Zoran Grabovac. Senior Policy Advisor. Office for Social Enterprise in the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment and Ministry of Research and Innovation

Zoran Grabovac doesn’t have what you’d think is your typical government job. He’s part of a relatively new team working on the cutting edge of social enterprise and innovation in Ontario. Working with a passionate but nascent sector brings both excitement and challenges to his job. Read on for more of Zoran’s story.

Can you describe your job and your typical day?

There’s no such thing as a typical day. I am part of a small team where there’s always something unique going on, it’s really dynamic that way and it’s one of the aspects of my job that I really enjoy.

Our team acts like a hub where everything comes together on a project, so being a good project manager is key to this role. My days often include lots of meetings, liaising with our legal department, working closely on financial and business planning and outreach to external social enterprises and people affiliated with the sector.

Can you describe your team?

The social enterprise office is almost 2 years old and there are 8 of us (including a co-op student) on the team. Our priority is to support the social enterprise sector, helping expand and grow initiatives wherever we can, kind of acting like catalysts, while also staying at arm’s length to encourage continual innovation.

How did you get this job?

My educational background is in finance and accounting. I started my work in government through an internship program, working mainly in a financial capacity. I’ve since worked in a number of different ministries, including most recently the Ministry of Health, before I found my current role.

At the time, I wasn’t specifically looking for my current job. To be honest, I wasn’t all that familiar with the office for social enterprise to begin with. But, my manager, at the time, was looking for someone with strong financial skills to complement her diverse team that was lacking a financial capacity. Through a connection, we met and she liked my experience in both business and finance and she offered me the job.

What advice do you have for people looking for work in social enterprise?

Make sure that your skills are marketable and align with the needs of the sector. There are certain skill sets that are more valuable in social enterprise compared to other industries.

Keep your eyes open. Make sure that you’re aware of what’s going on because the sector is so young and just starting to develop. And if you can’t find the right opportunity, consider entrepreneurship.

What’s one thing people won’t expect to hear about working with social enterprises?

My biggest surprise was the energy and passion of the social entrepreneurs. These are people who really want to do something, people like Tonya Surman from the Centre for Social Innovation. You see her and her team and they are incredibly excited, seriously passionate people, it blows your mind. And that is echoed throughout the entire sector.

What skills and qualities are important to have in your role?

Project management, knowledge of the sector and people skills are important. If you’re going to work with people in this sector, you really need to understand what they need and be able to talk with them and build relationships. And it’s not just external, I need to coordinate with many different departments at the same time, and I need to be able to say “hey, I need this, can you help me?” It also helps to know how the government works and understand the process for getting things done.

What is the best thing about your job?

Things like this interview! In a typical government role you rarely get to keep your finger on the pulse of the sector like I have now. And that’s the best part of the job.

What’s the biggest challenge about your job?

I’ve found the biggest challenge is awareness of social enterprise in general. It’s such a nascent space that few people have heard of it, and it’s going through a tumultuous growth phase much like every other sector before it. Because of that, it’s constantly changing, which is both a challenge and at the same time keeps things exciting.


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