The Social Enterprise Centre | A Collaborative Workspace in Winnipeg’s North End

January 22, 2019


Written by Mike Choi, Territory Manager at Canadian Blood Services

January’s Leadership Winnipeg session took us around Winnipeg’s inner city where some of our most marginalized communities live. We visited several organizations that serve these communities and help provide the skills and opportunities that offer individuals better outcomes for employment and a better quality of life.

Winnipeg’s inner city population often is confronted by multiple and complex barriers to employment, particularly the indigenous community that has and continues to experience the negative effects of systemic racism, discrimination, and trauma from colonization, the Indian Act, and residential schools.

Statistics Canada in their 2016 census found that Indigenous adults are over-represented in the correctional system, accounting for 28% of provincial/territorial admissions and 74% of admissions to custody in Manitoba, while only representing 4.1% of the population. Indigenous children also account for nearly half of all foster children in the country while only representing 7% of children across Canada.

Facing these challenges, many individuals don’t see employment as an option. Without confidence and skills, entering the workforce may seem like a daunting and impossible task. Without an income, individuals face even more challenges in life that continue to prevent marginalized groups from engaging in our economies, creating inter-generational poverty. Organizations, like those found at the Social Enterprise Centre in Winnipeg, help individuals to break these cycles.

Dr. Tyler Pearce, executive director at Local Investment Toward Employment (LITE), spoke about the importance of working on job skills but also expanding imaginations to help people move past their barriers and realize they can participate and contribute to the workforce.

The Youth Crew program, a non-profit catering service through the Spence Neighbourhood Association, provides many youth in the West End their first employment experience where they can learn employable skills, build their confidence, and create a path for growth. LITE’s Breaking Barriers volunteer program gives individuals wanting to get in the office and admin sector the opportunity to learn skills like data processing and customer service in a real-life but supportive and encouraging environment. Each of these programs are short term, but aim to create the confidence to take the next step.

We also heard from Rhonda Taylor, manager at MITT Youth Build, and Kalen Taylor, executive director at Purpose Construction, who offer social support throughout their programs that help individuals when transitioning to the private sector, an often difficult process when breaking the cycle of poverty.

As industries come to see the benefits of social enterprises, the traditional thought process surrounding purchasing moves to a more social-oriented mindset where communities and transformative opportunities are considered. Art Ladd, executive director at Building Urban Industries for Local Development (BUILD) shared how organizations such as Manitoba Hydro and Manitoba Housing are hiring more and more construction-based social enterprises as they came to realize the same job was getting completed but with added social benefits to the communities they were serving. Other businesses like SkipTheDishes, IKEA, and Sleep Country also choose to work with social enterprises like Mother Earth Recycling, to reduce and divert waste from landfills.

Visiting these organizations and hearing of how the work they do changes lives in our communities was truly inspiring. During a time where reconciliation and healing are so important, it’s reassuring to see leadership and opportunities for leadership to help with this process. As current and future leaders in our community we have the choice to help recognize and solve problems, remove barriers for marginalized and unrepresented groups, and revitalize communities and cultures.


Mike Choi
Territory Manager
Canadian Blood Services

Leadership Winnipeg
Shaping tomorrow’s leaders today
For over a decade, The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce and Volunteer Manitoba have partnered together to offer Leadership Winnipeg, a 10-session leadership program (plus class project), which runs from September through June. The program provides experiences that inspire and help individuals to develop an understanding of themselves, their community and their role within it. ​​