Got a Great Idea for a Social Enterprise? Meet A New Social Enterprise Grantee and Learn How Innoweave Can Help!

April 24, 2014

Innoweave provides small grants to help organizations access the coaching that they require to implement a new approach. If your organization has attended an Innoweave workshop, you can apply for a grant between now and July 2nd! Organizations that have not attended an Innoweave workshop can submit an Expression of Interest to be considered for a full grant application until May 15th, 2014. Click here to learn more.

Innoweave helps successful community organizations take their impact to the next level by providing multiple layers of support, including access to coaches and grants. We’re pleased to introduce you to one of our latest Social Enterprise Implementation Grant recipients, and highlight the exciting venture they’re embarking on!

Lake Ontario Waterkeeper

Lake Ontario Waterkeeper (“LOW”) is a Canadian charity working for clean water and a swimmable, drinkable, fishable future.  Their work promotes sound environmental policy, transparent and informed decision-making, public education, and community-building programs since 2000. Their social enterprise idea? Finding a way to make their hugely popular mobile app, the Swim Guide, a self-sustaining entity.

The Swim Guide started with a simple question: “Is it safe to swim in Lake Ontario?” As it turned out, basic information such as a list of beaches on Lake Ontario simply didn’t exist. The organization started compiling information, phoning beach information hotlines every day, and putting the information into spreadsheets. As this knowledge base grew, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper realized they had a valuable resource on their hands.


Find the Swim Guide in the iTunes App Store or on Google Play!

The Waterkeeper supported the first three years of the Swim Guide initiative with volunteer contributions, foundation grants (RBC, Echo Foundation) and small sponsorships (MEC, Patagonia). Each year, the number of Swim Guide users rose, but to begin charging for the service would mean restricting access to important information about public water quality. This would compromise the public interest purpose of the project.

“We decided to apply for the Innoweave Social Enterprise Implementation Grant because we needed to learn how to develop a strong business plan to support the growth of the Waterkeeper Swim Guide”, says Krystyn Tully, Vice President at Lake Ontario Waterkeeper. “In three years, our app and website service have become the most popular service for people searching for clean beaches to visit with their friends and families. Demand for an expanded Swim Guide and new services is growing faster than we can keep up, and social enterprise seems like a natural next step.”

Lake Ontario Waterkeeper felt that a successful social enterprise would generate enough revenue to allow the project to thrive, raise Lake Ontario Waterkeeper’s profile, and enhance the impact of the organization’s work to restore and protect recreational waters.

They submitted an Expression of Interest for an Innoweave Social Enterprise grant, undertook some light coaching through a feasibility planning webinar series piloted by Innoweave and David Lepage of Accelerating Social Impact, and have now been approved for an Innoweave Social Enterprise grant. Over the coming months, they’ll be working with Innoweave Social Enterprise coach Norm Tasevski to develop a plan to turn the Swim Guide into a self-sustaining social enterprise.

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A screen capture of the Swim Guide mobile app.

“The January 2014 Innoweave Social Enterprise Feasibility Planning webinar series was extremely helpful in helping to identify and describe the different potential customer groups. The main focus of the social enterprise coaching project would be to build on this work, refine the customer groups, and identify the most strategically important one to focus on in 2014-2015.”

“We are really excited about moving forward because it means better access to clean swimming holes and beaches for hundreds of thousands of people and because the Innoweave process is building institutional knowledge that we can apply to other initiatives in the future.”

Got a Great Idea for a Social Enterprise? Learn More and Attend a Workshop!

Innoweave provides a range of supports for organizations looking to explore social enterprise, including introductory information, webinars, a self-assessment, workshops, coaches, and grants.

If you’re not sure whether you are ready to start a Social Enterprise….

If you’re feeling confident that you’ve got a great idea for a social enterprise, and want to create a strategy, apply to an upcoming Social Enterprise Workshop:

Please contact if you would like to see a Social Enterprise workshop in your area.

Access Coaches and Grants

If you’ve attended an Innoweave workshop and have identified the next steps needed to get your social enterprise launch ready, you can connect with one of Innoweave’s Social Enterprise coaches.

Organizations that require assistance accessing coaching can apply for an Innoweave Social Enterprise Implementation Grant. Applications are open until July 2nd for organizations that have attended a Social Enterprise Workshop. If your organization would like to access a grant but have not attended a workshop, submit a Social Enterprise Expression of Interest form to by May 15th.

Learn more about Innoweave’s grants here.