Photo courtesy of Papa Bear’s Real Canadian BBQrew, an employment social enterprise based in Oshawa, Ontario that trains and employs youth while providing a top-notch catering service.

Employment Social Enterprises Hold Seeds of a Preferred New Economy

Beautiful language is surfacing worldwide for a preferred new economy upon which to build society. Gift economy; sacred economy; sharing economy; local, living economy; and compassionate economy are among the exciting and promising newer words and concepts.

  Dreams are being fulfilled. People are beginning to feel hopeful enough to dream in the first place. New talents and passions have been discovered. Self-confidence is increasing.

While that important high-level conceptualization takes place, Axiom News in partnership with the Enterprising Non-profits newsroom has had the privilege over the last two months of connecting with people on the front lines of a kind of business entity that, in our opinion, is living out what a preferred new economy might include.

We’ve been deeply moved and energized by the stories we’ve heard people tell us about their experiences of working in employment social enterprises – organizations created to both generate revenue and meaningful work opportunities for those facing barriers to employment.

From former justice-involved youth to people who have an intellectual disability to those with the lived experience of mental illness, employees of these employment social enterprises share what’s being enabled in their lives through their work.

Dreams are being fulfilled. People are beginning to feel hopeful enough to dream in the first place. New talents and passions have been discovered. Self-confidence is increasing. And, across the board, people are feeling more supported, like they belong.

So what is it about these employment social enterprises that’s allows this forward momentum in people’s lives?

A few key differentiators come to mind:

  1. Employment social enterprises stand at the edge between social supports and services and mainstream society. In other words, they bring those facing barriers to employment to encounter the broader community, but in a well-supported, strategic and intentional way.
  2. Employment social enterprises are strongly marked by community and relationships. Time and again we hear about the added meaning and value that employees derive from the kind of support they receive from those around them, especially managers and peers.
  3. Employment social enterprises offer a reflection to people who face barriers to employment that they may not encounter elsewhere. Rather than a program recipient, victim, person characterized by their disability, past or income, they are a member of a team, an employee, a contributor to the community and economy.
  4. Employment social enterprises are on the path of finding what it looks like and means to be able to generate a sustainable revenue in tandem with operating a fully supportive workplace. As it stands now, many rely on some funding and donations from a parent non-profit and/or the broader community.

Though often small and still learning themselves, employment social enterprises have much to offer, not only those they serve directly, but the broader conversation on our preferred new economy. Let’s be sure to engage with them.

To read the series on employment social enterprise, click here.

A version of this article was originally written for the Enterprising Non-profits Canada news service. This repost, for which we received permission, follows the style guidelines of the original post.