What is a Social Entrepreneur?
Although many definitions exist, I define a Social Entrepreneur as an entrepreneur that trades off short-term profits in exchange for long-term financial sustainability in order to create jobs for those currently excluded from the mainstream economy.
Social Entrepreneurs are often associated with a “triple-bottom line” approach that values a balance of social, economic and ecological outcomes. (people, profit and the planet)
How can Social Entrepreneurs Help to End Poverty?
Social Entrepreneurs can launch businesses requiring less technical skills and hire those currently excluded from the mainstream job market. Then, once stability is reached, their employees can leave the social enterprise to pursue greater challenges and more learning opportunities.
Focussing on less technically-skilled positions gives the Social Entrepreneur the flexibility to adapt to the unique needs of their employees. These needs could include (but are not limited to) court dates, addictions counselling, English classes, mental health challenges etc. There are many circumstances where their employees will have a higher level of skills than is required for the job, but they are willing to make the sacrifice because they see it as a stepping stone towards a better future.
Social Entrepreneurs in Alberta are working to build a bridge to the mainstream economy for ALL Albertans.
The success of this bridge is dependent on planning, coordination and a commitment from industry and government to hire new employees from social enterprises. Industry and government also have a responsibility to prepare their employees in entry-level positions for advancement into higher skill-level positions.
Job-training programs, resume writing, job search assistance … these can only go so far.
People who face insurmountable barriers to permanently entering the mainstream economy need job opportunities that can pay them a Living Wage. Without a steady and stable income, stability can not be achieved. The need for this stable flow of funds is no different than our education system or our municipalities requiring it.
The innovation required for the effectiveness of the payment of a Living Wage is that it must be coupled with a structured goal setting and budget process. The success of this innovation can be increased if the Living Wage is paid in trust to the social enterprise. You will then equip people with both the job skills, money management skills and financial discipline they need to succeed in the mainstream. This innovation will also allow us to determine if a Living Wage in combination with improved financial literacy can overcome the high costs of living such as daycare and housing.
I know firsthand that those currently excluded from the mainstream economy get excited by opportunities to work in social enterprises. It is because the opportunity is seen as being necessary, but more importantly it’s seen as temporary. It is only one-stop on their journey towards financial security and self-sufficiency. Motivation in ALL of us increases when we can see a future beyond living paycheque to paycheque.
The impact of inspiring people with a vision for a better tomorrow is immeasurable and “priceless”.
In Alberta the time has come to transition the low-skilled businesses to Social Entrepreneurs with flexible revenue models that can accommodate workers with higher needs. A great example of this is the Vecova Bottle Depot in Calgary. They offer a fully-inclusive work environment where people with disabilities run a highly-efficient operation.
Other social enterprise opportunities that exist include recycling services to apartment buildings in Calgary or offsite-data entry services to larger organizations (outsourcing work doesn’t necessarily have to go to India to save companies money.)
Catalyst Needed for Change
Social Entrepreneurs in Alberta need a lower cost of capital. These types of businesses can operate successfully with loans, not grants. Their business plans make sure of this fact. I am currently looking to connect people with a passion for finance to launch a Patient Capital fund. (Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in connecting with us or investing.)
Flexible and compassionate employers that pay a Living Wage can help end the cycle of poverty, but a more lasting impact can be derived if we combine this with:
- Developing partnerships with government and mainstream employers that are willing to commit to hiring entry-level employees from social enterprises focussed on creating jobs for those currently excluded from the mainstream.
- Paying employees in trust to the social enterprise and providing hands-on goal setting, budgeting and money management training that tangibly defines the path out of poverty.
Providing people living in poverty with this opportunity to transition from a reality of living paycheque-to-paycheque to a realistic vision of a brighter future can help end poverty.
The time has come to stop thinking in terms of survival and start building collaborative systems that launch people’s dreams.
“Despite current ads and slogans, the world doesn’t change one person at a time. It changes when networks of relationships form among people who share a common cause and vision of what’s possible. ”~Margaret Wheatley, 2006
My Direct Contribution to Social Entrepreneurship in Alberta
There are legitimate reasons why certain Albertans are unable to find success in the mainstream job market or escape the cycle of poverty. The barriers they face are real and cannot be overcome by working harder. I learned this at The Mustard Seed volunteering for 5 different programs and as a youthworker at a Boys and Girls Clubs homeless shelter for teens.
These experiences, in addition to several pilot projects I ran with youth I met at the shelter, helped me to develop a model that can help street youth enter the job market instead of the adult homeless shelter system.
150 jobs for youth = ~$20 million/year in savings for Albertans
The logic behind a focus on youth is that poverty will never end if we keep allowing a new generation of youth to continue the cycle.
Visit http://seachangeacademy.com for more details on the social enterprise model I developed directly with some amazing street youth in Calgary.