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Decent Work and Growth

Middle, Secondary


Social enterprises trade in order to tackle social problems and improve communities, people’s life chances, or the environment. They make their money from selling goods and services on the open market, but they reinvest their profits back into the business or the local community.

These learning resources have been designed for students aged 7-14. Guided by their teachers, students can explore examples of social enterprises started by children and adults around the world. By the end of this learning unit, students will have created their own social enterprise project.

Materials for six lessons have been created. These are designed to support students’ understanding of social enterprise and the United Nations’ Global Sustainable Development Goals. At the same time, they can develop a range of important core skills: citizenship, critical thinking and problem solving, creativity, imagination and innovation.

The resource includes six lessons, each of which requires 60 minutes of class time. 

Lesson 1: Learn about examples of social enterprise projects set up by students and adults around the world that address various Sustainable Development Goals. Consider the needs and challenges in our community.

Lesson 2: Explore the meaning of decent jobs and find out how social enterprises are creating decent jobs.

Lesson 3: Consider the personal characteristics of entrepreneurs. Learn about what motivates social entrepreneurs. Consider the idea of impact: social enterprises make a positive difference to people’s lives.

Lesson 4: Brainstorm ideas for potential social enterprise projects. Learn about the concept of a business plan. Review a simple business plan.

Lesson 5: Create a business plan and an action plan with deadlines. Identify individual roles and responsibilities. Plan for the launch of the social enterprise.

Lesson 6: Review what we learned during the unit – about the concept of social enterprise, about Sustainable Development Goals, about our teammates and ourselves.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

Students develop those skills associated with critical thinking and problem solving as they think about the reasons why certain challenges exist and identify possible solutions. 


The issues addressed by the resource are real, the pedagogy used to help students investigate these issues is effective and the background and additional resources provided to the teacher and students is impressive.

Recommendation of how and where to use it

The resource is useful in introducing students to the Sustainable Development Goals and may be used in this generic way. More specifically, it can be used in those units of study (World/Global Issues, Geography, Economics ) that have students look at the challenges faced by many in the developing world and  those in our local community. Finally, it can be used to show that these challenges are not intractable and that social enterprise is one of the tools available to us.

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

  • Step 1Select a province
  • Manitoba
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 7
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • People & Places in the World:Ways of Life in Asia, Africa or Australasia
  • New Brunswick
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    • Grade 7
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Cultures
        • Empowerment: Economics
        • Atlantic Canada and the World:
    • Grade 9
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Canadian Identities: Civics
  • Newfoundland & Labrador
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 7
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Economic Empowerment
  • Nova Scotia
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 7
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Social Studies 7 - Many Cultures: One Shared History: Opportunities and Challenges
    • Grade 8
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Social Studies 8 - A Changing Canadian Society: Advocacy and Action
    • Grade 9
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Citizenship 9: Global Citizenship
  • Ontario
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    • Grade 7
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Geography
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Natural Resources around the World: Use and Sustainability
    • Grade 8
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Geography
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Global Inequalities: Economic Development and Quality of Life
    • Grade 9
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Business Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Introduction to Business: Entrepreneurship
  • Prince Edward Island
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 7
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Economic Empowerment
    • Grade 8
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Canadian Identity: Citizenship
  • Quebec
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 9
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • The Contemporary World: Wealth

Themes Addressed

Citizenship (1)

  • General Guide to Taking Action

Economics (3)

  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Poverty Reduction
  • Trade

Human Rights (1)

  • Social Justice

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Very Good

The resource does have an agenda, but it is to open students minds to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), how social enterprises are contributing to the realization of those goals and what their class might do to contribute to the realization of those goals by planning and undertaking a social enterprise initiative. Within this framework, however, students undertake their own analysis of issues and decide how they will respond.  

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Very Good

Social enterprise initiatives are primarily entrepreneurial or economic activities but in examining the case studies provided to illustrate the concept, students recognize how these initiatives have environmental and social implications. In considering what social enterprise they might undertake, students are required to consider the potential impacts of a given action and to create charts which illustrate that impact in terms of the relative social and environmental consequences. 

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Very Good

The lesson helps students to recognize that while it may be necessary for the United Nations to identify 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the Goals are not separate and distinct entities but are interconnected so that efforts to promote decent work and economic, for example, will reduce inequalities and help build sustainable communities. 

In discussing what social enterprise they might undertake, students begin to realize they have limited resources and therefore if they choose to do A, they cannot do B and thus must carefully weigh the relative merits of A and B. In making that comparison, they must identify the web of consequences that may follow from a given choice.

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Very Good

Lessons four and five asks students to act on what they have learned in the earlier lessons. In lesson 4, they brainstorm ideas for potential social enterprise project, learn about the concept of a business plan and review a simple business plan. In lesson 5, they create a business plan and an action plan with deadlines, individual roles and responsibilities identifie , and plan for the launch of the social enterprise.

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Very Good

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are based upon an implicit set of values. Social enterprise actions are intended to put those values into practice. In working their way through this resource students will have an opportunity to clarify their own values.

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Very Good

Many of the case studies that the resource includes to illustrate the benefits of social enterprise projects profile individual who are struggling and who have been helped to find decent work as a result of a particular social enterprise. Reading these stories of challenges and success will encourage greater empathy for the people who face and overcome terrible difficulties.

Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Good

In learning about the concept of social enterprise and in developing their own entrepreneurial plan, students learn that many of the problems addressed by the SDGs have their origin in environmental conditions and that their proposed plans must be respectful of the environmental consequences that will follow implementation.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Good

The students are introduced to a number of case studies to illustrate the concept of social enterprises and the link between social enterprises and jobs and how each might support the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These case studies are largely found in the developing world. Once this background or framework is in place, students are asked to  explore with the class possible problems or issues within the local community that they are interested in and feel that they could help with or improve. Students then develop a business plan, followed by an action plan and the implementation of that plan.

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Very Good

Students learn that the purpose of social enterprises is to address a current challenge faced by individuals or communities so as to ensure a better future. In developing an action plan to realize that end, organizers must identify those traditional elements or practices that may be responsible for the current difficulties.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Good

The lessons do make certain assumptions; i.e. sustainable development is central to building a better world, that certain goals are fundamental to achieving sustainable development, and that social enterprises offer a practical plan for realizing some of these goals. In examining the SDGs however, students can be expected to realize how complex each is in terms of the challenges faced in  working towards their realization. Rather than being overwhelmed by that complexity, however, the lesson offers some practical or doable actions that others have taken and that they might attempt.

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Very Good

Collectively, the six lessons in this resource touch upon a variety of subject areas - geography, citizenship, math, environment, business studies, social studies, art and design - not as separate entities but in an integrative manner. 

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Good

Students learn about the elements of social enterprises by extrapolating these from a number of case studies they examine. They decide what constitutes a decent job; what the qualities of an effective entrepreneur are; what makes for a good business plan; and what needs to be done to manage a successful action plan.

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.


Differentiated Instruction Good

There is a range of student activities here. Students work in groups to match various social enterprises with Sustainable Development Goals. They sort out and explore what they know by completing KWL charts. They undertake a community walk  to identify the needs of their community. They carry out individual studies and report their findings to the class in a media of their choice. They work collectively to analyze case studies of effective social enterprises. They explore with the class possible problems or issues they could help to improve and they brainstorm possible solutions. Finally, they create and carry out a business plan.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Good

Students encounter the 'real world' in a series of case studies that illustrate the daily lives of people and how they have been helped by various social enterprise projects. They next move to a consideration of the 'real world' in their community and plan and implement a local social enterprise project to address a perceived challenge.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory

There is considerable group activity as students move through the six lesson plans in this resource. Small and large group discussion is designed to help students share their understanding of the SDGs, to identify the features of social enterprise projects, to delineate the characteristics of effective entrepreneurs, to map their community needs, and to brainstorm and carry out a local social enterprise initiative. 

Students also learn from the individual research undertaken and presented by their classmates. 

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Good

There are a number of tools provided that allow teachers to measure the understanding of students. KLM charts indicate what students know about a given topic, what the wonder about, and what they have learned at the conclusion of the lesson. Another chart assesses student understanding of the interplay between social and environmental factors. Other charts require students to outline the steps in their business and action plans.

The final lesson is a reflective exercise that asks students to consider

• What went well?

• What did they learn?

• What skills did they develop?

• What could make their social enterprise even better?

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Good

The various group discussions, brainstorming exercises and individual presentations enable students to benefit from the knowledge and creativity of their classmates.   

Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Very Good

The use of case studies is one of the strengths of this resource. Students learn what is meant by social enterprise by investigating a number of case studies presented. They arrive at an understanding of what makes for a good entrepreneur by analyzing a number of examples provided. Finally, they look at their own community as a case study in what challenges are there and what they can do to help.

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Good

The resource is just that - a resource. It provides the teacher and students with ideas and materials that allow the student to investigate certain topics or issues and arrive at their own conclusions about those topics or issues.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.