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the Centre for Learning, Social Economy and Work at OISE, the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto


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 -- supporting the objectives of SSHRC's Insight & Connection programs -- is a new partnership designed to generate knowledge and sustainable cross-sectoral networks in order to strengthen supported social enterprises. This partnership brings 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 will draw 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. Our proposed project will address this gap by building a sustainable partnership of key stakeholders that will contribute essential knowledge that can be used to strengthen the capacity of the SECC to improve social procurement for supported social enterprises.
The project aims 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.
This project is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Current Project Status (updated July/August 2018)

More details from the survey results have been added, and you can find the link under the April 2018 Summary Report (which takes you to the survey itself and a selection of charts highlighting more of the survey results).  The project has moved into the second stage where we're in the process of inviting the social enterprises, which participated in the survey back in the fall of 2017, to be part of the second stage of the project.  In this second stage, we're working on understanding more about the social purchasing decisions by interviewing the social enterprises and their institutional customers (i.e., governments, businesses, and other non-profit organizations).

Current Project Status (updated June 2018)

We presented our findings from the survey and the interviews at the annual conference for the Association of Nonprofit and Social Economy Research (ANSER) in Regina, SK in May 2018. We're currently getting started on the second stage of the project.  Two summary reports are now available under Summary Reports on the left hand side of the menu, under Social Procurement Project.  

Contact Us

If you're interested in learning more about the project, please email us at OISE.SocialProcurementProject@utoronto.ca.

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