The Social Economy Centre of the University of Toronto, Imagine Canada, and the Ontario Co-operative Association, have launched a research alliance that aims at enhancing capacity for ongoing research and development for the social economy of Southern Ontario. This project—a Community-University Research Alliance for Southern Ontario’s Social Economy—consists of a network of leading scholars from 11 universities in Southern Ontario, 24 partner organizations, and scholars from seven universities external to the node whose research will be beneficial to this initiative. This Alliance will generate synergy between researchers and practitioners currently working in isolation through the creation of five Research and Practice Clusters, and ultimately contribute to a broader movement. Our Alliance will also create synergy with similar networks in other regions and the social economy internationally.

The Alliance will also build a future generation of researchers, create a presence for the social economy in higher education institutions, and focus heavily on knowledge dissemination. Training of students is a key feature of this Alliance, and for each project graduate students will form part of the team.

The Community-University Research Alliance for Southern Ontario’s Social Economy is one of seven Canadian research alliances funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) to study the social economy. The Canadian Social Economy Hub acts as a facilitator promoting collaboration among the seven regional research alliances: 
          Southern Ontario 
          Manitoba, Saskatchewan & Northern Ontario 
          the North


The overall project has 35 sub-projects. These sub-projects are organized into five Research and Practice Clusters, which are:

  • mapping the size and scope of the social economy in this region;
  • understanding the impact of the social economy;
  • improving the capacity of social economy organizations (SEOs) to demonstrate the value of their activities;
  • developing public policy; and
  • extending theory.

See a list of the 35 sub-projects.


We present the social economy as an overarching framework addressing the entire array of organizations with a social mission ranging from market-based co-operatives, community economic development corporations, and other social enterprises to nonprofits in public service to the many nonprofit mutual associations. Our initial working definition is of organizations with a social mission that either have explicit economic objectives, as is the case of market-based organizations, or that create economic value through employing people and through providing services. Our approach also emphasizes the interaction between the social economy and the private and public sectors.


Imagine Canada is a national charitable organization that supports Canada’s charities, nonprofit organizations, and socially conscious businesses, and champions the work they do in our communities. Imagine Canada is one of the largest nonprofit umbrella organizations in the country with a membership of over 1,200. With a staff of twenty research professionals, it is recognized as Canada’s leading source of research on the charitable and nonprofit sector.

Ontario Co-operative Association represents co-operatives, credit unions, and caisses populaires in Ontario in such diverse services as agriculture, finance, insurance, food retailing and wholesaling, farm supply, renewable energy, culture, social service such as daycare, health and homecare. “On Co-op”, as it is known, has a mandate to support and promote co-operatives across Ontario.

The Social Economy Centre of the University of Toronto promotes and disseminates multidisciplinary research and policy analysis on issues affecting the social economy. The Centre was established in 2005 as a unit of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. 



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