Starting in 2014, RSA Canada began sponsoring SSE programs with generous financial and in-kind support including mentorship, subject matter expertise, office equipment, and space for SSE program events.
The company is supporting the school as a way to support its client communities to develop more social entrepreneurs—ordinary citizens who spot social and environmental problems in their communities and use sustainable business strategies to achieve tangible and meaningful solutions.
Graduates of programs RSA Canada have supported in the past include a mother starting a bakery in a Toronto neighbourhood challenged by stubbornly high youth unemployment; a young woman empowering marginalized parents to take an active role in the development of their children; a disabled human rights activist working to alter the business world’s view of physical challenges like cerebral palsy; and a daughter trying to help families like hers cope with dementia.
Operating in London, UK since 1997, the School for Social Entrepreneurs is an international franchise active across Britain, Australia, Ireland, India, and Canada. In 2012, SSE was established as a project on Tides Canada’s shared platform. Today, SSE Ontario supports over 100 individuals a year across its short and long programs.
RSA Group is a leader in the insurance sector with a strong focus on corporate responsibility. RSA’s collaboration with SSE falls under its Thriving Communities corporate responsibility pillar which focuses on educating and inspiring future talent, supporting social entrepreneurs and dedicating time to causes its employees are passionate about.
In 2013, RSA established a three-year partnership with SSE’s head school in London UK and extended the relationship to the school in Canada a year later.
SSE’s programs are based on an alternative adult learning model called “action learning.” Under this model of “learning by doing,” students gain practical insights on setting up and securing funding for social initiatives, improving working methods, and communicating a value proposition effectively. Students also develop and acquire skills and knowledge that will build their confidence as social leaders.
Toward that end, RSA Canada staff have supported SSE by acting as year-long mentors for students and serving as coaches at student pitching events. In addition, the company has shared its subject matter expertise through a training session called “Insurance 101 for Social Entrepreneurs” and IT support for SSE’s back-office staff. In 2015, one RSA employee in Toronto participated in an international RSA-SSE feasibility study for new environmental programs at SSE.
Going forward, the company plans to allow SSE students to benefit from more subject matter expertise from RSA employees with the offering of additional training sessions on various other topics important to social entrepreneurs such as social media, human resources, and accounting.
The benefits of the collaboration are shared both ways. RSA staff enjoy the chance to serve as a sounding board and to share their knowledge and professional expertise, while also developing their coaching and leadership skills with individuals from different backgrounds and personality types.
Mark Edgar, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, RSA Canada commented: “This collaboration is rooted in our heritage as a business founded to meet a social need, providing protection to people and businesses. Working with the School for Social Entrepreneurs offers us not only a great opportunity to support community leaders who are reducing risks associated with social inequality and environmental stress, but also an opportunity to develop insights into the needs of small businesses and the fast growing social enterprise industry.”
Akhilesh Chandy, Head of Marketing – Johnson Central Region: “[When I served as an SSE pitch coach] what came through loud and clear from every single participant was passion. These students believe in the social issues they want to address. They spoke from their heart. I am happy that I had the opportunity to help shape thinking and support the process. I hope to see some of these ideas come to life. [This was] a very enriching experience.”
Upon announcement of the news of the renewed collaboration, Marjorie Brans, Managing Director, School for Social Entrepreneurs Ontario said: “Our collaboration with RSA has enabled us to raise the bar on social impact. We’re leveraging the stellar expertise and financial backing of a company that holds the values of social and environmental sustainability at its core. In addition to providing us much needed funds, the engagement of RSA staff helps ground our students in the ‘real’ world of business while supporting the creation of bottom up social and economic change. We are delighted to call RSA our lead corporate sponsor.”