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Case Studies in Social Innovation: SiG@MaRS

SiG@MaRS, the Social Innovation Generation program at MaRS Discovery District, was initiated by Tim Brodhead, former CEO of the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation in discussion with MaRS CEO, Ilse Treurnicht, and MaRS co-founder, John Evans. Through the development of the program, they aimed to advance new approaches to address persistent social and environmental issues by creating industry standards and regulations in Canada and offering practical support for social ventures.
SiG@MaRS supports social entrepreneurs at all stages of development to achieve sustainability and increase their social impact. It creates an enabling environment for social innovation to flourish in Ontario. SiG@MaRS actively develops programs that aim to:

  • Support the launch and growth of social ventures
  • Enhance the skills and networks of social entrepreneurs
  • Explore new instruments of social finance
  • Foster opportunities for technology platforms to help scale social ventures and build the social enterprise community

Advice for innovators

Sometimes people mistakenly conflate social ventures (not-for-profits) and commercial ventures (for-profits) because both generate a profit. The important characteristic that distinguishes a social venture from a commercial venture is its objective to solve social problems and provide social benefits. Social ventures may generate a profit, but that is not their focus. For these enterprises, profits are a way to achieve sustainability in providing their social benefit.
Thus SiG@MaRS has positioned itself to be a valuable resource to support social enterprises to overcome the challenges of starting up a venture and producing social benefits. Moreover, SiG@MaRS creates an environment that brings clarity to the confusion around social and commercial ventures. It fosters a thriving space for social entrepreneurs to succeed.
SiG believes that complex, persistent and “wicked” social and ecological problems can be solved. Their focus is enhancing Canada’s resilience by engaging the creativity and resources of all sectors to collaborate on social innovations that have impact, durability and scale.
For more information about SiG, visit:
The Case Studies in Social Innovation database is a joint initiative between SiG @ MaRS and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation.