On April 15, the Province of British Columbia announced a partnership with the ISIS Research Centre at the Sauder School of Business, which includes $194,450 in funding for the study of the labour market driving B.C.’s social venture sector.

The Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation Don McRae made the announcement at the Propelling Social Ventures 2014 conference in Vancouver, hosted by ISIS’s Coast Capital Savings Innovation Hub.

Social ventures are the fastest growing part of the non-profit sector in North America. In B.C. alone, a recent survey notes they generate as much as $46 million in annual revenues. Social ventures differ from traditional businesses in that profits are not just used to ensure financial viability, but are re-invested to achieve, sustain and further a social or environmental purpose.

“We know that social ventures are expanding at a rapid pace and playing an important role in solving environmental and social challenges in our province and beyond. But currently we know little about the full scope of the labour market which makes the sector thrive,” says Sauder Associate Professor James Tansey, Executive Director of the ISIS Research Centre.

“This research project will provide the crucial information we need to inform strategies to stoke the sector’s continual growth and the benefits it brings to our communities.”

During the 15-month project, the ISIS Research Centre will study the size and scope of the social venture sector in B.C. to better understand labour market needs and challenges. The study will provide a baseline to help inform strategies and next steps for this sector to ensure access to the people and skills it needs.

“By providing this funding to ISIS, we will get a more accurate picture of social ventures in B.C. and how to ensure they can get the skilled employees they need to be successful,” says Don McRae, Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation.

Sauder’s ISIS Research Centre is focused on leveraging business tools to advance social innovation and sustainability, through research, incubation, and application. As a part of its outreach activities, it runs the Coast Capital Savings Innovation Hub – a 12-month business accelerator founded with a $1-million contribution from British Columbia credit union, Coast Capital Savings.

Dedicated to building capacity in the social venture sector, the Coast Capital Savings Innovation Hub provides financial support, a dynamic communal working space, mentoring from Sauder faculty, alumni and industry experts, and student interns as dedicated business consultants. The overall benefit to the businesses is estimated to be worth $60,000 each.

“There is tremendous momentum in Vancouver’s entrepreneurial community to use business to find solutions for the world’s most pressing challenges,” says Associate Professor James Tansey, Executive Director of Sauder’s ISIS Research Centre, which founded and runs the Coast Capital Savings Innovation Hub iHub.

“Our program harnesses this energy and is helping early stage social ventures grow to the next level with the vision of establishing the city as a world leader for social venture development.”