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‘Canada has a lot to learn from the UK’s leadership on social enterprise’ says Ontario’s minister of economic development in a recent article. With the recent launch of the provincial government’s new social enterprise strategy, the Social Venture exchange and a new micro-finance budget, it appears that Ontario is trying to play catch up in the social enterprise sector. However, there is still a lot that needs t be done in the space, including a social impact bond and more legislative recognition.

One of the proposed legislative impacts in the UK is a Social Values Act, which is to go ‘live’ in 2014. At its core, the act proposes that public services consider the social and environmental value of the services they deliver and supplies they choose. For example, if a charity is able to show that it is efficient with its donation dollars AND that it adds value to the community, through initiatives such as offering apprenticeships to local unemployed youth, it may win a contract over a rival that offers a lower bid.  This idea is definitely interesting for Canadians to look at, as we share a similar public service based infrastructure.

What initiatives such as this act teach us is that embracing social enterprise requires reconsidering practices across the board. As we have mentioned in earlier blogs, the UK has done this quite a bit through how their government, media and business communities recognize social enterprise. This has allowed a stronger focus on social ventures and a more prominent change in society, with recent research showing a larger demand than ever for a more social economy in the UK.

Interestingly enough, the Social Capital Markets conference (SOCAP) is going to be taking place in Toronto, Ontario in March 2014. The conference, which brings social enterprises and social capital investors together, may be a positive step in the right direction for Ontario’s social enterprise sector. With the recent surge from the government of the most populated province in Canada and the arrival of the SOCAP conference in the new year, perhaps Canada is starting to put some well-learned lessons into practice.