At the Brookfield Institute, we’re interested in exploring how we can support the development of an innovative and inclusive economy that taps into the talent, expertise and lived experience of diverse people. Canadians stand to benefit from a greater number of entrepreneurs and greater diversity in the entrepreneurial pool.
Despite such benefits, women and other minority groups face barriers in starting, building and scaling companies. The Empowering Women Entrepreneurs project is one of the ways we’re exploring the barriers that entrepreneurs, particularly women, face in launching and scaling their businesses. Through this project we’re looking at how community-led interventions can address complex systemic issues, including increasing economic inclusion.
How did this come about? In 2017, we wrote about using a design-led approach to create and implement a Call for Proposals to improve support for women entrepreneurs in the province of Ontario. As a result, a Call for Proposals was launched later that year to provide grants for projects that would improve the inclusiveness of Ontario’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, with a focus on women entrepreneurs. In May 2018, we announced the three projects that were to be funded through to summer 2019. After this time, the lessons learned will be shared.
This is the first commentary in a series of three blogs that spotlight the three funded community-focused interventions. Read on to learn from a range of practitioners who are working to support good practices that can be shared across the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Ontario Inclusive Innovation (i2) Action Strategy
The following text is a lightly edited set of responses from Barbara Orser, project lead and primary investigator for the Ontario Inclusive Innovation (i2) Action Strategy, a joint initiative between Telfer Centre for Executive Leadership at the University of Ottawa and the Diversity Institute at Ryerson University. The Ontario i2 Action Strategy seeks to create the most inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem in the world. It has conducting a gender-based assessment of Ontario small business, innovation and social enterprise organizations, and advancing recommendations to strengthen good practices for intermediaries within the entrepreneurship ecosystem. The strategy includes an industry report on the status of women entrepreneurs in Ontario, examines the state of women’s enterprise support in Ontario, and identifies strategies to build further the capacity of Ontario organizations to better meet the needs of diverse women entrepreneurs. The strategy has included six regional workshops with leaders of enterprise support organizations, and a one-day conference to showcase evidence-based practices for empowering women entrepreneurs.