A new study from the Mowat Centre in Toronto suggests that a basic income program could encourage people to take the leap and start their own socially conscious businesses. 

The study involved surveying and interviewing members of the Centre for Social Innovation, which has sites in Toronto. It indicated that a basic income could give a leg up to people with a bright idea but limited resources to get it off the ground. 

"Given our research, we think that a basic income could de-risk social entrepreneurship for people. We think that it could encourage more people from marginalized communities to try social entrepreneurship as a career," said Michael Crawford Urban, a policy associate at the Mowat Centre and co-author of the report. 

Basic income might also reduce the stress and anxiety that can come with the financial strain of starting a new enterprise, the report suggests. 

"We think that it could improve the physical and mental health of the people who are doing this," said Crawford Urban. 

The study also looked at potential drawbacks of a basic income for social entrepreneurs, he said, which might include over-demand on limited resources or supports for social entrepreneurs. 

Basic income a hot topic

Crawford Urban said the study was inspired by growing interest in basic income projects around the world, including in Ontario, where a pilot project is being launched in Hamilton, Lindsay and Thunder Bay. 

While there's been lots of discussion about how a basic income could potentially aid people currently on social assistance, less attention has been paid to how it could benefit people looking to start a new enterprise.  

Since social entrepreneurs in particular are those who want to benefit society by trying to "use innovation to solve problems," encouraging social entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds can benefit everyone, said Crawford Urban. 

"One of the things that we found that was most striking for me when I was doing the research was you have a lot of people who are coming from marginalized backgrounds who have real insight into their communities and into how they can make a difference today or tomorrow for their communities," he said.

"And if these people were given additional supports ... then they could make a real difference."