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PLEDDG activity focuses on supporting social entrepreneurship and inclusive development in Ukraine, with a special emphasis on including women in economic development. PLEDDG has already organized two successful study tours on social entrepreneurship within Ukraine, which were aimed at facilitating the peer-to-peer exchange of knowledge between experts. PLEDDG also organized two study tours to Poland, to give local officials, NGOs’ representatives and social entrepreneurs an opportunity to learn about international best practices in supporting social enterprises and women-owned businesses.

The aforementioned study tours, organized in the framework of PLEDDG, were followed by a study tour to Canada on October 9-18, 2018. The objectives of the study tour was to introduce representatives of PLEDDG partner cities to Canadian experiences of supporting social entrepreneurship and the start up and growth of women-led businesses. Composed of representatives from Project’s partner cities, such as Vinnytsia, Dolyna, Zaporizhia, Ivano-Frankivsk, Melitopol, Myrhorod, and Poltava, the Ukrainian delegation visited five Canadian cities: Toronto, Waterloo, London, and Niagara Falls, Ontario. During the tour, the Ukrainian delegation had the opportunity to learn about Canadian models and best practices in both social and women’s entrepreneurship, meet with Canadian officials, business and NGOs’ active in implementating inclusive business development policy and programs.

Through numerous meetings, demonstrations, and discussions, the study tour participants gained an understanding of how to implement their city’s strategic plan for the development of social entrepreneurship and support for women in business. They also learnt about the possibilities for support and growth of social enterprises and women’s entrepreneurship through building networks and collaboration. They discovered specific instruments of support of social enterprises and women in business (business models, advisory programs, BizGrid, Socialpreneurs chats (for social enterprises).

In particular, in Toronto, the participants visited the Center for Social Innovation where they discussed problems faced by women in starting up a business and the possible ways to tackle such issues. Equally interesting was an introduction to the Enterprise Fund and United Way of Greater Toronto that supports employment social enterprises (ESE) in the regions of Peel, Toronto, and York. ESE are businesses that create training and employment opportunities for people facing barriers to the labor market. The Enterprise Fund supports creation, sustainability, and enlargement of ESE.

Then there was a tour of Sketch Entrepreneur Hub, a center for creative entrepreneurship, providing opportunities for young people aged 16-29 who are in dire straits (poverty, unemployment, homelessness). The Ukrainian delegation visited MaRS Discovery District, which works with 15 leading Toronto organizations to commercialize their innovations worldwide, provide commercial services, and acts as an agent between industry representatives and private investors.

In Waterloo, the Ukrainian delegation had a meeting with experts from regional economic development of Waterloo who told them about regional programs that support business ecosystems and how they promote of social entrepreneurship development. The managers of the Waterloo Region Small Business Centre reported on their collaboration with Southwest Ontario Social Enterprises Partnership, Pillar NonProfit Network, and support provided by them to social enterprises and women-entrepreneurs. Equally interesting and insightful was a meeting with representatives of Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), who shared their experience in enhancement of business ecosystems for women-entrepreneurs abroad, specifically in Ukraine, for extending their economic opportunities.

In London, the Ukrainian delegates visited the Pathways center that helps people overcome barriers to decent employment, offering job-hunting services and skill training. When in Old East Village Grocer, they paid a visit to a department of Audio Tactile or ATN Access network, engaging talented handicapped people to become an active part of human resources. OEVG acts as interactive audience for delivery of practical sessions for handicapped people, providing their region, at the same time, with fresh food products.

This was followed up with a visit to “My Sister’s Place”, a shelter for women who had suffered cruelty and violence, and their children. The shelter provides services aimed at mitigating consequences of violence against women and their children, which, in the end, focus on prevention and reduction of the number of such violent treatment cases. It also provides skills training and entrepreneurial opportunities for women.

The delegates then were introduced to Youth Opportunities Unlimited, a national leader in conducting a wide range of training workshops, education, provision of support in employment and advocacy for young people aged 16-30. The organization manages various social enterprises in services sector, retail, wood processing and waste management sectors. It strives to ensure that the youth have the skills necessary for a job search and gives them the feeling of confidence and independence. It also provides assistance to the vulnerable groups of young people and their children to solve their accommodation matters.

The participants also visited London Atlohsa, which provides support, education, and violence prevention for native families and communities, specifically, giving asylum in emergencies and short-stay accommodation for families and communities in the areas where native population reside, as well as assistance in permanent home search. They have a series of programs and support teams for women, children, young people, and men, apart from cultural meetings and events held jointly with other agencies in London.

Afterwards, they were introduced to Goodwill which provides work opportunities, skills development, employee and family strengthening for those who face barriers such as disability or social disadvantage, with the aim of advancing individuals, families and communities toward self-sufficiency and prosperity. They also provide access to affordable goods for families through community-made contributions, and divert millions of pounds of waste from landfill and help sustain the environment.

The itinerary included Sheila Simpson Center for Creativity in London, an art project supporting a new developing theater, culture people, and artists. They have a gallery, black box theatre, multi-purpose working space, and 10 full-time art studio.

The study tour also covered Niagara region and presentation of Innovate Niagara. Executive officers of Innovate Niagara (regional innovative center) reported on their cooperation with Southwest Ontario Social Enterprises Partnership and their support for social entrepreneurs, businesswomen-owners and women-entrepreneurs, as well as local challenges and opportunities.