Jump to Main Content
Decrease font size Reset font size Increase font size
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto Home| OISE| U of T| Quercus| Site Map | Contact Us | Accessibility | Feeling Distressed?
INSPIRING EDUCATION | oise.utoronto.ca
the Centre for Learning, Social Economy and Work at OISE, the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto
 

Selling Social: Experiences of Social Enterprises with Social Procurement and Social Purchasing — Detailed Project Description

 


 

Introduction

The stunning growth of social enterprises that employ or train members of marginalized social groups (referred to herein as supported social enterprises) has relied on the ongoing support of non-profit organizations that initiate them and funding from government programs and foundations. One type of support that is less apparent, but nevertheless of great importance, is social procurement; that is, purchasing policies of governments and businesses base that not only rely on economic criteria such as price and quality but also emphasize social values. Numerous social procurement policies and programs have been developed by municipal, provincial, and the federal governments in Canada yet little research has been undertaken to clarify their effects on supported social enterprises serving marginalized social groups.

The Social Procurement Project (which now goes by the name Selling Social) -- supporting the objectives of SSHRC's Insight & Connection programs -- was a new partnership designed to generate knowledge and sustainable cross-sectoral networks in order to strengthen supported social enterprises. This partnership brought together researchers from the Centre of Learning, Social Economy & Work (CLSEW) at the University of Toronto, Queen's University School of Policy Studies, and the Social Enterprise Council of Canada (SECC). SECC is an alliance of social enterprise leaders from across Canada that focuses on social procurement and will benefit directly from the proposed partnership and research activities.
 
We drew on the knowledge and networks of our partnership to examine extensively the social procurement policies of governments and business corporations in Canada as they affect supported social enterprises serving marginalized people, and use that knowledge to strengthen those policies. Through our prior work in the area, we have identified a gap in research about social procurement as it pertains to supported social enterprises. We hoped that our project would address this gap by building a sustainable partnership of key stakeholders to contribute essential knowledge that could be used to strengthen the capacity of the SECC to improve social procurement for supported social enterprises.
 
The project aimed to fulfil four objectives reflecting knowledge gaps and capacity building: 1) to assess the effects of social procurement on supported social enterprises; 2) to determine the extent to which social procurement policies for supported social enterprises have been developed by government agencies and the barriers to their implementation; 3) to clarify the extent to which social procurement for supported social enterprises is practiced by business corporations and the barriers to developing social procurement policies; and 4) to build capacity in the Social Enterprise Council of Canada to strengthen social procurement policies for supported social enterprises.
 

Literature Review

 
Social procurement is a growing phenomenon that has taken on increased significance in the context of market-based approaches to workforce integration for marginalized social groups. Barraket & Weissman (2009, p. 3) define social procurement as: “the use of purchasing power to create social value. In the case of public sector purchasing, social procurement involves the utilisation of procurement strategies to support social policy objectives.” For both governments and business corporations, LePage (2014) argues that social procurement involves modifying the supply chain so it not only includes criteria such as quality and price but also considers social value. There is a lengthy history of individuals making purchases based on social criteria (social purchasing) such as wanting to support a particular organization (e.g., purchasers of Girl Guides cookies, sold in Canada since 1927), but social procurement policies among government and corporations, as distinct from social purchasing by individuals, is a more recent phenomenon, pushed by trends such as corporate social responsibility, the environmental movement and the growing strength of the Aboriginal rights movement. Essentially, these social movements have forced governments and business corporations to move beyond traditional business criteria such as price and quality and add social value criteria to their procurement policies.
 
Another trend encouraging social procurement policies is the rapid growth of social enterprises – businesses with a double bottom line that blends economic and social objectives. Social procurement takes on great importance for social enterprises integrating into the workforce marginalized social groups, organizations that may be supported by a parent non-profit, government programs, foundations and corporations. It is this relationship – social procurement as it pertains to supported social enterprises integrating marginalized social groups into the workforce – that is the central theme for this project.
 
This project was one of the first to facilitate research across sectors and academic disciplines to help address policy about social procurement. The objectives for the project included:
  1. to assess the effects of social procurement on supported social enterprises;
  2. to determine the extent to which social procurement policies for supported social enterprises have been developed by government agencies and the barriers to their implementation;
  3. to clarify the extent to which social procurement for supported social enterprises is practiced by business corporations and the barriers to developing social procurement policies; and
  4. to build capacity in the Social Enterprise Council of Canada to strengthen social procurement policies for supported social enterprises.
OISEcms v.1.0 | Site last updated: Monday, December 14, 2020 Disclaimer

© CLSEW - the Centre for Learning, Social Economy and Work, OISE, University of Toronto
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, 252 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1V6 CANADA