with my life opened my eyes to many different things, and I realized how unlucky many people in Canada actually are. These people were my coworkers and friends while I was in my 20’s. Business these days sometimes gets a bad reputation as being a force for bad, for being focused only on profit at the expense of people and the environment. As I went through my university education, I started wondering why this had to be the case. There was plenty of opportunity (in my opinion) for business to be used as a force for good to help people. Why can’t we find a way that helps to improve people’s lives without sacrificing economic or environmental sustainability?

Little did I know, people were already doing these things, and were calling it Social Enterprise. What I wanted most of all was to use my business skills not to just make a better life for myself but to try and help make a better life for others such as the friends and colleagues I worked with in the factories and kitchens years ago. Social enterprise gives me the opportunity to do just that which is why it’s so exciting. It doesn’t just align with my personal values but allows me to align my personal values with what I do for a living. That is a rare opportunity many people don’t have and I am very grateful for that opportunity and want to make the best of it.