On Oct. 19, the Ontario government passed Bill 65. In this bill, they have done something absolutely tremendous. They have recognized “commercial activities” and opened the door for social enterprise to thrive in Ontario.

Now, there are a couple of things that we would still like them to do. See here for more information. But we kind of suck at recognizing our successes and I think that we need to take a moment to celebrate what we have done and how we have successfully worked with the government of Ontario to transform a system and create an enabling environment for social enterprise to thrive.

In 2007 when I saw the governments proposal for reforming the Nonprofit Legal framework, I was shocked to discover that there was a recommendation that any non-profit that generated over 35 per cent of its own revenue would be forced to become a for-profit. I was pissed.

CSI hosted a “consultation” between government and the sector. The Ontario Nonprofit Network — which had been an idea in Lynn Eakin and the Metcalf Foundations eye — had a major issue to form around. The ONN was formed with an amazing group of sector leaders. We convened a killer group of folks on our Expert Working Constellation — who then briefed the sector with our recommendations of how to move forward. Key amongst these recommendations was the need to recognize “commercial activities.” We collaboratively engaged government in the hosting of consultations across the province. We worked closely with our friends at the Ministry of Citizenship to make sure that the nonprofit sector had some sense of what was going on. We found and worked with partners and allies. There were many more conversations and consultations… Then we waited…. And waited… and then we got it. Okay, it was even more complicated than that, but it worked.

Bill 65 is a huge achievement! One that the sector can be incredibly proud of. No, it isn’t perfect and we need to address issues around membership and asset locks, however, we have finally had the government recognize the sectors ability to engage in commercial activities in order to support their social missions. This is a huge accomplishment and one that I am incredibly pleased with and proud of our role in helping to foster.

This is what systems change looks like. A policy change of this type creates an enabling environment which transforms a system, alters a market place and changes behaviour. I am proud to have worked with such an amazing group of people to help make this happen.

So, can we celebrate please? And get to work next week on all of the other stuff?

Tonya Surman

Tonya Surman

Tonya Surman is a social entrepreneur, community animator and network choreographer. With a passion for bringing life to world-changing projects, Tonya is the founding CEO of the Centre for Social Innovation...