Building a people-centred economy depends on the creation, consolidation and expansion of enterprises whose primary goals are to respond to the needs and aspirations of citizens in communities across the country. Social enterprises, which in Canada include co-operatives and various non-profit enterprises, now — as in the past — play a key role in the Canadian economy and in making Canada a people-centred economy. This third enterprise sector, after private and publicly owned companies, is important in many of Canada’s sectors such as retail, banking, housing, daycare, insurance, agriculture, and in new areas such as social services. While the social enterprise sector in Canada is large and impressive compared to that in many other countries, it still remains small compared to the traditional private and state-owned sectors.
In the current economic environment, we believe that there is a real possibility to rebuild and re-stimulate our economy after the most severe recession in decades, to better use the social enterprise tool for creating new jobs, preserving old ones, and assuring that jobs stay in our communities both large and small. While community members carry the primary creative force in establishing new social enterprises and expanding existing ones, we believe government at all levels can play a key role in helping to set a framework which would allow social enterprise to flourish. To differing degrees, all levels of government currently underuse social enterprise as a tool for public policy and there are a number of important openings for new partnerships between governments and the sector.
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From May 30 to June 1, 2010, the National Summit on a People-Centred Economy was an unprecedented gathering of leaders and representatives of the community economic development, cooperative and social economy sectors to build a common agenda and mobilize action for a secure, sustainable economy that puts people and the planet first. The Summit sought to mobilize networks and organizations by building on the best research, agreeing on a common action plan, and increasing awareness of this sector among politicians, policy makers, non-governmental sector leaders and the mainstream media.
As part of the preparatory process for the Summit, six issue papers were drafted on themes which outline the key strengths, challenges and proposals for action to further reinforce this movement. These issue papers were subject to an engagement and outreach process for feedback and revisions by Summit participants and other stakeholders between March 1 and May 15. The revised papers were presented at the Summit, where a common declaration and action plan were developed.