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What is the Toronto Enterprise Fund?

The Toronto Enterprise Fund (TEF) is a unique funding partnership of United Way Toronto & York Region, the City of Toronto, the Ontario Ministry of Community & Social Services, and the Homelessness Partnering Strategy, a federal government program administered by the City of Toronto. TEF was established in 2000 to support the implementation of employment social enterprises that provide transitional or permanent employment, or training leading to employment, for people who are marginalized.

Through their employment with a social enterprise, participants gain economic opportunities, work experience and related training, additional income, improved life skills and self-esteem, and better connections to their community and the labour force. By helping people improve their economic prospects and reduce poverty, the enterprises help prevent and reduce homelessness in Toronto.

TEF’s provides annual operating grants to a portfolio of existing employment social enterprises and seed funding to two or three startups. To assist these enterprises become sustainable, we offer extensive business development supports, and we measure our impact through ongoing evaluations. To help create an enabling environment for employment social enterprises to thrive, we engage in research and dissemination, and extensive sector building activities.

Our Vision

To contribute to the reduction of poverty and homelessness in the City of Toronto through the innovative use of the social enterprise model that offers employment to socially marginalized populations.

Our Mission

To be a leader in supporting the development and sustainability of employment social enterprises that result in improved community involvement, economic participation, and quality of life for people who are socially marginalized.

Click here to see a list of employment social enterprises supported by the Toronto Enterprise Fund.

A Brief History

The Toronto Enterprise Fund resulted from the convergence of government, community and donor interests to address the crisis of homelessness. In 1999, the Mayor’s Homelessness Action Task Force recommended investment in Community Economic Development (CED) initiatives as a means to address the root cause of homelessness – poverty and lack of economic opportunity.

Following the release of the Task Force's report, Human Resources Development Canada initiated discussions with funders and community groups in Toronto to consider solutions to homelessness. At the same time, major donors approached United Way of Greater Toronto, seeking to invest in CED. The Province of Ontario had also begun to look at how they could achieve greater impact for their investments in employment support services.

Launched in April 2000 as a three-year program, the Fund has been extended to the present day by the funding partners. Over the life of the fund, it has evolved to support the development of employment social enterprises through direct investment in the enterprises, business development assistance and ongoing research and evaluation. In 2003, TEF began working with business consultants to help funded enterprises improve their business performance, and developed a model for measuring sustainability. Since then, TEF has become a leader in Canada in supporting the development of sustainable employment social enterprises that create jobs for people who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, or otherwise socially marginalized.

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