We’re All In This Together: The WOSEN Program

Lisa Amerongen

Lisa Amerongen

Director of Communications

At CSI we believe in the synergies of connection, the explosive potential of partnerships, and the transformative power of movements. We see them happening every day with collaborators across Ontario and Indigenous regions.

We see them in one of our newest programs, Women of Ontario Social Enterprise Network (WOSEN), a provincial partnership which is part of the Federal Government’s Women Entrepreneurship Strategy. We are building strong connections with our partners in the project, Pillar Nonprofit Network, NORDIK Institute, SVX, Lean4Flourishing, Eve-Volution Inc., and The Social Enterprise Institute. It’s so exciting to be co-designing this work together – we can feel the sparks across our Zoom video calls each week!

Jo Reynold, CSI’s Social Innovation Specialist, says, “It just makes sense to work in collaboration with other social enterprise organizations. Together we share our practices, connect entrepreneurs, and better understand our impact. WOSEN is a model for how social enterprise services can be offered to better meet people where they are at.”

The story of WOSEN emerges out of trust built from past working relationships with the O.N.E. Social Enterprise Partnership, and beyond. Within those relationships we saw our potential to really shift how entrepreneurial supports are designed in order to unlock the potential of diverse womxn social entrepreneurs. The network allowed us to co-design, evaluate, and share knowledge that provided an emerging innovation eco-system with shared practices to us all meet our potential. 

The WOSEN project aims to support 150 new and 75 existing women-led social enterprises, offers ten women-centered innovation learning courses to 250 people, training for 35 business coaches and connections to investment opportunities through the Women Impact Investor Network.

In 2020 CSI will be offering three WOSEN programs: two Start programs and one Grow accelerator. Our Start program is geared for women who have not necessarily seen themselves as entrepreneurs but are interested in learning more and gaining entrepreneurial competencies along the way. Grow, on the other hand, is designed to support women who have already gained initial traction with their social purpose businesses. These women will receive increased support through coaching, networking, and peer-support in order to take their business to the next level. 

Prior to the launch of CSI’s WOSEN programs in May 2020 we conducted casual, one-on-one discovery chats with folks interested in applying to the program. These chats allowed us to listen to a diverse array of women from our surrounding communities to understand their ambitions and assess the barriers they face, taking into account the support systems that they require to achieve their goals. As a result, we are including things like child care services on site during workshop programming to support participants that have children. 

With women in mind, we are designing our programs around these needs to create a safe and supportive environment for women to learn, thrive and grow not only with their social enterprises but in their own personal development as a social entrepreneur. 

Our programming takes a more human centred approach and will encompass the following design principles at its core: inclusive & accessible, systems informed, decolonized, responsive to the needs of women, and incorporate an ecosystem approach.

“There is so much value created when we meaningfully integrate and practice the WOSEN design principles everyday. I love it when participants feel empowered to share their program engagement feedback to help us re-shape programming in a way that is more effective for them,” says Senior Program Manager, Mitalie Makhani, “Being responsive is not always easy but, it’s all worth it once you see how much more it catalyzes a participant’s journey and the positive impact in their communities. That’s what drives me.”

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