Launching the WE Social
Entrepreneurship Centre

WE is proud to be launching the WE Social Entrepreneurship Centre (WE SEC), Canada’s first centre 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.

Download the brochure

WATCH: WE’s vision for the future of social entrepreneurship.

The WE Social Entrepreneurship Centre (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.

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.

Further, social enterprises empower priority populations to meaningfully address the unique needs of their community while creating jobs and economic growth. For example, social enterprises are twice as likely to be run by women than traditional small and medium-sized businesses. Through innovative business models, successful social enterprises are able to achieve both positive societal impact and financial profits. They tackle issues in a self-sufficient and scalable way that traditional charities or for-profit businesses can’t.

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:

  • Donating at least 50% (but often upwards of 90%) of annual ME to WE profits to WE Charity, enabling a remarkably low 10% administrative efficiency rate, meaning 90% of WE Charity donations go directly to programming.
  • Financially empowering over 1,500 women artisans in Ecuador and Kenya through socially conscious jewellery.
  • Empowering women co-operatives through the sale of ethically sourced coffee and chocolate, creating jobs in some of the most rural areas that face some of the highest rates of poverty.

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.

We envision a world where “social enterprise” is a household term, and successful ventures act as lighthouses setting an example for aspiring entrepreneurs, change-makers and investors to believe in what’s possible. Household names like Manitobah Mukluks, Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore and Graemeen Bank already attest to the potential national and global scale, value and impact of the sector.

Through the WE Social Entrepreneurship Centre, new ventures can connect and support one another, fostering community and long-term growth.

Building on the success of WE Are Social Entrepreneurs, a joint program of WE and RBC Future Launch, the Centre will bring to life two streams of programming:

  1. Building a youth movement with the mission of inspiring social entrepreneurship in Canada’s youth under 25; and
  2. Creating an accelerator providing mentorship and funding for social entrepreneurs under 35 years of age.

A special thank you

Special thanks to Thor Richardson 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.

Thor Richardson, Entrepreneur and WE Champion

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.

Program 1: WE Spark

The WE Social Entrepreneurship Centre will provide programs and support that empower youth to create their own micro social enterprises. 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 will celebrate the incredible ideas of young people and their spirit of social entrepreneurship at our signature WE Day events. Each year WE Day brings 250,000+ like-minded youth together in stadiums in cities around the world.

Through their micro social enterprises, young people across Canada will create hundreds of initiatives that plant seeds of benefit across the country.

Students at a round table

Program 2: WE Scale Up

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

  1. Business support: Support services geared toward business needs; for example, human resources, productization, finance, legal and accounting.
  2. Social impact support: Support services to develop deep integration of social impact across the venture; for example, toward working with at-risk populations, accessibility and measuring and validating social impact.
Volunteers working together at a picnic table

Building a youth movement with the mission of inspiring social entrepreneurship in Canada’s under-35 youth:

By leveraging the WE Schools network of 7,000+ Canadian schools, colleges and universities, WE Are Social Entrepreneurs will continue to engage young people to encourage them to create their own micro social enterprises or join and support existing social enterprises. In collaboration with school boards, faculties of education and teachers, we look to enrich existing business and entrepreneurship curricula in high schools by infusing them with 10 capacity-building pillars (see image below) for easy module implementation and action-planning support to students and teachers.

To download a copy of our report, Transforming Canada through Social Entrepreneurship, click here.

Ten Pillars of Capacity Building - WE School's Social Entrepreneurship Program

Ten Pillars of Capacity Building – WE School’s Social Entrepreneurship Program

Through a youth-led social entrepreneurship movement, WE envisions impacting the lives of youth under the age of 25 by integrating comprehensive curricular resources to educate and raise awareness about using business as a tool for social change. From a young person in an underserved community developing a social venture to tackle food insecurity in her/his local community, to a team of young people inventing new technology to solve the world’s global water crisis, WE Are Social Entrepreneurs aims to empower and expose young people to social enterprises, learn about them and encourage a career path in the sector.

WE Staff

In partnership with RBC Future Launch, WE has seen great success through our inaugural social entrepreneurship program. Since its launch in Spring 2018, this program has reached youth (ages 14-19) across Canada through a national conference tour reaching 12 cities per year, learning resources for youth and educators, ongoing mentorship opportunities, business case challenges, and an intensive incubation program available to select youth during their summer break. As WE Are Social Entrepreneurs has grown and developed, we have collaborated with our partners at RBC, as well as youth, educators and leading organizations in the sector, to ensure that we are consistently optimizing and upgrading programming to refine its offerings for youth.

As we look to expand our core programming in fall 2019, we will implement social entrepreneurship programming and resources based on three cluster of grades—intermediate (grades 7-8); senior (grades 9-12); and advanced. Each grade cluster will equip teachers and students with turnkey resources and unique opportunities such as training modules, student handbooks, video series, and unique thought-leader events online and in-person, to continuously build competencies. Our resources encourage the development of basic and intermediate skills through exciting hands-on social enterprise projects that impact their community and equip them with life skills as they transition out of school.

Simultaneously we will offer free educational incentives to continue inspiring hundreds of change-makers in our social entrepreneurship program, through national pitch competitions, virtual and in person events. We look to inspire thousands more at our WE Day events, in seven major cities and reaching over 250,000 youth annually in Canada. This will scale our reach further, as an inspirational platform celebrating the hundreds of young social entrepreneurs taking action in their communities.

WE is establishing strategic partnerships with universities and non-profits providing invaluable support to young Canadian social entrepreneurs from coast to coast to coast such as Enactus, Junior Achievement, DMZ, Ryerson, Gener8tor and others. Our programming will further reinforce practical knowledge on social entrepreneurship and prepare young people transitioning out of schools have a clear pathway to continue their development for the future.

Creating a unique social enterprise accelerator geared toward providing mentorship and funding for under-35 social entrepreneurs from within WE’s unique network

Our accelerator program aims to provide deep support to a few social enterprise “lighthouses” that will act as guideposts and pave the way for other social entrepreneurs within the next 10 years. We believe this can be done in a long-tail program, leveraging our back-end shared services, strong corporate partners and strengthening collaboration with partners in the sector: leaders in financing, programming and mentorship.

More information on creating unique social will be announced when applications are open.

Advisory Council

We would like to thank our Advisory Board for their guidance and commitment to supporting the vision of the WE Social Entrepreneurship Centre.

Watch the video of Killan Berz and John Stackhouse discuss social entrepreunership at the 2019 WE Partner Summit.

Killan Berz and John Stackhouse discuss social entrepreunership at the 2019 WE Partner Summit

  • Bilal Khan: Managing Partner and Head of Deloitte Data, Deloitte
  • Dean Hopkins: Chief Growth Officer, One Eleven
  • Jason Saul: Chief Executive Officer, Mission Measurement
  • Jennifer Tory: Chief Administration Officer, RBC
  • John Manley: Former President and Chief Executive Officer, The Business Council of Canada
  • Tara Barnes: VP Marketing, Manitobah Mukluks
  • Kilian Berz: Senior Partner and Managing Director, Boston Consulting Group
  • Leerom Segal: Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Klick Health
  • Paul Polman: Former Chief Executive Officer, Unilever
  • Dr. Shelley White: WE Board of Directors, Program Director; Master of Publich Health; Assistant Professor, Public Health and Sociology, Simmons College
  • Richard Abboud: Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Forum Equity Partners
  • Rick Hansen: Canadian Olympian, President and Chief Executive Officer, Rick Hansen Foundation
  • Tania Carnegie: Chief Impact Officer, KPMG
  • Shawna Campbell: Superintendent, Toronto Catholic School Board
  • Marc Sprack: Superintendent Toronto District School Board
  • Dr. Jacqueline Sanderlin: CEO/Founder, Why Not Incubator & Executive Director of School and Community Relations, Inglewood Unified School District
  • Dr. Brenda Cassellius: Superintendent of Boston Public Schools


WE partnered with DMZ’s groundbreaking Basecamp high school program to develop the next generation of young social entrepreneurs through WE Schools social entrepreneurship curricula. WE will co-create with DMZ a strong business program for high school students looking to finalize a business plan, create the strategy for their startup’s brand and develop their app or product using the services, while building a strong social impact framework.

OneEleven (111)

OneEleven (111):

WE has partnered with OneEleven to share best practices as we build the WE Social Enterprise Centre’s accelerator model for social enterprises looking to scale. OneEleven has extensive experience scaling startups, building a highly curated peer network, investment capital, best-in-class partners, on-demand services and strategic support designed specifically to help businesses successfully navigate periods of substantial growth.

We are thankful to the incredible social enterprises, educational institutions and incubator and accelerator networks for their kind and thoughtful assistance with research and data collection. As well, our partnerships with 120 school boards and 7,000 Canadian schools continues to provide us with ongoing insights and opportunities to work together on programming. We look forward to working alongside them and continuing to grow the social enterprise ecosystem, together.

Accelerate Okanagan
Agora Partnerships
Ashoka Canada
B Lab Canada at the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing
BCG Digital Ventures
Boston Consulting Group
The Brandery
Brand Project
Bullfrog Power
Capital for Aboriginal Prosperity and Entrepreneurship Fund
Far & Wide Collective
Fashion for Good
Good & Well
Highline BETA
Imagine Canada
Impact Hub
KHAN Academy
KPMG Impact
LaBarge Weinstein
LinkedIn Learning
Manitobah Mukluks
MaRS Discovery District
McConnell Foundation
ME to WE
Miller Centre for Social Entrepreneurship – Santa Clara University
Mission Measurement
Royal Bank of Canada
Real Ventures
Rick Hansen Foundation
Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship – Oxford University
Skyven Technologies
Toronto Enterprise Fund
World Food Programme Innovation Accelerator
Yunus Social Businesses

We are grateful to partner with philanthropists and government, social sector and business leaders to support young entrepreneurs as they launch and scale social enterprises, initiatives that apply business solutions to our world’s greatest social challenges.

We thank RBC, our founding programming partner of WE Are Social Entrepreneurs; a joint program between RBC Future Launch and WE, and the infrastructure sponsor of the WE Incubation Hub. The success of these programs, which support emerging entrepreneurs, is the catalyst/inspiration for the establishment of the WE Social Entrepreneurship Centre and all of the evolved multi-tier program offerings to come.

Thor Richardson, Entrepreneur and WE Champion
Special thanks to Thor Richardson 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.

Jon Love, Founder, CEO of KingSett Capital


We thank the Business Council of Canada for their support, as part of the John Manley initiative. These organizations and individuals have taken the lead in advancing social entrepreneurship in Canada, through their support of the WE Social Entrepreneurship Centre programming and infrastructure.

How you can get involved

If you are an educator interested in joining our programs they can do so by:

  • Joining a Youth Leadership Conference (virtually or in-person)
  • Use our well-designed classrooms resources that are curriculum aligned
  • Participate in our Business Case Challenge
  • Promote and nominate a youth to participate in our Youth Leadership Conference

For more information please contact us at: [email protected].

If you are a community organization, get involved by using our free online resources, sharing your insights and feedback or participate in events. You can contact us at [email protected] to learn more.

Through your generous donation, you can support these key areas:

  • Program development and delivery in schools across Canada
  • Physical infrastructure of the WE Social Entrepreneurship Centre
  • Investment fund for WE Social Enterprise Accelerator participants
  • Provide in-kind support through human capital or corporate resources
  • Participate in a corporate secondment program or offer your company’s expertise in a mentorship program with participating social entrepreneurs
  • Provide in-kind products or services to empower the Centre and social entrepreneurs