Ontario’s Solution Economy

Learn how governments and businesses can team up to help solve Ontario’s social problems.

By: Shannon MacDonald

It’s no secret that governments around the world are facing a shortage of resources while struggling to keep up with growing citizen demands and needs.

It’s a problem that hits close to home; one that all levels of government in Canada are currently grappling with.

Having returned to Ontario after working in Deloitte’s Atlantic practice, I’ve been focused on how the provincial government is balancing its need to eliminate the deficit while maintaining the level of service we have come to expect.

I’ve been intrigued by many of the innovative solutions to social problems described in my colleagues’ new book, The Solution Revolution: How Business, Government and Social Enterprises are Teaming up to Solve Society’s Toughest Problems, by William D. Eggers and Paul Macmillan.

If you want to give back to society or partner with government to create true social innovation, you should be thinking about how you can contribute to the emerging Solution Economy.

Governments recognize that innovative ideas can enhance performance and lead to improved outcomes in the public sector. The Ontario government understands this. But during periods of fiscal constraint, investing in innovation can be challenging.

Harness the profit motive

The new Solution Economy is one that is based in finding market solutions to societal problems. Here’s how that profit-oriented market could work in Ontario, for example, based on solutions that have emerged in other parts of Canada and around the world.

Social Impact Bonds

Social Impact Bonds are a new financing model used by governments in pockets around the world to fund social programs.Tweet this The Nova Scotia government recently jumped on board, announcing plans to launch the country’s first Social Impact Bond in the near future. The focus of Social Impact Bonds is two-fold: social impact and ROI. Here’s how they work:

  • On behalf of the government, an intermediary raises money from private investors.
  • Non-profits use the money to implement innovative solutions to social problems.
  • If the solution achieves its goal, the government pays the investors a share of the spending that is saved.


Crowdfunding is another model that is unleashing new exchanges and currencies and shifting the focus away for a government-only model. Instead, crowdfunding relies on a broad base of borrowers:

  • Concerned citizens.
  • Investors.
  • Non-profits who all come together, rallying behind a social problem they feel passionate about.

More Than Me, for example, began as an enterprise to employ and educate Liberian women after years of civil war. When the fledgling organization needed start-up capital, the founder bypassed the grant-writing process by making a direct appeal to her social network.

The organization has surpassed expectations in both outcomes and funding. But it’s easy to see how training and education solutions could be solved by crowdfunding — not just in Ontario, but across the country. The Ontario Securities Commission is now conducting consultations to evaluate proposals to enable crowdfunding.

Get inspired

Government and businesses are far more globally attuned and aware than before and the world does indeed seem a smaller place then it did barely a decade ago. And as we evolve to understand the real gaps we have in our global societies, we increase our realization that giving is not only needed but it is an exceptional differentiator for successful businesses and individuals.

Are you exploring enough, giving enough, caring enough, thinking enough…doing enough? If you want to give back to society or partner with government to create true social innovation, you should be thinking about how you can contribute to the emerging Solution Economy. If you’re in government and you want to deliver stronger outcomes through fresh global ideas around commercialization or financing, you would benefit from reading The Solution Revolution, too.

While the book is a great resource for the public sector on how to create partnerships and how to apply innovations to social challenges, there’s also real inspiration here for philanthropists, innovators and investors who are looking for new challenges and who wish to truly impact this world in a positive way.

Shannon MacDonald is a Toronto-based partner and leads Deloitte’s public sector services to the Ontario Government.

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