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SEBI ready to move on to next phase

Published:Thursday | October 1, 2015 | 12:00 AMDaviot Kelly
Saffrey Brown

Don't call it the end, it's more of a rebirth. The Social Enterprise Boost Initiative (SEBI), at least its original phase, has come to an end. The closing ceremony was held at the Spanish Court Hotel on Thursday, October 1. SEBI, a three-year initiative of the Jamaica National Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), was created to mobilise employment, investment and revenue within Jamaican communities in a socially responsible manner, while improving the nation's economic, social and environmental conditions. However, general manager of the JN Foundation, Saffrey Brown, said the occasion was more of a rest stop than the journey's end.

"Our vision is that social enterprises (SEs) become a major contributor to Jamaica's social, economical and environmental development," she said. Ideally, Brown said the landscape for SEs would see social entrepreneurs succeeding and growing in a competitive marketplace, with more established businesses adapting themselves to fit more closely within the social economy. The expectation was that consumers would believe in the ethos of the SE sector, and this would help propel its growth. Brown said the United Nations had recently declared 17 global goals for sustainable development, including no poverty, zero hunger, quality education, and clean water and sanitation.


Responsible businesses


"Social enterprises and social entrepreneurs are an absolute imperative if Jamaica is going to contribute to the achievement of the 17 global goals," she said. "There is not enough public money to achieve what we need to achieve, but if we all ensure that we support businesses with purpose, responsible and ethical businesses which are created to find solutions to Jamaica's challenges, I don't see how we can't impact all 17 goals."

Project manager for SEBI Jennifer Sharrier noted that total revenue generated by the eight social enterprises in the three years was in excess of JA$37.7 million. Plus, four of the eight enterprises were now making a profit.

"We are not here to pretend that it is an easy transition, but it is one that is necessary, and it is these organisations that we believe can make a major contribution to Jamaica's growth and development," she said. And the testimonies of the successes cannot be ignored. Whether it is the popular yam creations of the Ulster Spring Women's Group, the mushroom production of the Network of Women, or the unifying of communities and skills training of The Source (Savanna-la-Mar), guests at the ceremony got first-hand tales of the good SEBI has brought to the wider Jamaica.

"The workshops have helped us to improve our knowledge and the business that we are operating," she said, noting their interpersonal skills, family support and teamwork had all improved greatly. "The programme has made us and our business shine."

Darcy Tulloch-Williams, executive director of the Mustard Seed Communities in Jamaica, said the organisation had begun to take on self-sustaining activities to generate income, like candle making, ceramics and greenhouse farming. One of the locations, the Jerusalem shelter in Spanish Town, had generated more than JA$18 million in revenue, mostly from eggs and fish business over the last two years.