Over the past decade, the development and growth of social enterprise models in communities across Canada and particularly BC has grown in response to the need for employment opportunities for marginalized individuals with barriers to employment (individuals with disabilities, mental illness, addiction, long term social assistance user). Traditional work environments and work programs prove inefficient in engaging and maintaining this populous employed. Social enterprises have provided an interesting model of employment for marginalized populations, providing certain services traditionally given by employment service organizations or training business, while also running an operationally viable enterprise with a social focus. Aside from physical, mental and societal barriers to employment, which marginalized individuals are faced with, Canadian provincial and federal policy bares disincentives for individuals on government assistance programs to engage and pursue more significant amounts of employment.
Employment opportunities and strategies in social enterprises such as Potluck Café and Starworks have provided unique opportunities for marginalized individuals, but policy issues have restrained individuals from easing into full time employment or even part time employment. One of the key questions the project seeks to determine is how changes in policy can enable such barriers to be broken, and providing opportunities for marginalized individuals while at the same time allowing social enterprises to operate at 100%. The project also aims to: Understand the breadth of quantifiable impact that social enterprises have on marginalized populations within BC; Understand the role and impact of social enterprise employment in urban versus rural communities; and clarify the barriers and opportunities of using social enterprises for employment services, including policy and management analysis and recommendations.
The project is run in partnership with Enterprising Non Profits (ENP) and funded through the BC and Alberta Research Alliance on the Social Economy (BALTA).