Allyson Hewitt – Becoming Visible 2011 – Blending Social and Economic Outcomes

Allyson Hewitt is a force for change.  She has led impressive advocacy campaigns herself including the development of 211 – providing three-digit and online access to social service, community and government information.  Now she heads the Social Enterprise Unit at MaRS Discovery District and is a colleague at Social Innovation Generation.  Her organizing talents are now at the service of advancing the social innovation agenda in Ontario, mentoring young social entrepreneurs and hosting an impressive variety of conferences and workshops for Toronto's burgeoning changemakers community.  Here is her contribution to: What would you like to become more visible in 2011?   This is an addition to the original collection.  You can also Download Becoming Visible  -  the complete collection of 58 essays.

Blending Social and Economic Outcomes


I have spent my life in the not-for-profit sector; it is core to who I am.  It is through the social services sector that I have worked to create change and help those in need.  From volunteering at the age of 12 with my home economics teacher to make breakfast (white bread and Cheez Whiz, no less) for kids coming to school hungry; to running shelters for homeless youth or battered women; from launching an innovative program to allow people to access human service information; to advocating for children’s health – the not-for profit sector has been my home.

But then something happened to me, something a bit odd in fact: I landed on MaRS.  MaRS is a “convergence innovation centre” located in downtown Toronto. It was set up to help commercialize life science research but soon moved to supporting entrepreneurs in the areas of information technology, clean tech and social innovation.  The social innovation practice is something that I have been privileged to help design and implement as part of the Social Innovation Generation (SiG) team and as the Director of Social Entrepreneurship at MaRS.

Although MaRS is a not-for-profit organization, most of my colleagues come from the for-profit sector.  Our clients in the SiG practice are social entrepreneurs who, interestingly enough, come equally from social enterprises (NFP) and social purpose businesses (FP). And what I’ve come to conclude is that all those entrepreneurs want the same end goal:  systemic, sustainable, social change. 

As a result of this work I have come to challenge my own assumptions about the appropriate vehicle for creating social change.  I have come to accept that the corporate structure of an organization should not matter as much as the outcome or impact we are able to achieve.  In fact, we should aim for a “blended value” proposition in all our work.  And it seems this blended value concept is not in fact all that odd. That the term even has an originator, Jed Emerson, and that management gurus like Michael Porter write about it in the Harvard Business Review under the heading: The Big Idea.
So what I want to become more visible in 2011 is the realization that it is possible to achieve both social and economic outcomes in your work.  That it is possible to live and work your values.  That you should not have to make a choice between sacrificing your values to make money or sacrificing your earning potential by working for an organization that helps people.  The choice is yours, and – if you look hard enough – you will be supported in your efforts to both make money and make a difference. Regardless of your choice of corporate structure, I’ll be standing right behind you.


You can download the complete collection of Becoming Visible responses here: Download Becoming Visible.  Or by clicking the Becoming Visible Category on the right hand side of your screen.

Please share and distribute to your friends and through your various networks, websites etc.  I think you will agree – these are too good to keep to ourselves.



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