Instructing for Impact: the State of Social Finance Education in Canada

Instructing for Impact: the State of Social Finance Education in Canada

There are over 95 universities in Canada, but do any of them teach social finance? With over 30% increase in program enrollment in the past decade, business programs have become a popular choice in Canada—yet how many of these business graduates use the term “responsible investing”?

With these questions in mind, I looked into the course offerings at Canadian universities across the country.

After some research, it became evident that many post-secondary institutions have now included social innovation, environmental sustainability or social enterprise topics in their curriculums. But when it comes to social finance specifically, I found eight pioneering Canadian universities.

The list includes:

  • Carleton University: ‘Financing the Third Sector’ course
  • Concordia University: Sustainable Investment Professional Certification Program (SIPC)
  • McGill University: ‘Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation’ course
  • Simon Fraser University: Social Venture Accelerator program, and ‘Social Entrepreneurship’ course
  • University of British Columbia: ‘Sustainable and Strategic Real Estate Investment & Community Development’ course
  • University of Toronto: ‘Environmental Finance and Sustainable Investment’ course
  • University of Waterloo: ‘Environmental Finance’ course
  • York University: ‘Microfinance and Social Impact Investing’ course

While some of these universities provide full-semester courses in-class, others offer self-study or online courses. Though less extensive, there are also some Canadian universities that offer a social finance module within a program or course. Furthermore, universities include such programs within different faculties, such as environmental studies or non-profit management.

The goals of students taking such courses are equally as diverse as the program offerings available at the eight universities. These students range from the undergraduate to experienced professional level.

To gain a deeper understanding of Canadian social finance education, I interviewed instructors and students from the universities listed above to discuss:

  • Course enrollment motives
  • Educational resources and assignments
  • Major takeaways for the students
  • Future of social finance education

Responses were varied but contained a few common themes.

Dr. Tessa Hebb, the Director for the Carleton Centre for Community Innovation at Carleton University, spoke of student motives. She explained, “For public policy students, issues like social impact bonds are very much ‘hot’ topics in Ottawa these days. Students want more information on these new innovative approaches to financing the sector.”

On a similar note, University of Waterloo’s Dr. Olaf Weber explained, “The question (about social finance) is how it will be applied in practice and whether it will be financially sustainable. Generally, there is an increasing interest about this topic for business and environment students.”

Over the next six weeks, I will present my findings on the social finance education initiatives of the eight aforementioned universities. If there is a university or course that I might have missed, please let me know, and I will add this offering to the list. I look forward to sharing this information with the members of the community, and delivering the most inclusive knowledge on post-secondary social finance education in Canada to date.

Photo Credit: John Walker 

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