We Are So Much More Than a Non-Horse

As the result of years of experience and learnings gained working alongside brilliant colleagues and community leaders, working long hours, and dipping into savings, today I am the Founder and Principal Collaborator of Campus for Communities of the Future.

I should be proud. And yet, my reality is that I stumble whenever I talk or even write about it.

It’s complicated because my emphasis has been on social innovation and doing my darndest to make the world a better place, more so than it has been about making money.  However to succeed, it was essential to incorporate elements of both the business and the nonprofit sector.

Ultimately, it became clear that I am a social entrepreneur and we are in fact a social enterprise. Even then, where did we fit? 

We definitely weren’t government, but were we part of the nonprofit sector or the business sector? We didn’t feel we were part of the business sector, yet non-profit wasn’t accurate either.

Dan Pallotta, a well-known advocate for the nonprofit sector once said, using the term nonprofit as a descriptor is like describing a beautiful zebra by saying ‘Well, it’s not a horse’”.
It totally negates the nonprofit sector’s unique contributions to further social causes and provide public benefits.


I’m a much bigger fan of a new definition now being used as an umbrella term for organizations that aren’t traditional businesses or government but may not be a clear fit as a non-profit.

This new umbrella term was used by our federal Ministry of Economic and Social Development Canada as they recently launched a new Social Finance initiative for all nonprofits and charities as well as social enterprises, co-operatives, and businesses with a social mission.

The new terminology? Social Purpose Organizations.

Personally, I see Social Purpose Sector as being far more accurate than Nonprofit Sector. The Non-Horse Sector is/has also been known by many other names which has often contributed to confusion. For example, Voluntary Sector, Charity Sector, Civic Sector, Not-for-Profit, Third Sector, Non-Government Sector, Public Benefit Sector, Non-Profit Sector etc.
When thinking too about the whole-of-society approach needed to deal with today’s complexity, social purpose sector also provides a place and a profile for social enterprises, and cooperation.

My own social enterprise has always been difficult to explain because it didn’t seem to fit in with either the business sector or the nonprofit sector, whereas it clearly fits with the Social Purpose sector.

Social Purpose Sector feels like home to me.

Your thoughts would be valued. What works for you?

Posted on 11-21-23

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