From 12 to 1,000 Our people-led story of growth, challenge and learning in the social purpose sector WE has always been an organization driven by cause. From our earliest days as a group of 12-year-old volunteers working out of a family home in Thornhill, Ontario, in 1995, to what we’ve become today—a 1,000-person strong organization with a charity operating on four continents and a social enterprise that sells socially conscious retail products and experiences to fund the charity—our drive to create impact around the world has been the fuel in the engine that sustains our entire organization. Like many non-profits, we started out as a purely volunteer organization, so every dollar went directly to our cause of ending poverty around the world, and our mission of empowering youth to make a difference to a cause of their own choice, from their own homes. But in order to grow and scale, just like any other organization or company, a non-profit has to invest in its people and its infrastructure. We are proud to foster diversity among our workforce, with women holding 77 percent of our leadership positions. And in anonymous surveys, 90 percent of staff say they are connected to our organization’s mission and 96 percent believe we are making a difference in the world. As we made our way forward, we had many questions and were grateful for the ability to reach out to incredible mentors for their guidance and willingness to serve as our sounding boards. And while we’ve had stumbles along the way, we’ve always done our best to learn frommistakes and never to repeat them. In our daily work to create impact for the international communities we serve and in our commitment to our staff, who are so integral to everything we do, we are always striving to be better. We’re sharing our story as a case study for other social purpose organizations, in the hope that, as you chart your own path, you can learn from our mistakes and also find reassurance that you’re probably doing better than you think, no matter where you are in your journey.
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