At the Intersection of Community Engagement and Entrepreneurship / À l’intersection de l’engagement communautaire et de l’entrepreneuriat

We recently had the chance to present communityBUILD, York Region’s approach to supporting social ventures addressing food security and youth employment. There are a number of features that makes communityBUILD unique.

Nous avons eu récemment l’occasion de présenter BATIRensemble, l’approche adoptée par la région de York pour appuyer les projets sociaux qui favorisent la sécurité alimentaire et l’emploi des jeunes. BATIRensemble est unique à plus d’un égard.

On April 2, 2014 we reported on communityBUILD’s first Mash Up competition in March 2014. CommunityBUILD is a partnership of Seneca College, York University, United Way York Region (UWYR) and ventureLAB (VL), York Region’s Regional Innovation Centre and part of the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs. CommunityBUILD is a collective impact organization developing a Regional system of supports for social enterprise that creates investment ready ventures that will develop novel approaches to food security and youth employment in York Region.

On September 12, 2014 the communityBUILD partners were invited by Allyson Hewitt (Advisor, Social Innovation, MaRS Discovery District) to present to the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs. This was a great opportunity to speak about how the communityBUILD partners are working together with a single vision. In preparing for the presentation I reflected on what makes communityBUILD unique.

Systems approach: communityBUILD takes a systems approach to social venture support. As a collective impact organization it brings together the perspectives of academic, community and business entrepreneurship because solutions to complex challenges like food insecurity and youth unemployment cannot come from one sector alone. As Janice Chu (UWYR) showed, communityBUILD is:

1- Grounded in Community

Engages community to identify issues, formulate and implement solutions.

2- Guided by Research

Mobilizes knowledge and learning to enable social innovations.

3- Driven by Entrepreneurship

Cultivates, supports and celebrates entrepreneurs

Regional approach: communityBUILD is supported by four organizations with a Regional mandate. This isn’t a localized service but one that sources the best ideas from across York Region (and beyond) to address challenges that have been identified by York Region citizens as priorities.

Not based on campus: There is a growing movement to support student and faculty entrepreneurship. The Deshpande Symposium for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Higher Education explores many established and emerging models for campus entrepreneurship but when I attended their 2014 Symposium the predominant paradigm was campus based and few prioritized social innovation/entrepreneurship.

Starts with the social market: Community Engagement drives communityBUILD. Through its Meeting House series of community consultations UWYR has been able to identify community priorities allowing communityBUILD to seek and support social ventures that address these community priorities. This is a market (need) focused model of innovation as opposed to campus based innovation models which are solution focused.

Bridges the gap: communityBUILD is uniquely designed to sit at the intersection of community engagement and entrepreneurship. It joins the needs of the social market place with solutions being developed by entrepreneurs.

communityBUILD diagram


CommunityBUILD is itself a social innovation as it takes a systems approach to addressing an unmet need. It is focused on the problem of the gap between community engagement and entrepreneurship. It develops a regional system of supports for social enterprises which are focused on creating solutions to food insecurity and youth unemployment.  Knowledge mobilization is the process of connecting academic expertise to these problems and solutions. See an earlier post differentiating this jargon.

This is also a unique partnership between university, college, community and business entrepreneurship all working together with a collective vision for collective impact.

communityBUILD partner logos

David Phipps, RIR-YorkU

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