Monday, August 15, 2011

Wakulat|Law Organizes 2nd Annual Solar & Conservation Fair on the Lakeshore

Following on the heels of last year's first go-round with the Solar & Conservation Fair on the Lakeshore, Wakulat|Law has become involved in organizing a second iteration of the event.  On Saturday September 10, 2011, the 2nd Annual Solar and Conservation Fair will be hosted by the local Lakeshore Business Improvement Areas. It will take place at the Assembly Hall in South Etobicoke from 11 am to 4 pm. This one-day community event will feature exhibitors, vendors and speakers on topics related to renewable energy, conservation and environmental sustainability. The event is open to residents and businesses. Admission is free.

The Fair is an opportunity for people who not only care about reducing their environmental footprint, but also want to learn how to benefit financially from taking on green initiatives. Last year, the emphasis of the Fair was on solar education. This year it is expanding in scope to meet the broader interests and needs of the community. Attendees can go to seminars on topics such as residential rooftop solar technology and community power, speak to exhibitors who are providing sustainable food options and solar technology, find out about green career opportunities, sample locally-sourced refreshments and learn how to build a community power project.

Not all communities have easy access to the knowledge and tools required to participate in this emerging sustainable economy. Small business owners and residents are busy and don’t necessarily have the time to research how they can participate in the province’s emerging green economy. This type of event is designed to bring them that information and make it more accessible to businesses, residents and community groups.

The Fair itself is an example of community spirit, created and planned with the participation of local business associations, dedicated volunteers from the LAMP Community Health Centre and non-profit community groups who share a passion for a cleaner, healthier and prosperous future. It offers members of the community the opportunity not only to learn about alternative energy from industry leaders, but also from each other. The Fair will also help the local economy by featuring several local business, giving residents the opportunity to directly support their neighbourhood business owners.

This project has received funding support from the Ontario Power Authority through the Community Energy Partnerships Program. Such support does not indicate endorsement by the OPA or the Province of Ontario of the contents of this material. The views expressed in the material are the views of the Recipient and do not necessarily reflect those of the OPA or the Province of Ontario.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Incorporating Social Ventures: A Rose by Any Other Name?

After moving the Wakulat|Law HQ to the Centre for Social Innovation - Annex this Spring, I have had the pleasure of meeting a very passionate and creative community of Canadian social entrepreneurs. I have also discovered there is a common question amongst a few early-stage ventures: what type of legal structure should I create?  I don't pretend to have a silver bullet to answer this question.  Moreover, even though greater thought is arguably being put towards this issue, it may even be more difficult to arrive at an easy answer as other jurisdictions are experimenting with an expanded menu of legal structures intended to allow entrepreneurs to meet financial, social, and environmental bottom lines.

What are my options?

In Ontario, your social venture has a variety of legal structures to choose from including for-profit, not-for-profit, registered charities, co-operative corporations or perhaps even a hybrid model. One emerging challenge facing social entrepreneurs is how to marry a straight for-profit business with a not-for-profit venture that is funded by its for-profit sibling. Unfortunately, there is not yet an easy path forward for these types of enterprises.

Perhaps the best advice that can be given is to focus on designing the business side of your venture. Ultimately, a business venture's legal structure will and should follow its business model. The legal structure should simply be a tool for accomplishing your goals. Deciding too early may lock you onto a path that won’t get you where you want to go.

Where can I get some more guidance?

Social entrepreneurs seeking some assistance in arriving at a legal structure could do worse than start their adventure by reading the following articles:
  • Legally Incorporating Your Social Venture: The MaRS Discovery District provides resources to drive innovation and assists you in asking some key questions about the activities of your venture.
  • For Love or Lucre: An article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review by a veteran social entrepreneur that provides a guide to the various options available in the U.S. Nevertheless, the issues raised can be extrapolated into a Canadian context.
  • Social Enterprise Legal Structure - Options and Prospects for a "Made in Canada" Solution: A survey of social entrepreneurs and social economy "experts" by the SFU Centre for Sustainable Community Development with the BC Centre for Social Enterprise.  It examined the prospects and potential drawbacks associated with pursuing a separate legal structure for social enterprise in Canada. 

Ready to Rock?
    Once you are in a position to move forward with establishing a legal structure for your social enterprise, it's time to have a discussion with a qualified lawyer to assist with the process. Wakulat|Law is at the heart of a legal ecosystem that can meet all your business law needs including incorporation, corporate governance, intellectual property, employment and tax law. We would be happy to have a brief introductory chat about how you are about to create positive change in your community.
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