Social enterprises are revenue-generating businesses with a twist. Whether operated by a non-profit organization or by a for-profit company, a social enterprise has two goals: to achieve social, cultural, community economic and/or environmental outcomes; and, to earn revenue.
On the surface, many social enterprises look, feel, and even operate like traditional businesses. But looking more deeply, we discover the defining characteristics of the social enterprise: mission is at the centre of business, with income generation playing an important supporting role (from The Centre for Community Enterprise).
Familiar examples of social enterprises include the ReStore which generates revenue to pursue Habitat for Humanity Vancouver Island North’s mission to empower families and make homeownership affordable by mobilizing community spirit and generosity. Arts and Culture organizations also use social enterprise – galleries, gift shops, events and activities and rentals to fund their activities to promote the inclusion of arts and culture in all aspects of our lives. Other less familiar examples are when non-profits partner with for-profit businesses or governments and are paid for their expertise and labour to achieve their partners’ goals – which usually align closely with the mission of the non-profit – and raise funds for their charitable activities. This might look like a non-profit housing operator managing properties other than their own or Discovery Passage Aquarium presenting curriculum-specific education for the school district. Both examples demonstrate that non-profit expertise has economic as well as social value.
An equally noble goal of social enterprise (aside from generating revenues to pursue a mission) is the training and/or employment of people who are typically excluded from the mainstream economy. This creates capacity and self-sufficiency for individuals for impacting their communities and possibly lessening their reliance on the social safety net. This is an area for growth that excites me for Campbell River.
I am working with the North Island Employment Foundation Society and a local employer to develop a program and supports for businesses to use a large, but overlooked labour pool. These are folks that have skills and talents employers are looking for but have barriers to accessing and sustaining traditional 40 hour/week positions. As a manager dealing with staff shortages, I believe employers must change our paradigm of how we see our work force. Should I be hung up on filling a full time position with one person, or could I look at it as 40 hours of work that must be completed in the week, but could be performed by one to five different people for almost the same cost? Employers and employees may need support through the initial recruitment, training and orientation processes and this is where I can see the opportunity for an employment agency social enterprise. Employers would pay a fee to outsource the recruitment, scheduling and payroll processes while social service agencies use their expertise to prepare and support people to access and sustain paid employment. We build social capital, increase the labour force and importantly, keep the money circulating in our region, rather than being sent ‘away’ as shareholder or owner profits.
The graph below shows where people are currently employed locally. Every sector is reporting under staffing and difficulty recruiting. Social Enterprises should be encouraged and supported to address un- and under-employment and as an economic driver.