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Ask@Endeavour – Social Entrepreneurship Answers June 5th, 2012

Just over a month ago, we announced the launch of Ask@Endeavour, a new knowledge-sharing initiative for non-profits. Every month, we’ll feature a new guest expert who answers your questions on their field of expertise.

Dr. Ann Armstrong

In June, our inaugural featured subject matter expert was Dr. Ann Armstrong, Director, Social Enterprise Initiative and Lecturer, Organizational Behaviour/HR Management at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto.

Our theme for the month was social entrepreneurship, and we received four questions from the non-profit community. We’d like to thank Dr. Armstrong for taking the time to answer your questions:

(1) How can government and society promote and encourage more social entrepreneurship?

I think there are three main ways to promote social entrepreneurship in Canadian society. First, disseminate information about social entrepreneurship broadly through social media. Second, develop tax incentives for social entrepreneurs so it becomes attractive to start or to invest them. And third, partner with other organizations to design and study effective and ineffective practices.

(2) What is the success rate of social startups in Canada?

I don’t know statistically but have observed that we have had some recent failures. We tend to underestimate the degree of difficulty in starting up and sustaining social enterprises. We also underreport failures so my guess is that it may be quite high.

(3) What are the largest challenges of starting up a social entrepreneurship firm?

There are so many (!) but I will highlight three. (1) Ensuring that there is a clear business case for the organization. (2) Being clear about the social mission as the central guiding design principle. (3) Managing expectations from the investors, the community, and the employees of the social enterprise.

(4) Can a social enterprise be a registered charity or just a part of a registered charity?

Yes, it can be either. But…this a complex question that needs to be answered through the lens of the CRA. The second edition of the Social Enterprise Guide, developed by enp, should be consulted first to make sure that you have made the correct legal choice for your social enterprise. Visit for the excellent – and free – guide.

Stayed tuned for details on this month’s theme and featured expert!

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