How can we measure the impact of the social economy (social enterprises, nonprofits and cooperatives) in Canada? This is the question that guides the entire project on impact evaluation and measurement conducted by TIESS. To answer it, we scanned the academic and gray literature for any case study addressing this topic and compiled our findings in a common format (title, author, place, date, summary). This section summarizes publicly available reports measuring the impact of social enterprises in Canada outside Québec, while cases based in Québec are summarized in the French version of this page.
About half of the reports considered in this section were commissioned by the organization being evaluated or their funders, in a perspective of demonstrating impact, while the other half is a series of case studies led by academics, many based on the SROI methodology and published in a special issue (winter 2015, 26 (2)) of the journal Nonprofit Management and Leadership. The articles are tentatively classified by economic sector of activity, although most of them relate to the value of employing marginalized populations in one way or another. A section is also dedicated to the specific impact of cooperatives.
In this section, all text in italic is a direct quote taken from the article being summarized. Any table or infographic is also directly drawn from the publication being summarized. This section of our website is still a work-in-progress. If you have corrections or additional case studies to suggest, please do so by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org
Contribution of Cooperation, Social Economy and Collective Enterprises in the Territorial Development of the Lamèque and Miscou Islands in Acadia, New Brunswick
Original title : Contribution de la coopération, de l’économie sociale et des entreprises collectives dans le développement territorial des Îles Lamèque et Miscou en Acadie du Nouveau-Brunswick
Omer Chouinard, André Leclerc, Maurice Beaudin, Gilles Martin and Pricette Donovou-Vinagbe
Lamèque and Miscou Islands, New-Brunswick
Abstract: The contributions of the social economy, general cooperation and specific co-operation among co-operatives have been significant aspects of the development on the islands of Lamèque-Miscou since 1930 and 1940. This study presents the importance of co-operation among fisheries, consumers and financial services co-operatives in developing other collective enterprises or associations. This research has collected information through Annual Reports, semi-directed interviews and focus groups. We show that the mobilization of co-operatives in partnership with municipalities and governmental agencies has provided monetary and human investments in a wide spectrum of sectors: housing, arts and culture, leisure, renewable energy and environment protection initiatives. This accomplishment demonstrates the resilience of social economy, co-operatives and social enterprises and their remarkable contribution to territorial development.
Economic Impact of the Co-operative Sector in Canada
Fiona Duguid and George Karaphilis
The economic impact analysis detailed in this report was conducted in 2019 using 2015 data […] This analysis uses the input-output economic model, with data provided by individual co-ops, the credit union system, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), and Statistics Canada. This paper quantifies the direct, indirect and induced (spinoff) impacts of co-ops and credit unions in Canada. Economic impact is measured in terms of contribution to gross domestic product (GDP), numbers of jobs created in full-time equivalents, wages and taxes paid.
Data from 2010 and 2015 was analysed using the input-output economic model, to determine the economic impact of the co-operative sector on the Canadian economy in terms of direct, indirect and induced impacts. These impacts can be understood as the following:
- Direct impacts: revenue, jobs, and taxes generated by co-operatives.
- Spinoff impacts include:
– Indirect impacts: revenue, jobs, and taxes generated by enterprises that supply co-operatives.
– Induced impacts: revenue, jobs, and taxes generated from spending by direct and indirect employment; spending by employees of co-operatives, employees of suppliers to co-operatives, and their families.
In 2015, there were 5,730 co-operatives that reported in Canada. The volume of business was $85.9 billion with assets of $503.2 billion. Memberships totaled 31.8 million. The number of reported full-time equivalent employees was 182,253. This represents overall decrease of the sector at -5.9% between 2010 and 2015 of reporting co-operatives; yet 20.9% growth in volume of business, 42.5% growth in assets. There are more employees with a 2.4% growth and increased membership by 13.3%.
The input/output analysis shows the value-added GDP impact of the co-operative sector in Canada is $61.2 billion yearly and represents a growth of 12% since 2010. Furthermore, the sector injects $34.3 billion into household income, which is a 4.6% increase. Around $13 billion was paid in taxes to all orders of government, which has grown by 11.1% in five years. In terms of employment, the sector is responsible for providing over 666,146 (full time equivalents) direct and spinoff jobs in the nation. The co-operative sector in Canada is approximately 3.4% of the total economy and 3.6% of the jobs. (Duguid & Karaphillis, 2019, p. 1-2)
Socioeconomic Impact of the cooperative sector in New-Brunswick
Original title : Impact socio-économique du secteur coopératif au Nouveau-Brunswick
This paper’s purpose is to assess the cooperative movement’s impact and current state based on the latest available data at the time of the study (ranging from 1996 to 2005).
At that time, the number of cooperatives was quite stable, with almost no creation of new cooperatives nor any closure of existing ones. Membership was also stable over the studied period.
Based on Statistics Canada input-output model, the author then calculates the economic impact of the sector in terms of jobs and taxes. Strengths and weaknesses of that type of model are discussed in TIESS’ summary sheet here. Results are summarized below:
A) Impact on employment
- Jobs created by cooperatives
- 5,284 jobs (full-time and part-time)
- Payroll: $199 million
- Jobs created by suppliers (upstream, inputs) = 4,310 jobs
- Jobs created by activities other than those of these suppliers. This is referred to as the effect on industries such as trade, health, etc. (downstream, outputs) = 2,878 jobs
Grand total = 5,284 + 4,310 + 2,878 = 12,473 jobs
3.4 per cent of all jobs in New Brunswick
Total payroll: $464 million
B) Tax revenues for the province
Impact of these activities on the Province of New Brunswick’s tax revenues:
- Income Tax: $56.7M
- Consumption taxes: $46.9 million
- Property taxes: $13.8 million
Total: $117.4 million (Leclerc, 2010, p. 11)
The author concludes with a discussion the impact of the sector through the three dimensions of sustainable development (social, environmental, economic).
The Economic Impact of Co-Operatives in Canada
Duguid, F., Karaphilis, G., & Lake, A. (Measuring the co-operative difference research network)
In 2014, MCDRN researchers George Karaphillis, Fiona Duguid and Alicia Lake conducted an economic impact analysis of co-operatives in Canada for the years 2009 and 2010. The study was conducted based on the latest data available from Industry Canada’s annual co-operative survey. As well, it included data on financial co-operatives via Statistics Canada and the annual reports of six co-operative insurance and investment companies. Mutuals were not included in this study. (Duguid et al., 2015)
Results are summarized in the infographic below:
A-Way Express Courier: Social Enterprise and Positive Psychology
Kunle Akingbola, Suwimon Phaetthayanan, Joyce Brown
Abstract: This article examines the social return on investment (SROI) of A-Way Express Courier for the major stakeholder group of the organization, its employees. Specifically, it explores the mental health, employment, and standard of living outcomes that A-Way provides for the employees who are consumer/survivors of the mental health system. Overall, the impacts of the organization contributed significantly to improvements in the health and quality of life of the employees. They also translate into economic benefits for the employees and the community. Because of A-Way’s roots in the consumer/survivor movement of the 1970s, the article suggests that positive psychology could be a valuable framework with which to explain A-Way’s impact. (Akingbola et al., 2015, p. 173)
A-Way is a social enterprise that functions as a supportive workplace in which employees with mental health challenges are empowered. services. At the time of this study, A-Way had fifty-seven employees.
Th e data collection included a survey of thirty employees (53 percent of the total) and semistructured in-depth interviews with twenty-five employees (44 percent).
Results are summarized in the following two tables:
Social Return on Investment for Good Foot Delivery – A Collaborative Reflection
Marcelo Vieta Naomi Schatz, Greg Kasparian
Abstract: This article provides reflections on a social return on investment (SROI) research process with Good Foot Delivery, a work integration social enterprise in Toronto, Canada, engaged in package delivery and employing people with developmental challenges. The article has three aims: (1) to assess Good Foot’s key business inputs, activities, and outputs, and the social impact that these have had on its key stakeholders for the 2013 calendar year; (2) to critically reflect on how the research team arrived at the SROI’s inputs, outputs, outcomes, proxies, and other findings; and (3) to discuss some of the strengths and challenges of the SROI process in practice.
Founded in 2010, good foot delivery is a nonprofit work-integration social enterprise that as of December 31, 2013, provides personalized point-to-point delivery service on foot or via public transit to 260 active corporate and individual customer accounts within the Greater Toronto area.
The data collected as part of the SROI process helped to articulate the following intrinsic benefits for individuals working at Good Foot: better physical health; a sense of purpose and inclusion; the development of extended social relationships; and other psychosocial benefits such as increased self-esteem, independence, and confidence. Indeed, as indicated by stakeholders through interviews, surveys, and the focus group, the major social impact of Good Foot is on the socioemotional well-being of its workers and on family relations. For instance, all workers in our survey shared that they experienced an increase in self-value, confidence, and independence. (Vieta et al., 2015)
Social Return on Investment of an Innovative Employment Option for Persons with Developmental Disabilities – Common Ground Co-Operative
Frances Owen, Jingyu Li, Lisa Whittingham, Jennifer Hope, Courtney Bishop, Anne Readhead, Laurie Mook
Abstract: Common Ground Co-operative (CGC) provides training, administrative, and job coach support to five social enterprises for which persons with developmental disabilities are the non-share-capital partners. This study examines the use of social return on investment (SROI) as a means of determining the value of program impacts related to quality-of-life changes for enterprise partners and their families. The process of conducting this SROI analysis is described and analyzed in terms of its utility in employment services for persons with developmental disabilities. (Owen et al., 2015)
Results are summarized in the following two tables:
Evaluation Report for the Toronto Enterprise Fund
Alexis Kane Speer
TEF has completed the first phase of a comprehensive, longitudinal participatory evaluation. Results are based on an analysis of responses from 295 unique participants who have been interviewed in-person.
The study underscores what we have observed for many years: participants in employment social enterprises experience improvements in all of their assets to enable them to build sustainable livelihoods. For example, respondents to the evaluation questionnaire:
- Increased their income by an average of $456 per month, a 50% improvement.
- Remained attached to the labour market at the time of their latest interview (94% of respondents)
- Are more able to pay their bills and even save money
- Are more likely to report that their housing situation is “good” or “excellent”
- Attained greater food security, including experiencing fewer food shortages, accessing free food less and having increased access to healthier options
- Are more likely to report a “good” or “excellent” sense of community belonging
- Feel that they have a higher overall quality of life since joining the enterprise, with an increase of nearly 20% of participants reporting a “good” or “excellent” quality of life. (Kane Speer, 2014)
Momentum Business Training: A Great Return on Investment
J. C. H. Emery and R. D. Kneebone
Momentum’s Self Employment Program has been offering business training to Calgarians with employment barriers since 1998. Barriers to meaningful employment may include a disability, income level, cultural or language, limited access to capital and limited education. The 26 week program includes 10 weeks of in-class group learning and business plan development followed by an additional 16 weeks of business start-up supported through classroom instruction and individual coaching sessions.
The evaluation was conducted on the 71 program participants who entered the program and completed at least their Business Plan at the 10 week point in the program.
It is estimated that the income of the average participant grew by 250% as a result of taking the Self Employment Program.
Momentum’s Self Employment Program has a return on investment of between $7.54 and $19.80.
Moreover, 88% of survey respondents reported that their circumstances had improved as a result of participating in the Self Employment Program.
- More income
- Debts paid off
- Greater job stability
- Able to support their families, including children to attend Alberta universities
- Courage to run a business
- Increased confidence
- Better able to solve problems
- Improved health and ability to support family members in improving their health (Emery & Kneebone, 2014)
Paro Centre For Women’s Enterprise Measuring Social Impact
Thunder Bay, ON
The PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise, with headquarters in Thunder Bay, Ontario, is a part of this movement, providing micro-enterprise development training and support to women in the northern Ontario region. (Babcock, 2007, p. 3)
This study has applied the method of social value accounting called the Expanded Value Added Statement, which seeks to calculate values for typically non-monetized social values, which are not included in conventional accounting statements.
The following table shows how both the financial and social value which is produced by the PARO centre and its volunteers is distributed among various stakeholders.
The Social column […] incorporates estimates of social value added that would not normally be quantified or included in a conventional accounting statement, even though they provide value to the community or to members of an organization.
Social Return on Investment Analysis- A Case Study of a Job and Skills Training Program Offered by a Social Enterprise
Marlene Walk, Itay Greenspan, Honey Crossley, Femida Handy
Abstract: This article uses a social return on investment (SROI) methodology to analyze the social impact of a social enterprise offering a job and skills training program to an unemployed, largely female population. The social enterprise is based in Toronto (Canada) and run by a nonprofit agency dedicated to the advancement and empowerment of women, primarily immigrants, through access to employment. We focus our analysis on a job and skills training program that provides clients with the skills and tools that they need to successfully seek employment in their efforts to (re-)enter the Canadian labor market. Our goal is to determine the tangible and intangible program outcomes by applying and testing the SROI methodology.
Established in 1978, The Working Skills Centre describes itself as “an innovative, community-based, non-profit, charitable organization that empowers immigrants, primarily women” whose mission is “to prepare our clients to fully participate in Canadian society by providing skills training, work experiences, and settlement services that ultimately lead to employment”. Th e WSC serves as many as 3,200 clients annually through settlement services, job placement, professional development, and skills training. The client population is largely unemployed, predominantly female, and first- or second-generation immigrants. (Walk et al., 2015)
The following two tables compare average inputs and outcomes for WSC clients:
The Social Return on Investment of Four Social Enterprises in Manitoba
SiMPACT Strategy Group
Since 2013, the Department of Housing and Community Development of the Government of Manitoba (Manitoba Housing) has been purchasing construction-related services from social enterprises that seek to reduce barriers to employment for individuals who would otherwise be unemployed. This report evaluated the value created by purchasing services from four such social enterprises: Building Urban Industries for Local Development (BUILD), Brandon Energy Efficiency Program (BEEP), Manitoba Green Renewal (MGR) and Genesis.
Through a total investment of $2.56M by Manitoba Housing and other government and non-profit agencies, the four social enterprises created a social and economic return on investment with a total present value of $5.995M. This means that for every dollar invested 2.23 of social and economic value was created. (SiMPACT Strategy Group, 2016)
Note that this report only gives the total present value (TPV) for a given outcome. The hypothesis that were made to come up with these numbers (the proxies for estimating each beneficial outcome, the duration of these benefits, the share of results attributed to the intervention vs other factors, etc.) are not included, an absence that strongly weakens the value of a such a publication.
Atira Property Management Inc. – Social Impact of Hiring Target Employee Group Individuals
Ernst & Young
Atira Property Management Inc. (“APMI”) is a social purpose property management business (social enterprise) with the goal to offer quality management services to the Lower Mainland real estate community, while reducing reliance of its parent company, Atira Women’s Resource Society (“AWRS”) on government funding. APMI is wholly owned by AWRS, a not-for-profit charitable organization with housing programs for women and children throughout the Lower Mainland. In 2007, in an effort to continue to fulfil its social mission, APMI decided to target potential employees from disadvantaged communities who make up the largest demand on government funding, and set a target to hire at least 80% of new employees from this new target employment group (“TEG”).
During the 2015/2016 reporting period (“FY16”) 38 individuals met the TEG criteria, representing 93% of the total new employees. The SROI analysis revealed that the total inputs from APMI to hire TEG employees was $564,730 during the reporting period, and the total value of outputs was $2,333,096. This results in a final social return on investment of $4.13:$1, meaning that $4.13 in social benefits were generated for every $1 invested by APMI. The benefits that make up the total value are exclusively as a result of the APMI activity of hiring employees from the target employment group, and benefit the following stakeholder groups: TEG employees, government, and the downtown east side (“DTES”) community. It is important to note that increased quality of life for TEG employees was consistently identified as the top benefit of the strategic hiring program through interviews with APMI personnel; however, due to limitations in data availability we were unable to assign a proxy value to this benefit. The impact of increased quality of life is thus discussed qualitatively only. (Ernst & Young, 2017, p. 1)
Social Impact Measurement: Making the Case for Housing
Québec, QC and Toronto, ON
This paper is the summary of a session organized as part of the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association (CHRA)’s 2015 Congress. It is based on three experiences by the Société d’habitation du Québec (SHQ), Mainstay Housing in Toronto, and the Community Forward Fund partnered with the trillium Housing Fund, also based in Toronto.
The SHQ commissioned impact measurement reports to the consulting firm AECOM These reports are summarized in the French version of this web page.
Mainstay Housing is a non-profit housing provider based in Toronto, Ontario that serves individuals living with serious and persistent mental health issues, substance use, and those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The organization offers rent geared to income housing options with various levels of support in order to accommodate a variety of needs. With over 950 units, Mainstay is the largest non-profit supportive housing provider in Ontario.
Starting in 2008, Mainstay collected baseline data about some tenants and then measured the impact of the supportive housing they provided. This impact was measured in terms of resources use, for instance the average number of interaction with the police. The corresponding saved costs were then attributed and economic value using financial proxies. This was done with the support of SAMETRICA. The detailed experience is described on pages 4 to 7 of the report.
The third example shows that the Community Forward Fund and the Trillium Housing Fund offer alternative sources of funding to affordable housing providers along with innovative financial tools for identifying social returns. (Ervick-Knote, 2015)
Proof: How Shared Spaces Are Changing the World
Centre for Social Innovation
In this report shared space is used to refer to three sub-concepts:
- Co-location refers to spaces that are shared among a number of separate organizations. Multi-Tenant Nonprofit Centers are types of co-location spaces that focus on the nonprofit sector.
- Coworking refers to the sharing of workspace among freelancers and other independent workers. Coworking spaces provide workspace and community to people who are often working on their own.
- Community Hubs are shared spaces that provide direct services to the geographic community in which they are situated. Community Hubs collocate service providers that offer a range of supports such as language instruction, job training, after school programs and drop-in groups. (The Centre for Social Innovation, 2010, p. 16)
Th results in this report are mostly based on a survey filled by members of the CSI in November 2008. It shows that shared spaces run by the CSI played a role in six areas of impact:
- Mission: the space we provide, the very foundation of our theory of change pyramid, aids innovation because we take all kinds of mundane operations off our members’ plates. Organizations are better able to attract and retain topnotch staff because of the amenities and working environment we provide compared to other, lower-cost options, and organizations are better able to benefit from their staff’s expertise because they are focused on program delivery rather than clearing photocopy jams. (p. 40)
- Networks: Shared spaces “provides access to a whole new community of fellow members.” (p. 44)
- Ideas: By constantly meeting and engaging with other members and learning about their work, an organization can always find fresh sources of inspiration, learn about the latest developments in other sectors, accelerate learning curves, and become more intellectually, strategically, and practically robust. (p. 48)
- Collaboration: being embedded in a community can inspire organizations to collaborate on entirely new projects none of them would have envisioned were they not in close contact already. (p. 52).
- Money: CSI provides members with greater access to markets and to funders. Many new business relationships have sprung up among members at CSI—an extension of the collaboration we’ve already seen. Additionally, because working out of CSI rather than home or other makeshift offices increases an organization’s professionalism, profile, and public exposure. Joining CSI ensures members are better placed when they approach outside funders and potential clients. (p. 56)
- Happiness: By providing a beautiful, healthy workspace, and a community of supportive, like-minded compatriots in the social mission sector, CSI contributes vitally to that sense of well-being. (p. 60)
This study builds a persuasive narrative regarding the opportunities offered by shared spaces, but is definitely more a communication tool than a scientific demonstration of impact, the main source of information being a single survey based on perceptions of current users who may have biases in favor of that type of service.
Downtown Eastside Social Enterprise Impact Report
Irwin Oostindie et al.
Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside “is a neighbourhood facing multiple issues, structural poverty and drugs, and a list of others. But there is another picture, another story”. This story, “a story of hope, emerging opportunities, and a community business model, social enterprise” is studied in this report published by Buy Social Canada in 2019.
In this study, researchers have identified a cluster of “75 non-profit market-based social enterprises focused on employment, culture, environment, and community economic development” in Downtown Eastside. Based on the survey answered by 40 them, it is possible to highlight the following conclusions regarding their collective impact:
- Social enterprises have become a key player in Vancouver’s local economy with $37 million in gross revenues, $26.5 million in sales, and $18.4 million in salary expenses in the past year.
- Employment creation is a standout feature of social enterprise growth in the Downtown Eastside, with an increase in total workers to 2,864. Of these workers, 55% of full-time and 90% of part-time workers overcame barriers to employment.
- Aside from diversified employment, [other] types of social value created [includes]: Training and education; Housing; Support for artists; Waste reduction through recycling and upcycling; Support for victims of violence; Space and resources for indigenous community; Connections with nature and the land; Sustainable transportation; Reduce hunger; Zero-emission cargo delivery; Quality dental services; Community art space; Connection to the digital world. (Oostindie, 2019)
The remainder of the report includes more i-depth examples of how specific social enterprises generate value in the areas.
Measuring Social Enterprise Value Creation – The Case of Furniture Bank
Laurie Mook, Andrea Chan Dan Kershaw
Abstract: This article presents a case study that explores the creation of value by a social enterprise, Furniture Bank, for its stakeholders. The study is undertaken using the social return on investment framework. The case highlights insights and caveats that resulted from undertaking this type of analysis. This article calls for an integrated approach to social return on investment processes, incorporating both conventional accounting and social accounting.
The mission of Furniture Bank is to transfer gently used furniture and household goods donated by individuals or corporations to people who have recently transitioned out of homelessness, women and children escaping abusive situations, and refugees and newcomers to Canada. (Mook et al., 2015)
The following tables show the estimated inputs and returns:
Akingbola, K., Phaetthayanan, S., & Brown, J. (2015). A-Way Express Courier: Social Enterprise and Positive Psychology. Nonprofit Management & Leadership, 26(2), 173–188.
Babcock, K. (2007). Paro Centre For Women’s Enterprise Measuring Social Impact. Community Economic Development Technical Assistance Program (CEDTAP).
Duguid, F., Karaphilis, G., & Lake, A. (2015). The Economic Impact of Co-Operatives in Canada. Measuring the Co-operative Difference.
Chouinard, O., Leclerc, A., Beaudin, M., Martin, G., & Donovou-Vinagbe, P. (2011). Contribution de la coopération, de l’économie sociale et des entreprises collectives dans le développement territorial des Îles Lamèque et Miscou en Acadie du Nouveau-Brunswick. Revue de l’Université de Moncton, 41(1), 49‑81.
Duguid, F., & Karaphillis, G. (2019). Economic Impact of the Co-operative Sector in Canada. 20.
Emery, J. C. H., & Kneebone, R. D. (2014). Momentum Business Training: A Great Return on Investment.
Ernst & Young. (2017). Atira Property Management Inc. – Social Impact of Hiring Target Employee Group Individuals.
Ervick-Knote, H. (2015). Social Impact Measurement: Making the Case for Housing. CHRA.
Kane Speer, A. (2014). Evaluation Report for the Toronto Enterprise Fund. Toronto Enterprise Fund.
Leclerc, A. (2010). Impact socio-économique du secteur coopératif au Nouveau-Brunswick (p. 19) [Document préparé pour la Coopérative de développement régional – Acadie et le New Brunswick Co-operative Enterprise Council]. Université de Moncton – Chaire des caisses populaires acadiennes en gestion des coopératives.
Mook, L., Chan, A., & Kershaw, D. (2015). Measuring Social Enterprise Value Creation—The Case of Furniture Bank. Nonprofit Management & Leadership, 26(2), 189–207.
Oostindie, I. (2019). Downtown Eastside Social Enterprise Impact Report. Buy Social Canada.
Owen, F., Li, J., Whittingham, L., Hope, J., Bishop, C., Readhead, A., & Mook, L. (2015). Social Return on Investment of an Innovative Employment Option for Persons with Developmental Disabilities—Common Ground Co-Operative. Nonprofit Management & Leadership, 26(2), 209–228.
SiMPACT Strategy Group. (2016). The Social Return on Investment of Four Social Enterprises in Manitoba.
The Centre for Social Innovation. (2010). Proof: How Shared Spaces Are Changing the World.
Vieta, M., Schatz, N., & Kasparian, G. (2015). Social Return on Investment for Good Foot Delivery—A Collaborative Reflection. Nonprofit Management & Leadership, 26(2), 157–172.
Walk, M., Greenspan, I., Crossley, H., & Handy, F. (2015). Social Return on Investment Analysis- A Case Study of a Job and Skills Training Program Offered by a Social Enterprise. Nonprofit Management & Leadership, 26(2), 129–144.
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