Inspiring the next generation of social entrepreneurs

WE is proud to be launching the WE Social Entrepreneurship Centre (WE SEC), Canada’s first center for innovative social enterprises for young people under the age of 35. The Centre’s mission will be to support young leaders as they launch and scale social enterprises that apply business solutions to society’s greatest social challenges.

Building a youth movement

WE SEC will be an incubator uniquely dedicated to building a youth movement through social entrepreneurship skills and supporting nationwide scaling of social enterprises. As a WE Charity initiative and in close partnership with leaders across the social sector, the WE SEC will have a dual focus:

  • Programming for youth under 25 in 7,000+ WE Schools and extracurricular groups, building the skill set to succeed in social entrepreneurship, encouraging youth to establish micro ventures across Canada and dramatically scale their enterprise.
  • An accelerator for people under 35, empowering their social enterprises by offering free, long-term support, including back-end services, expert-led programming, mentorship and access to capital.

The WE movement (made up of WE Charity, WE Day and ME to WE) is uniquely positioned to empower Canada’s next generation of social entrepreneurs. As one of the largest Canadian-founded not-for-profits, we are proud to work collaboratively with incredible partners to establish the WE SEC as a project of WE Charity, in service of all young Canadians. Read the article “Making way for a new generation of Social Entrepreneurs” about our need to grow this capacity to tackle future opportunities and challenges.

Building a community hub

For the 25th Anniversary of WE, our dream is to build a nexus of innovation, a campus for good that will bring together non-profits, social enterprises, and community services, all in one location to create local and global transformative change. The WE Social Enterprise Center is both the geographical and spiritual cornerstone of the dream.

With a high population of low income residents and new Canadians, the surrounding neighbourhoods of east downtown Toronto have the highest concentration of community non-profit organizations in the city. Our vision is to establish a central hub, a city block where community organizations, social enterprises, and aspiring young social entrepreneurs can easily access training, mentorship, services and resources to realize their own visions, and scale their impact. Through shared spaces, they will be able to interact and network, learning from one another as well as from experts in a wide range of fields.

Why a bet on social enterprise?

Social enterprises apply business solutions to today’s greatest societal challenges. There are over 170,000 not-for-profits in Canada today. However, not-for-profits are experiencing increasing financial challenges as the number of organizations grow, traditional funding avenues shrink and donations continue to decrease each year. Not-for-profits are drastically limited in their ability to raise capital, scale their impact and manage economic volatility. Meanwhile, traditional business models focused on driving shareholder value are not built to address society’s most pressing systematic issues. Social entrepreneurship is uniquely positioned to address the growing need to tackle local and global issues in an economically sustainable way.

ME to WE: A leader in social enterprise

Since launching the ME to WE social enterprise in 2008 to support the mission of charity partner, WE Charity, WE has been raising the profile of social entrepreneurship. Highlights since launching include:

Envisioning the future

As our 25th anniversary approaches, we look to empower the next generation of innovative change-makers. We have been incredibly fortunate to have received immense guidance and support from our partners over the years in growing our movement. It is this support that has inspired us to undergo extensive research to fully understand the social sector and identify our greatest opportunities to provide value.

A special thank you: Thor Richardson

Special thanks to Thor Richardson, entrepreneur and WE Champion, for his landmark gift to the WE SEC’s physical infrastructure. As an example of the program’s vision, the young entrepreneur made the commitment prior to his 30th birthday. We are also grateful to recognize RBC as a founding partner in launching our social entrepreneurship programming and the Incubation Hub infrastructure. These contributions continue to deeply guide our work today.

Our programs

Students engaged in WE Schools
Students engaged in WE Schools

WE Incubate

Leveraging the WE Schools network of 7,000 Canadian schools, colleges and universities, we will engage young people through tailored curricular resources, small-group coaching sessions, hack-a-thons and mentorship. This builds on the success of WE Are Social Entrepreneurs, a joint program of WE and RBC Future Launch. We’ll celebrate the incredible ideas of young people at WE Day events. Through their micro social enterprises, young people across Canada will create hundreds of initiatives that plant seeds of benefit across the country.

WE Scale Up

WE Scale Up will elevate social enterprises to their full potential to create industry leaders. Through rigorous vetting, select young people and their ventures will be invited into a multi-year incubation and acceleration program to help launch their initiatives at scale. The program will offer resources in two key areas to help lead big changes:

  • Business support: Services geared toward business needs, such as human resources, productization, finance, legal and accounting.
  • Social impact support: Services to develop deep integration of social impact across the venture, such as working with at-risk populations, accessibility and validating social impact.
 Young people collaborating
 Young people collaborating