Case Studies in Social Innovation: School for Social Entrepreneurs – Ontario
The School for Social Entrepreneurs—Ontario (SSE-O) was founded in 2012 and is a collaboration led by four organizations:
- Housing Services Corporation
- MaRS Discovery District
- ACCESS Community Capital Fund
- Centre for Community Learning and Development (Toronto)
The SSE-O helps social entrepreneurs create sustainable programs and ventures in order to implement solutions to poverty, social injustice and environmental stress. In founding SSE-O, the partnership was motivated by the belief that social entrepreneurship could play a key role in building stronger communities and promoting a healthy economy in Canada.
The original School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) was founded in 1997 by Michael Young, one of Britain’s greatest social entrepreneurs. Michael Young created the SSE with a vision to foster an environment where individuals from all walks of life and varying ages could come together to put transformative ideas into action. At present, there are 11 SSE schools around the world and more than 850 entrepreneurs have completed the SSE fellowship program.
Social innovation in action
SSE-O’s untraditional and unique educational model places the emphasis on students as self-directed learners. By nurturing community-based social entrepreneurs, SSE-O supports the exploration of new ideas and innovative approaches to the evolving and complex challenges faced by communities throughout Ontario.
Through action-based programs, SSE-O students learn to establish, scale and sustain social ventures. They pioneer new ways of meeting a community’s social and environmental needs―improvising and inventing along the way.
Hands-on experience is a critical aspect of this model. Students apply insights from the classroom directly to their ventures through practical action. Throughout each course, students gain skills and knowledge by interacting with peers, building new networks and being challenged by practitioners, staff and each other.
This applied, holistic educational approach equips students with the skills and training to turn their social dreams into reality. And live learning is an excellent way to make learning stick as the payoff is immediate.
Looking ahead in Ontario
Ontario would benefit from more programs and ventures that focus on social impact and provide alternative ways to learn and adopt entrepreneurial skills and knowledge. Many Ontarians involved in the social sector would like to see this need filled and regard the development of a school dedicated to social entrepreneurship as an essential piece of infrastructure that would create considerable benefits, both for the sector and the province.