The Sandbox

The Sandbox is a unique opportunity for Guelph and Wellington organizations to team up with two graduate level students to help develop a high impact social enterprise. Students are enrolled in a specialized social enterprise program where they receive weekly training by our team of experts and come ready to partner with community organizations as they build a plan and launch the social enterprise.

Success Stories


A collaboration between the John F. Wood Centre and the Guelph Lab

Information for Student Participants

The Sandbox is a unique opportunity for graduate students to work with local organizations to develop high impact social enterprises.

In the Sandbox, you will:

  • Learn fundamentals of social enterprise development and community engagement
  • Work closely with a local community organization
  • Get hands-on experience validating and launching a social enterprise idea
  • Receive a $2400 stipend


The Sandbox is a chance to learn how to launch and grow a social enterprise and make a positive impact in the Guelph-Wellington community. The program starts with twice-weekly one-hour workshops where you will learn all about social enterprises. You will cover topics like key definitions and types of social enterprises, how to develop social theories of change and business models, and how to research and assess the feasibility and potential impacts of community-based enterprises. Students are expected to commit 5 hours total each week during this phase of the program (2 of those hours are in workshops). This first training phase runs from September through October.

With workshops complete, a second phase begins where you will apply what you have learned to work with one of four community partners. Working with another student team member, and with the support of a Social Enterprise Coach, you will co-create a work plan with your community partner and perform a range of primary and secondary research activities to assist in the design, launch and/or evaluation of partner social enterprise strategies. This phase runs from November 2022 to mid-February 2023.

Never considered business and social enterprise before? The Sandbox is designed for graduate students in any program; check out this video that highlights our 2021 Sandbox Program. 

This year we will be teaming up with four amazing local organizations, each with a brilliant social enterprise idea.

Students will work in teams of two. Each 2-person team will work with one of the community partners.

Community Partners - Sandbox 2022

Community Resilience Coalition of Guelph & Wellington

The Community Resilience Coalition envisions a resilient community that prevents and reduces the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Together with their partners, they work with the community to decrease risk factors that impact health and wellbeing and increase protective factors to build resilience.

The Community Resilience Coalition focuses on:

1) Raising awareness about ACEs, their effects, and resilience.

2) Educating and advocating to support ACEs-informed changes to systems, programs and services.

3) Conducting and using research to support evidence-informed interventions.

4) Collaborating with and aligning the work of community stakeholders to deliver initiatives that achieve shared outcomes.

The Idea:

To date, all work of the Community Resilience Coalition has been funded through grants or in-kind support. As their suite of resources, their reputation for quality work, and their sphere of influence expands, they hope to plan and operate on longer time frames. They receive requests regularly from other communities to access resources or attend training, and they believe they have products (e.g., tools, training) that could be leveraged as sources of revenue.

Art Not Shame

Art Not Shame (ANS) is a community-engaged, multidisciplinary arts organization serving youth and adults in Guelph and across Ontario. Founded in 2017, their mission is to amplify the power of the arts to build community, deepen access to creativity, increase well-being, and create the conditions for inner and outer change. Their model, working at the intersection of arts, community, well-being, and social justice, is distinctive within the region and sector. All community-facing programming is offered free of charge or pay-what-you-can. Program access is prioritized to BIPOC, LGBTQ2I+ people, people struggling with mental health and/or addictions, and/or people with disabilities. They design and deliver programs using strengths-based, trauma-informed, anti-oppressive methodologies. They collaborate with like-minded social and health service agencies and community organizations, ensuring participants have access to mental health supports.

The Idea:

Art Not Shame recently secured a street-level, 2,000 square foot facility space in downtown Guelph. This new space will allow them to meet the accessibility needs of their staff, volunteers and participants, respond to increased community demand for their programming, and create the potential for a new revenue strategies through rentals and/or memberships.

The Better Food Company by Hope House

Hope House is a leading food security agency & charity in Guelph. It operates a community food market, a community farm, and a food social enterprise among many other programs.

The Better Food Company is Hope House’s food social enterprise, and it is building community through better food. We sell prepared meals once a month in partnership with local restaurants. Meals are prepared using ingredients from the Hope House farm, and all proceeds support the farm, creating an end-to-end local food system that supports community.

The Idea:

They are interested in having students support them in the growth of the Social Enterprise. The Better Food Company has established a strong base and a strong presence in Guelph, and they are looking to build from existing momentum to create a new product or service offering.

Habitat for Humanity ReStore – Guelph Wellington

Habitat for Humanity Guelph Wellington envisions a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live. To achieve this vision, they partner with the community to build homes that provide the foundation for bright, stable and empowered futures for the families and individuals who live there.

They do this by:

1) Engaging volunteers and partners in the community, the ReStores and on the build site;

2) Building and rehabilitating safe affordable family homes;

3) Building financial stability; creating a potential pathway to homeownership.

The Idea:

The ReStore is a social enterprise that Habitat for Humanity uses to bring in funds to maintain programming. It is a retail business selling new and gently used furniture, home decor items, appliances, kitchen cabinets, antiques, building supplies, and more. They operate two ReStores in our area – Guelph and Fergus. The ReStores are proudly owned and operated by Habitat for Humanity Guelph Wellington. They are looking for support developing new ideas to bring in revenue and bring awareness to their social mission.


Program starts in September and ends mid-February. Each student is expected to complete between 5 and 10 hours of research or learning per week during the program: 5 hours per week during the phase 1, and 10 hours per week during phase 2.

  • The Sandbox includes workshops, project team work, and coaching. Workshops introduce students to the fundamentals of social enterprise development. Students apply insights from their learning to support the development of a social enterprise through their project with the community partner. Expert coaches support the students’ project work.
  • Workshops will take place once or twice each week in September and October, and then you will apply your new knowledge as you begin work with your community partner in November
  • Each student will receive a $2400 stipend. The stipend recognizes the value of each student’s work and is designed to reduce financial barriers to participation. The stipend is informed by the living wage rate for Guelph.


Applications are now closed for the Fall 2022.  Our next intake will be August 2023.

Applications Close: August 15, 2022 at 11:59 PM

Interviews for successful candidates will take place in late August 2022

Information for Community Organizations


  • Work directly with two gradute students to tackle your social enterprise plan (Business Model Canvas Support & Theory of Change) plus other deliverables agreed upon between the students and your ogranization
  • Students work between 10-15 hours per week with your organization
  • Have access to our in house experts who directly coach the students and can also support your team on all things social enterprise


  • Program runs from November 2022 to Februray 2023. Each student is expected to complete 10-15 hours of work per week during the program. 
  • The Sandbox includes workshops, project work and coaching. Workshops introduce students to the fundamentals of social enterprise development. Students apply insights from their learning to support the development of a social enterprise through their project with the community partner. Expert coaches support the students’ project work.
  • Is there a cost? We invite community partners to contribute to program costs on a sliding scale, up to $3600 per project.  Partners are asked to contribute what is financially possible given their circumstances.  This allows for the sustainable operation of the Sandbox, specifically the stipends paid to students.  (The Sandbox is not a for credit course and as such, every Sandbox students receives a stipend.  The stipend recognizes the value of each student's work and is designed to reduce financial barriers to participation.  The stipend is informed by the living wage rate for Guelph.
  • Each student will receive a stipend. The stipend recognizes the value of each student’s work and is designed to reduce financial barriers to participation. The stipend is informed by the living wage rate for Guelph.
  • We invite community partners to contribute to these costs, which allows for the sustainable operation of the Sandbox. A sliding scale is in place and not-for-profits, charitable organizations, and early stage start-ups are asked to contribute what is financially possible given their circumstances.


Applications are now closed for Community Organizations. Our next intake will be Summer 2023.