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Conclusions and Recommendations

Conclusions

Combining results from all lines of evidence collected during this evaluation led to the following conclusions by core issue.

Relevance

The Women’s Enterprise Initiative (WEI) fills an important programming gap in Western Canada. Females are an under-represented segment of entrepreneurs. The literature and interviews confirm that targeted programming effectively serves the needs of women entrepreneurs. Although more gender-based analysis on non-targeted programming is needed to reach a definitive conclusion on this issue, studies show that targeted programming addresses the needs of female entrepreneurs.

Performance: Achievement of Expected Outcomes

The program achieved short term impacts such as increased revenues, jobs and business creation. Over the intermediate term, many clients reported improved business practices as a result of program assistance. The program also achieved, or is expected to achieve, two of its long term outcomes; its ability to contribute to its third ultimate outcome, economic gender equality, is difficult to measure. In terms of access to capital, evidence supports the program’s contribution to its expected result of increased investment to women-owned firms. Whether women entrepreneurs continue to face difficulties accessing capital in western Canada is unclear. Canadian data show almost equal access to credit for male-owned and female-owned firms. However, the clients indicated the loans were important: the loans enabled their business to survive and they would not have received funding elsewhere. Furthermore, businesses that were not funded under the program and found other sources of funding indicated they proceeded at reduced scope or with delays.

Performance: Demonstration of Efficiency and Economy

The WEI is recognized as a best practice in cost-effective, “one-stop” support services to women entrepreneurs. On average, per year (2008-12), the WEI organizations delivered a total of 5,983 business advisory services, 38,501 information services and approved 114 loans. A breakdown of costs to deliver loans or services would require more detailed costing information than is currently available. The WEI organizations disbursed a total of over $25 million in loans and created 2,384 jobs. This is equivalent to one job per $10,737 of loans disbursed and 5.3 jobs per loan (the Canada Small Business Financing Program created 2.5 jobs per loan). These numbers compare favourably with the department’s Community Futures Program which averaged one job per $13,688 of loans disbursed and 3.6 jobs per loan over the last five years (2008-12)37. The Department’s annual contribution to the Community Futures program is $28.5 million. Value for money is determined by the extent to which the program demonstrates relevance and performance38 and, based on this definition, the WEI is good value for money. The program is economical to administer, using at most one full time equivalent departmental position to support the WEI organizations which receive a total of $3.9 million in funding per year. However, the WEI organizations can improve in terms of collaboration and partnerships. To leverage resources and increase outreach to rural communities, WEI organizations should increase efforts to collaborate, develop referrals and better coordinate programming to avoid duplication and ensure that services are available to, and responsive to the needs of, all women.

Recommendations

Although the WEI business model is successful and widely recognized internationally, the program needs to evolve to most effectively support women entrepreneurs. If the program remains a departmental priority, the evaluation identified possible improvements to program design and delivery. The following recommendations are based on evidence gathered and conclusions discussed in this study:

  1. The department should consider funding longer-term contribution agreements with Women’s Enterprise Initiative organizations to facilitate planning of services.
  2. The department should work with the WEI organizations to continue to evolve and ensure the program continues to meet the needs of women entrepreneurs.

Evidence from the evaluation identified potential areas that could evolve the program including: changing performance measurements attached to department funding, supporting research to identify needs and increase public awareness of the services, encouraging partnerships with other programs and organizations and ensuring adequacy and flexibility of operating funding.

 


[37] Note: Only jobs created through lending activity were included to enable direct comparison to the WEI which reports on jobs created through lending activity. The numbers are from the department’s document: “Community Futures Results Report 2012-2013”.

[38] Government of Canada, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. “Assessing Program Resource Utilization When Evaluating Federal Programs”. Accessed at: http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/cee/pubs/ci5-qf5/ci5-qf501-eng.asp Accessed August 6, 2013.