From Bay Street to Social Enterprise Pioneer

Marty Donkervoort MBA ’80
Marty Donkervoort

Marty Donkervoort (MBA ’80) was 40 years old and Director of Corporate Planning at Noranda Forest Products in the mid-1980s when he had what he jokingly calls his mid-life crisis. “We closed a factory in New Brunswick that put 150 people out of work and devastated the entire community.” He remembers thinking, “This is not what I want to be doing with my life.”

The moment propelled him into a whole new career – from Bay Street business leader to an internationally-regarded social enterprise pioneer committed to changing lives, communities and businesses.

In the years that followed, Donkervoort launched a series of social enterprises beginning with a courier service in Toronto. In 1999, with the support of a high-profile community board including Bob Chipman, Board Chair of the Stevenson Group Inc. — he founded Community Ownership Solutions (COS), a not-for-profit development corporation with a mandate to create quality jobs for low-income Winnipeggers.

Over 10 years at the helm of COS, Donkervoort earned multiple accolades, including Ernst and Young Social Entrepreneur of the Year in 2010, and raised close to $5 million to help alleviate poverty in Winnipeg’s inner-city.

Donkervoort credits his Schulich MBA as pivotal to his successes in social enterprise, as a consultant and founding member of the Social Enterprise Council of Canada. “It opened up a lot of opportunities and doors. Having that education combined with my experience in the private sector was really beneficial to launching my career.”

His book: Inner City Renovations: How a Social Enterprise Changes Lives and Community was published in 2013 and as a case study in 2016.