From Bay Street to Social Enterprise Pioneer
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.