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Georgian College is building on its state-of-the-art infrastructure – for example, the anechoic chamber in the region to measure sounds or electromagnetic waves emitted by devices – to not only enable economic success of industry partners but also to advance the social development of local communities.

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Social enterprises across central Ontario have an opportunity to grow and build their capacity through a program supported by Georgian College that offers funds to eligible organizations that work to do good in the community.

Community Foundation Grey Bruce, in partnership with Georgian and its Social Enterprise Network of Central Ontario (SENCO), is offering social enterprises non-repayable capital through the Investment Readiness Program (IRP). It is part of a national initiative led by Community Foundations of Canada and financed by the Government of Canada to provide $18.5-million to social innovators across the country to build their capacity and participate in Canada’s burgeoning social finance market.

“This kind of changemaking activity is part of Georgian’s DNA,” says Suzie Addison-Toor, director of Social Innovation and Student Success at Georgian, which is based in Barrie, Ont. She notes that each of the college’s seven campuses is “embedded in the community” through their support of social enterprise development to address “wicked problems” such as food security, housing shortages and social isolation.

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There are “many shining examples” of successful social enterprises in the region supported by SENCO, says Ms. Addison-Toor. For example, there is a hydroponic greenhouse in Midland, Ont., that grows lettuce and herbs to support women in transition, and a “launch pad” in Hanover, Ont., where youth develop skills in a fun and creative environment.

Now Georgian is acting as a “knowledge partner” in the IRP process, she says, by supporting Grey Bruce as it allocates funds to seed and grow groups that are helping achieve positive social, cultural and environmental results, including charities, not-for-profits, co-operatives and social enterprises.

“It’s really exciting,” says Ms. Addison-Toor, noting that one call for applicants in the program is just finished, with two others planned for later this year. Successful organizations will receive between $10,000 and $100,000 to design, plan, measure and scale in order to get ready to accept future investment.

This kind of changemaking activity is part of Georgian’s DNA.

— Suzie Addison-Toor, director of Social Innovation and Student Success at Georgian

Elly Green, manager of SENCO, says that “Georgian is proud and determined to advance the social and economic development of our local communities” through the IRP. “This program will support and connect individuals and organizations to essential capital to pursue changemaking initiatives and enhance social enterprise activity in our region.”

Georgian is the only college in Canada designated as a “changemaker campus” by Ashoka U, an organization that has recognized more than 40 colleges and universities globally that have embraced social innovation and changemaking in their culture, programming and operations.

“Our commitment is to ensure that we are graduating students with changemaking skills and mindsets,” explains Ms. Addison-Toor. Georgian has courses focused on social entrepreneurship as well as co-curricular activities that bring together students to work on problems like the housing crisis. Whether they are in diploma programs to become nurses, engineering technicians or social service workers, “students have an opportunity to look at the community in a different way,” she says.

Graduates of Georgian have qualities such as empathy, collaboration and leadership, Ms. Addison-Toor comments, and they develop “intrepreneurial” skills, meaning they will work to change the status quo from within organizations.

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SENCO’s partnership with Grey Bruce to select the best applicants to receive funds from the IRP will encourage more people in the region to be changemakers, while building greater capacity among the social enterprises, she adds. “It’s the community piece of our mandate.”


Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s Editorial Department was not involved in its creation.

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