This month I had the pleasure of hosting a panel discussion entitled “Stories from Social Enterprises: Challenges and Success Stories from Employment Programs,” a recording of which you can find here. It was a tremendous discussion in which panelists provided great insights and advice for other social enterprises. Below are my top three key takeaways.
1. “Social enterprise” may not be the universal term for these businesses, but they are all similar at their core.
No matter how you slice it, whether you call it a social enterprise, an affirmative business or a provider-run business, the goal of a social enterprise is to support individuals in their employment journey. For some individuals, this may be their long-term job placement. For others, it’s a stop along the way where they can obtain the tools and skills for other opportunities. Social enterprises create an environment that marries the environment of a business with the support of a provider that understands the needs of the individuals they serve.
2. As with most programs and services within the social services sector, funding varies depending on the population being served, where you are located and a range of other factors.
The panel touched on three buckets where funding can come from: government sources, charitable donations and revenue generated from the social enterprise itself. A combination of these funding buckets are used at different times—from the inception of the social enterprise to the day-to-day operations. All social enterprises would love to be self-sufficient once they are up and running, but since that is not always the case, they need to ensure funding from various sources.
3. Do your research and leverage your local community.
The panelists offered no shortage of words of wisdom. For example, panelists were in agreement about doing your research and making sure that establishing a social enterprise is the right decision for your organization. Also, throughout the discussion it was stated multiple times that social enterprises should leverage their local community. For example, social enterprises can connect with their local Chamber of Commerce, local universities and peer organizations that are running social enterprises. Finally, make sure you have the right people in place during the process. Not only will staff need to understand how to support individuals in employment, they’ll also need to partner with people who understand how to operate the business.
Social enterprises are a great employment model, but they come with their own challenges. I hope the above takeaways, as well as the recording from the panel, help guide your social enterprise efforts.
Elliot Massuda is Strategic Partnerships Manager at Foothold Technology. Foothold Technology’s software helps transform the way you provide care. Visit us at footholdtechnology.com.
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