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How 2020 Transformed Social Entrepreneurship 101

Nikky Manfredi

Nikky Manfredi

Communications & Content Specialist

People are waking up to social entrepreneurship. Our collective crises continue to reveal the failings and fault lines of ‘business as usual.’ In this liminal space, individuals are forging new paths, prioritizing people and planet, as well as their bottom line. 

At CSI, we saw this influx firsthand. When the world shut down and our lives went online, individuals from different corners of the globe signed up in droves for Social Entrepreneurship 101 (SE 101), CSI’s eight-week course on social entrepreneurship. Why? As one SE 101 participant, Michael Szego, emphasizes “social entrepreneurs are going to be essential to help author a new social contract and reset the economy. […] SE 101 is a great place to start.” 

So, what happened? We checked in with our Social Enterpreneurship 101 Program Lead and Facilitator, Peggy Sue Deaven, to find out how 2020 transformed the program and what’s next for social entrepreneurship at CSI. 

What is Social Entrepreneurship 101? 

SE 101 is an eight-week, part-time online program that covers the foundations of social entrepreneurship, from making sure you’ve identified the right problem, to developing a solution, to turning your idea into a sustainable business model. As the world looks to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s no better time for the entrepreneurially-minded to step up to address pressing social and environmental challenges, and to develop the skills needed to succeed. That’s where Social Entrepreneurship 101 comes in. 

You don’t have to consider yourself an experienced entrepreneur or really, an entrepreneur at all, to sign up. In fact, that’s kind of the point. The program is for anyone who sees a problem or need in the world, wants to take action, and is asking themselves: 

  • How do I do that? 
  • How do I turn my idea into a social enterprise? 
  • Or even, what is social entrepreneurship?

The program was developed in partnership with Lean4Flourishing (a group of experienced social entrepreneurs, coaches, facilitators, and educators) and based on the learnings of over a decade of training social enterprises.

As we saw in 2020, it’s also an amazing way to build community. SE 101 alumnus, Mateo Tobar, put it best: “This course allowed me to understand how to transform ideas into feasible projects. I would recommend this course to any person that is looking to build connections […] and share their ideas with others. This course was one of my highlights of the year 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic! This was an opportunity for me to get outside of Ecuador and learn with an international cohort from my house.”

What happened in 2020? 

Peggy Sue reflects back on the year: “So much about 2020 revolved around loss, and rightly so. However, last year, I also experienced the joy of discovery and creation as 125 strangers came together onto a digital platform to actively collaborate, vulnerably converse, and share ideas of how to make the world a better place with social entrepreneurship pursuits.” 

The initial move online left many of us with a lot of questions. Namely, how will we foster a sense of community from a distance? What will programming look like? Will people show up? While working online isn’t always easy, our SE 101 cohorts proved we didn’t need to worry. As Peggy Sue explains, people not only showed up, they dug deep: 

“The needs for community were so strong that it compelled participants to dig deeper, share more boldly, and imagine in a more innovative way. In 2020, the SE 101 course more than doubled in it’s offering size and reached an international audience that even extended beyond North America. As important and necessary as social change is, it does not happen in a vacuum, nor does it thrive in the dark. I witnessed BIG, bold dialogues about race, homelessness, prejudice, financial and social wealth, and mental health. The participants of SE 101 are some of the most fearless and courageous change-makers I had the privilege to facilitate.”

As we’ve seen, crises can become a catalyst for change. Many people who never considered themselves social entrepreneurs before, signed up for the program. Their reasons? When the pandemic forced many people out of work, they took a hard look at their life and realized they desired something more. Or, unable to look away, long-standing systemic inequities motivated individuals to reconsider their role in society. Social Entrepreneurship 101 is the perfect place to hone and direct that reinvigorated sense of purpose. 

Sensing an urgent interest in social entrepreneurship across Canada, CSI’s Social Innovation Specialist, Jo Reynolds, reached out to the Kingston Economic Development Corporation to see if they would be interested in offering the program. The call expanded. The SE 101 program has now been developed and run by the Small Business Economic Development Centres of Markham, Richmond Hill, and Vaughan. We can’t wait to see where SE 101 lives next! 

What are people saying about SE 101? 

Siddan Chandra from Toronto says: 

Social Entrepreneurship 101 has laid the groundwork for ongoing self development in an optimistic and promising realm. It has helped me begin to build the muscle of financial thinking and offered a vocabulary that honours both my values and my needs. 

Ashley Goff from Edmonton reflects: 

SE 101 strikes a thoughtful balance between the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of social entrepreneurship. The deep knowledge of the facilitator and the thoughtful support and engagement with the other participants was invaluable. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in social entrepreneurship.

Tim O’Hara from Kingston says: 

Amazing course that allows all users to feel supported and comfortable sharing and encourages individual and group learning of self and business. You are thoroughly guided along a well lit path and emerge a stronger and more confident entrepreneur on the other side. Complete with resources and learning tools and a network of like-minded business people that become friends. 

What’s Next? The Future of SE 101 

With that, the program is growing! Building on last year’s momentum, Social Entrepreneurship 101 is running six times in 2021, more than doubling the size of 2020’s offering. Continuing online, CSI’s program is expanding its reach across the globe, while also being replicated by social enterprise partners in other regions across Ontario. That means more people are identifying needs AND stepping up to spearhead solutions. SE 101 is one way we are building the Next Economy together. 

Want to learn the fundamentals of social entrepreneurship?

Registration for the June-July 2021 cohort is now open and will close May 30th.

Five fully-funded scholarships are available (thanks to Alterna Savings!). Apply by May 23rd to be considered for a scholarship. Head here for more program information.

Are you interested in offering SE 101 in your community?                                                                               

Reach out to Peggy Sue at

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