It was a distinctly chilly and wet night in Half Way Tree.
Yet, in the parking lot of Jamaica National Building Society, a glow of bright colors under a tent lit up the darkness. The atmosphere was warm and welcoming as we entered, for an absorbing rap session organized by the JN Foundation, Let’s Talk Social Enterprise Policy. How can one integrate the concept of social enterprise into government policies that foster development, growth, jobs?
This was part of the JN Foundation’s Social Enterprise Boost Initiative (SEBI), supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) – now in its second phase – or an expansion of the first. You could call it SEBI 2.0. The Foundation, chaired by Earl Jarrett, believes that growth must be encouraged at the micro level, while the institutional framework to facilitate it must be in place. Yes – that word growth, again. At the same time, community renewal and social inclusion is a necessary – indeed critical – feature in that evolving landscape of growth and (to coin a phrase much-used by the current administration) prosperity. Real and sustainable. As panelist Dr. Kadamawe K’nife (at UWI’s Office of Social Entrepreneurship) noted, it is “absence of wealth” that is crippling communities; we need to create that wealth.
Well, you may ask – what is social enterprise, actually? The Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) – represented by Technical Specialist Ms. Charmaine Brimm on the panel that evening – defines social enterprise as “any business created to provide a social good or service.” This enterprise will likely have a value beyond the regular pricing mechanisms of business, and will generate wealth not just for shareholders, as SEBI Project Manager Ms. Opal Whyte pointed out. It is focused on social innovation; it is community-based; and it is an enterprise where the profits are reinvested in its further development. What is the Jamaican definition? Well, that is still being worked on. In June of this year at the launch of SEBI’s second phase, then USAID Director Dr. Denise Herbol described social enterprise as: “a new business approach to fair trade, social inclusion, community regeneration and job creation for those most marginalized in labor markets and those most vulnerable to environmental hazards.” So you see the ethical aspect of social enterprise is very important. Volunteerism (an area in which JN Foundation has contributed much) also adds considerable value. During the first three-year phase, volunteers contributed an estimated 2,171 days of support valued at J$6.3 million and SEBI leveraged over J$50 million.
This is not to say, however, that social enterprise is an “airy fairy” concept. It is a business, first and foremost (JN Foundation’s General Manager Saffrey Brown always stresses this point). The PIOJ formed a working group with JN Foundation, and believes that a new policy needs to be created or fitted into a current framework in one of the ministries; Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture & Fisheries Reginald Budhan participated in the conversation, noting that the working group’s review will be finalized by the end of December. Let’s see where things go from there.
The SEBI incubator project has now been extended for an additional five years, bringing new entities on board – alongside six SEBI “pioneers” from the first stage. With greater policy support, much more could be done. But let me stop here and list all the enterprises now in JN Foundation’s incubator. You can click on the links for more information.
- Ackee Walk: A Jamaican-made and produced children’s television series focused on building the child’s self-esteem and cultural awareness. Their enterprise will be developing a cartoon series and Ackee Walk events. By the way, I wrote about Ackee Walk here.
- Breezy Castle (a Phase 1 Pioneer): The MultiCare Foundation’s all-inclusive recreational and cultural space on Kingston’s waterfront – the only green space in downtown. The Breezy Castle Centre uses sports and the creative arts to transform children’s lives – basketball clinics, “art on the street” programs, etc. It’s “A space for everyone.”
- Council of Voluntary Social Services (CVSS): An umbrella organization that supports the social sector. CVSS’ enterprise will include business development services to the social and private sectors, hot desks, conference room rentals (they have some really good space) and more.
Deaf Can Coffee (I wrote about them here): Creating employment for deaf people and generating income to fund their education. Their enterprise includes an Internet Coffee Shop (in Cassia Park, Kingston), a Mobile Coffee Shop and cool branded merchandise. (Their dark roast Blue Mountain is just delicious by the way!)
- Dress for Success (a Phase 1 Pioneer): This NGO supports women’s empowerment by providing support, technical assistance and professional attire, helping women become economically independent through meaningful employment.
- Educators: A team of young male University of the West Indies (UWI) graduates who are seeking to improve cultural awareness among Jamaican youth. Their enterprise is conducting educational tours for students, local and overseas guests and developing ramification apps to enhance the tour experiences.
- Jamaica Association for the Deaf: A non-profit organization that provides education, hearing rehabilitation and human services for deaf people. Its enterprise is book restoration and binding services, including fine hand binding and gold leaf printing.
- Montego Bay Marine Park: A team of experienced scientists and tourism professionals dedicated to protect the Marine Park, which stretches from Montego Bay, St. James to Great River, Hanover. The team’s enterprise is edu-tourism tourism tours of the Park, snorkeling and diving lessons and Reef Guardian training.
- Music Inc: A marketing company established to create employment for graduates of Alpha Institute (formerly Alpha Boys’ School) in the music industry. Its enterprise is artiste management for Alpha Institute students and graduates, copyright management and the use of music produced at the institution. It also offers individual and group music classes at the Institute, which has produced so many legendary musicians.
- Mustard Seed Communities (A Phase 1 Pioneer): A faith-based organization that operates 13 homes and numbers outreach programs, focusing on children (and adults) with disabilities. It is working to become entirely self-sufficient through a number of income-generating initiatives, including a tilapia fish farm and egg farm. It has plans for several other business initiatives including rabbit and goat rearing, an expanded vegetable garden and a commercial bakery.
- Petals ‘n’ Roots: Started by Carol Narcisse and the Mensana group to provide opportunities and income for people living with mental illness. There were beautiful floral arrangements created by them at the SEBI rap session. You can find them inside HiLo Supermarket in Liguanea, Kingston.
- Portmore Self Help Disability Mobility and Resource Centre: An amazing support group for people with physical challenges. Their enterprise is the repair of mobility aids (wheelchairs, walkers etc) and consultancy services on improving access and accommodation for people living with disabilities.
- Positive Prints: Seeking to address issues of self-esteem and identity among inner city youth, producing lifestyle and cause-based apparel.
- St. John’s Bosco: A home and trade training school for at-risk and unattached boys in Hatfield, Manchester. The home’s enterprise is animal husbandry and a meat processing plant, producing premium cut meats including pork, beef and bacon).
- Superior Crafts and More (A Phase 1 Pioneer): Visually impaired Jamaicans make furniture, craft and woodwork – including incredible cane work and the refurbishing of wicker. Their work is so beautiful!
- The Source (A Phase 1 Pioneer): Established by the Jamaica National Building Society in 2012, The Source in Savannah-la-Mar, Westmoreland is the fifth community-based venture in the franchise, offering computer and Internet access, a document centre, homework classes, skills training and workshops, and more.
- Ulster Spring Women’s Group (A Phase 1 Pioneer): A group of women who live in the small farming village of Ulster Spring in southern Trelawny, making a variety of products (Cockpit Treats) – baked goods, drinks and more – from the parish’s main food staple, yellow yam. They are delicious!
Young Women and Men of Purpose: Based in Manchester, this group seeks to assist young people aged 13 – 25 years in choosing career and making life choices, through mentorship. It is developing a mobile app that will help students match their skills and interests with the appropriate career path.
As in all business ventures, networking is key, as Co-Chair of the MSME and Entrepreneurship Policy Review Committee Onika Miller noted at the rap session. Dialogue like this is important in helping to develop ideas and focus – but also in helping to find a future direction. There is, however, a need for more data (how many times have I heard this before, in different fields?)
Meanwhile, Christmas is here and the New Year beckons. Let’s make a resolution to support Jamaican social enterprise as much as we can – and Jamaican businesses in general. There are some fantastic products and services out there!
For more information on the SEBI program, go to http://www.sebijm.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: (876) 926-1344 Twitter @sebijm Facebook, YouTube, Instagram