Social Enterprise Leaders Come to Calgary

Leaders from the corporate world, academia and the non-profit sector will converge in Calgary for an international conference promoting a socially-conscious model of doing business.

Leaders from the corporate world, academia and the non-profit sector will converge on Calgary this weekend for an international conference promoting a socially-conscious model of doing business.

Former Prime Minister Paul Martin, Free the Children co-founder Craig Kielberger and MP Candice Bergen, Canada’s Minister of State for Social Development, are among the speakers scheduled to speak at the Social Enterprise World Forum, taking place October 2 to 4 at the Telus Convention Centre.

The annual SEWF has been held in Edinburgh Scotland, Melbourne Australia, San Francisco, USA, Johannesburg, South Africa and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In Calgary, the forum is expected to draw 1,200 attendees from over 30 countries, who will be attending workshops, engaging with stakeholders and touring local social enterprises.

Social enterprises are a small but growing movement of companies that incorporate positive social impact into their business models, explains Daniel Overall, director of collaboration and innovation for the Trico Charitable Foundation, which is organizing the forum.

“There’s a fundamental belief in the business world that by being financially successful, you are making an investment in community… your hire people, you pay taxes to the government,” Overall explains.

“Social enterprises look at this model and say, what if businesses were directly involved in delivering benefit? Or, taking this idea further, what if companies judged success not based on financial goals and metrics, but by how much of a positive impact they had in their community?”

To that end, social entrepreneurs focus on “solving problems for profit” – providing a service to consumers while also addressing a social need.

The forum isn’t open to the public, however a number of Calgary companies are hosting social enterprise tours to highlight their unique way of doing business.

For those interested in learning more about the social enterprise model, Avenue suggests these five Calgary companies that have business smarts and tons of heart. (A complete list of local companies can be found at Sea Change Calgary.)


Hosting both art exhibitions and classes, Studio C gives adults with mental health challenges the opportunity to develop employable skills through the medium of art. The gallery is operated by Prospect, a non-profit organization committed to breaking down barriers in the Alberta workforce (9, 100 7 Ave. S.W., 403.269.1838,


The Good Life Community Bike Shop refurbishes used bikes for resale and provides customers with the tools and knowledge to repair their two-wheeled rides – a business model that diverts hundreds of bicycles from landfill annually. (2, 2100 4 St. S.W., 403.984.4727,


Stop into Cookies on the Go for coffee and a freshly baked treat, and you’ll be doing more than satisfying your caffeine craving. The Calgary Progressive Lifestyles Foundation opened the cafe and catering business last year to support its programs and provide employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. (107, 1935 32 Ave. N.E., 403.769.9011,

A ride to the store

Need the (occasional) convenience of a car without the pesky carbon footprint? Grab a ride with Calgary CarShare, a member-owned co-operative with a fleet of eco-friendly vehicles stationed in and around the downtown. (223 12 Ave. S.W., 403.264.2422,

Furniture and home products

It’s not recycling, it’s upcycling – converting so-called “waste” products into items of greater value. ReWorks Upcycle Shop in Inglewood stocks funky, one-of-kind pieces – shovel chairs, anyone? – that are good for the planet and your home. (1217B 9 Ave. S.E., 403-263-4366,

Learn more about the people and organizations moving Calgary forward with Avenue's Innovation Newsletter.

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