Fri | Jul 21, 2017

Diaspora urged to take on social enterprise

Published:Wednesday | July 1, 2015 | 7:00 AM

Jamaicans in the diaspora are being called on the act as driving forces for the growth of the local social enterprise sector. This, from Saffrey Brown, general manager of the Jamaica National Building Society Foundation, who maintains that the social sector comes with huge potential for community and nation building; and, with the right resources can become sustainable change agents to influence economic challenges.

"'Purpose plus profits equal a better Jamaica. The diaspora can play an integral part in this effort," Brown said. "Through your support, you can help to raise awareness, help create linkages for these local social enterprises, become a philanthropic investor, or even buy from our local businesses, to help them realise their social missions while maintaining sustainable ventures."

She was addressing a session on the final day of the 6th Biennial Diaspora Conference, in Montego Bay, on June 17.

Brown stated that since the implementation of the Social Enterprise Boost Initiative (SEBI), a joint project with the United States Agency for International Development, three years ago, the local social enterprise sector has received a renewed sense of energy and recognition from various stakeholders.

However, it has not been devoid of challenges, given the need to change the mindset of social entrepreneurs.

Changing the mindset

"One of the biggest challenges we have encountered is trying to change the mindset of entrepreneurs. We have had to stress that profit in social enterprises is not a bad word; and that they should not feel any sense of guilt for making a profit. A profit is critical for the sustainability and longevity of the business, and allows it to carry out its social responsibilities," said Brown.

Reiterating this point, David Silvera, head of business development at the Mustard Seed Communities, a participant in the SEBI, said that while grants are welcomed by the entities, there was also a need to maintain a level of independence.

"People will feel much better knowing that they will give cash that will later help to sustain a business, rather than just give and give. It takes cash to sustain a business," he emphasised.

Citing the important role that social enterprises play in reducing unemployment, especially in rural communities, Pauline Smith, executive director of Network of Women, said since the launch of her mushroom farming social enterprise, and subsequent participation in the SEBI, the interest of women wanting to become small mushroom farmers has been overwhelming.