The WE Social Entrepreneurship Centre
What We Do
The WE Social Entrepreneurship Centre (WE SEC) is proud to empower young social entrepreneurs as they incubate, launch, and scale new socially responsible businesses. Merging charity and business to create a sustainable impact, the WE SEC offers programming that supports these future business leaders as they tackle the issues facing our society.
About WE SEC
The WE Social Entrepreneurship Centre (WE SEC) is a WE Charity initiative. It was established as a business incubator to support, mentor, and scale social enterprises developed by young people.
The WE SEC has been designed with a two-pronged focus:
- Programming for young people under the age of 25
The focus of this program is to teach young people in over 7,000 WE Schools how to build the skill set necessary for success in social entrepreneurship. We mentor these young Canadians as they establish and scale their micro-ventures.
- An accelerator for entrepreneurs under the age of 35
The accelerator provides free long-term support to social entrepreneurs. We work with them side-by-side to provide access to capital, backend support, and ongoing mentoring.
Social Enterprise Succeeds Where Charities Cannot
Social enterprises are able to avoid many of the challenges faced by traditional charities yet are able to tackle social issues in a self-sufficient and scalable way. Since nonprofits often must embark on fundraising campaigns to support their missions, their work becomes harder to sustain as the number of charities in the ecosystem grows and conventional sources of funding become depleted. On the other hand, traditional businesses may be prepared to scale and manage economic volatility. However, they are frequently unable to properly address social issues as they are beholden to delivering profit to their shareholders.
Social enterprise is able to apply business solutions to the nonprofit model and to tackle local and global social issues in an economically sustainable, scalable manner. Social enterprises influence their communities in meaningful ways, such as by creating jobs and empowering priority populations. Social enterprises are twice as likely to be led by women as compared with small and medium-sized traditional businesses. Through innovative business models, social enterprises are able to effect meaningful social change and to create profit, which is able to sustain the charitable endeavor.
ME to WE: An Innovative Social Enterprise
In 2008, ME to WE was established to support the mission of its charity partner, WE Charity. This highly successful venture has raised the profile of social enterprise.
The ME to WE social enterprise donates a minimum of 50% of its annual profits to sustain the work of WE Charity. This has allowed WE Charity to maintain an impressively low operating cost and to have 90% of its funds dedicated directly to its programs.
ME to WE addresses the need for economic opportunity in a sustainable way in some of the most remote communities around the world. ME to WE has created jobs for over 1,500 women in Ecuador and Kenya through the manufacture of beautiful, socially conscious jewelry. ME to WE also empowers women’s cooperatives through the sale of ethically sourced coffee and chocolate.
WE: Empowering the Next Generation
Over the past 25 years, we have been fortunate to receive guidance and advice from leaders in philanthropy and business as well as from social changemakers around the world. The success of the WE movement today is the result of hard work and of the support of our respected partners.
Our goal is to take all that we have learned and to share it with the next generation of changemakers and social entrepreneurs. We envision a day when social enterprises will be globally recognized for their ability to positively impact vulnerable communities, provide consumers with socially responsible options, and operate in a profitable way. Businesses like ME to WE, Manitobah Mukluks, Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, and Grameen Bank are showing us the potential that social enterprises have to scale and impact communities in the most profound ways.
The WE SEC provides a place for the social entrepreneurs of the future to connect, learn, grow, and build a supportive network for their long-term growth.
WE SEC provides two programs, WE Spark and WE Scale, which have been tailored to inspire, educate, and support young social entrepreneurs across Canada.
WE Spark is a program designed to empower young people under the age of 25. This program builds on the success of WE Are Social Entrepreneurs and has been developed in partnership with RBC Future Launch.
WE SEC provides resources to support these young social entrepreneurs as they create and develop their own micro social enterprises. We make customized resources available for the curricula of over 7,000 Canadian schools, colleges, and universities. The program facilitates small group coaching sessions, hackathons, and mentoring for the young innovators. We believe that these young people will have a profound and positive impact on their communities across Canada as their initiatives plant the seeds for future growth.
These incredible ideas and the spirit of social enterprise are celebrated at WE Day. Every year, WE Day brings together over 250,000 like-minded young people at stadiums around the world. WE Day is an immensely powerful testament to the power of WE.
WE Scale is a program designed to empower social entrepreneurs under the age of 35. We Scale aims to bring social enterprises to their full potential while strengthening leadership characteristics in young people.
After a rigorous vetting process, select young entrepreneurs are invited to a multi-year deep incubation process. The goal is to accelerate their ventures and successfully launch their social enterprises at scale.
WE Scale allocates resources and focuses on two fundamental areas of development:
- Business support: We provide support that is geared toward the business development of the enterprise. Participants receive mentoring and access to resources and services such as HR, finance, legal, accounting, productization, and marketing.
- Social Impact Support: A key element of a social enterprise is the creation of positive social impact. We provide participants with services that help them integrate social elements into their enterprise and measure the enterprise’s social impact. We also look for ways to include priority and at-risk populations as well as how to explore issues of accessibility.
WE Are Social Entrepreneurs
In 2018, WE and RBC Future Launch created WE Are Social Entrepreneurs. This highly successful program has reached young people across Canada through a series of national conferences, academic resources for youth and educators, mentorship, business case challenges, and an intensive summer incubation program. As the program continues to grow, we have worked with our RBC partners, educators, students, and leading organizations on how to optimize the program and refine what we offer to our participants. As we look to the future, we will build on our previous success and further customize our program in order to best serve our community.
We provide programming and resources based on the unique needs of three grade groups: intermediate (grades 7-8), senior (grades 9-12), and advanced. Teachers and students in each grade group receive:
- Training modules
- Student handbooks
- A series of videos
- The opportunity to attend thought-leader events (online and in person)
These customized tools and hands-on social enterprise projects are designed to equip students with life skills and empower them to positively impact their communities.
We continue to offer free educational incentives as a way to inspire and energize future leaders in our social entrepreneurship program.
- National pitch competitions
- National events (online and in person)
- WE Day
WE Are Social Entrepreneurs has benefited immeasurably from its strategic partnerships. Like-minded partners such as DMZ, Junior Achievement, Enactus, Gener8tor, Ryerson, and others have helped WE develop programming to elevate students’ knowledge of social entrepreneurship. These programs and partnerships also help to prepare young people for the future as they transition out of school and embark upon their own career paths.
Ten Capacity-Building Pillars
We Are Social Entrepreneurs have provided our Ten Pillars of Capacity Building to high schools in order to enrich their existing business and entrepreneurship curriculum. These capacity-building modules are designed to be easy to implement and integrate into the existing curricula.
- Sustainable Development Goals
- Risk Taking
- Financial Literacy
- Project Management
- Conflict Management
- Communication Skills
- Design Thinking
We believe that by supporting education in schools, we can raise awareness about the positive impact of social enterprises and about how businesses can be used as a tool for sustainable social change. We believe in the power of young people to create solutions for the problems we face as a society. Imagine the creativity a young person in an underserved community can bring to the development of a venture that will tackle food scarcity. Imagine a diverse team of young people engaging in a project that takes on the global water crisis. WE Are Social Entrepreneurs aims to excite and inspire young people by awakening in them a passion to create a positive, sustainable impact on their communities.
Our advisory board is committed to supporting the WE SEC mission by sharing expert feedback, guidance, and support.
WE SEC Advisory Board
- Bilal Khan: Managing Partner and Head of Deloitte Data, Deloitte
- Dean Hopkins: Chief Growth Officer, One Eleven
- Jason Saul: Chief Executive Officer, Mission Measurement
- Jennifer Tory: Chief Administration Officer, RBC
- John Manley: Former President and Chief Executive Officer, The Business Council of Canada
- Tara Barnes: VP Marketing, Manitobah Mukluks
- Kilian Berz: Senior Partner and Managing Director, Boston Consulting Group
- Leerom Segal: Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Klick Health
- Paul Polman: Former Chief Executive Officer, Unilever
- Dr. Shelley White: WE Board of Directors, Program Director, Master of Public Health, Assistant Professor, Public Health, and Sociology, Simmons College
- Richard Abboud: Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Forum Equity Partners
- Rick Hansen: Canadian Olympian, President and Chief Executive Officer, Rick Hansen Foundation
- Tania Carnegie: Chief Impact Officer, KPMG
- Shawna Campbell: Superintendent, Toronto Catholic School Board
- Marc Sprack: Superintendent Toronto District School Board
- Dr. Jacqueline Sanderlin: CEO/Founder, Why Not Incubator, and Executive Director of School and Community Relations, Inglewood Unified School District
- Dr. Brenda Cassellius: Superintendent of Boston Public Schools
Friends & Partners
In partnership with DMZ, we are spearheading an innovative business program for high school students. These future business leaders will receive coaching on how to write a business plan and to create a strategy for the marketing of their startup, app, or product. Our association with the DMZ Basecamp high school program allows us to mentor these innovative, young social entrepreneurs as they create businesses that will have a strong social impact.
OneEleven has a track record of success in helping startups to scale. It has partnered with WE to share its expertise on how to get an enterprise to scale, build a productive peer network, raise investment capital, and capitalize on a period of growth.
We are grateful to our many friends and partners who have imparted valuable insights and experience to the WE SEC. Through these partnerships, we have gathered data that will help us to continue to invest in and develop the social enterprise ecosystem.
The insight and feedback that we receive from our relationships with over 7,000 Canadian schools and 120 school boards will allow our programming to evolve consistently, always keeping the WE SEC up to date and at its best.
Friends of the WE Social Entrepreneurship Centre
- Accelerate Okanagan
- Agora Partnerships
- Ashoka Canada
- B Lab Canada at the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing
- BCG Digital Ventures
- Boston Consulting Group
- The Brandery
- Brand Project
- Bullfrog Power
- Capital for Aboriginal Prosperity and Entrepreneurship Fund
- Far & Wide Collective
- Fashion for Good
- Good & Well
- Highline BETA
- Imagine Canada
- Impact Hub
- KHAN Academy
- KPMG Impact
- LaBarge Weinstein
- LinkedIn Learning
- Manitobah Mukluks
- MaRS Discovery District
- MARCH ON
- McConnell Foundation
- ME to WE
- Miller Centre for Social Entrepreneurship – Santa Clara University
- Mission Measurement
- Royal Bank of Canada
- Real Ventures
- Rick Hansen Foundation
- Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship – Oxford University
- Skyven Technologies
- Toronto Enterprise Fund
- World Food Programme Innovation Accelerator
- Yunus Social Businesses
We are profoundly grateful for our partnerships with philanthropists as well as business and government leaders who share our goal of empowering young social entrepreneurs. These individuals and organizations are advancing social entrepreneurship in Canada through their generous support of WE SEC programming and infrastructure.
- RBC – RBC Future Launch is the national co-title sponsors of WE Are Social Entrepreneurs, a school-based program for youth that builds their skills to success in social entrepreneurship and encourages youth to establish their own micro-ventures.
- Thor Richardson, Entrepreneur and WE Champion – Thor is the embodiment of the WE SE vision. We salute and thank him for his landmark gift, which was made prior to his 30th birthday.
- Power Corporation of Canada
- Business Council of Canada
- Jon & Nancy Love
- Aecon Group Inc.
How You Can Get Involved
Join Our Programs
- Join a Youth Leadership Conference, virtually or in person.
- Utilize our curriculum-aligned classroom resources.
- Nominate a student to participate in our Youth Leadership Conference.
- Take part in our Business Case Challenge
Contact us at weschools@WE.org
- Take advantage of our free online resources.
- Partner with us by sharing your insights and feedback.
- Participate in WE SEC events.
Contact us at wesec@WE.org
Your generous donation will help to support the work of the WE SEC through:
- Program development and delivery in Canadian schools
- The physical infrastructure of the WE SEC
- An investment fund for WE Social Enterprise Accelerator participants
A number of additional ways that you can help include:
- Empowering social entrepreneurs by providing in-kind products or services
- Participation in a corporate secondment program
- Sharing your company’s expertise in a mentorship program with participating social entrepreneurs
Take a Look Inside
The WE Global Learning Centre has been named Toronto’s nicest new office space by BlogTO, and has also been featured in the Globe and Mail and HELLO! Canada.