Before I started working at PACE, I had never heard of a social enterprise. Is it a business? A non-profit? A social movement? And how does it work? How is it different from a tradition business model? To better understand, I embarked on my favourite past time of researching every source I could get my hands on, and while I'm not an expert by any means, I can share what I've learned so far about social enterprise and how it relates to PACE.
What is a social enterprise?
A broad definition of a social enterprise is a business with a focus on creating positive change in the community. These changes can be social, environmental, cultural, or a combination. PACE has both a social and environmental focus
Is it a business or a non-profit?
A social enterprise is a business that generates revenue. A for-profit business can operate as a social enterprise, or a non-profit organization can operate a social enterprise that sells goods and/or services. At PACE, we are a for-profit business that supports our social and environmental goals.
How is a social enterprise different from a traditional business?
A traditional business focuses on generating revenue, and profits are shared by the owners or shareholders. With a social enterprise, the focus is on the public service aspect, with the income the business generates going towards supporting the social/environmental goal. Our projects at PACE include several different e-waste recycling programs, litter pickup and mattress recycling, all with the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen, and construction waste sorting for Wildstone Construction and Engineering. Each of these projects creates employment opportunities for people with barriers, helps address environmental concerns and generates the income that keeps us operating.
How is a social enterprise beneficial to the community?
Social enterprises generally measure their success based on a triple bottom line of human impact, environmental impact and profit.
The human impact factor creates a positive social change by addressing a social mission that benefits people who are marginalized in some way by poverty, homelessness, addiction, abuse, mental health or physical/cognitive issues. Government-funded social programs are not able to fully address all the above issues; this is where social enterprises can help fill the cracks that many fall people in between. Our human focus at PACE is on people with barriers to employment. Due to their barriers, many people cannot work a traditional schedule of 40 hours a week. Some require shorter shifts, some require less days and some can only work sporadically. By providing a flexible schedule, the use of worker pools (multiple people to fill one job position), partnering with understanding employers, and a supportive environment, PACE is helping many people find meaningful employment, which builds self esteem and improves quality of life.
The environmental impact factor helps contribute to a sustainable community (and planet), and raises awareness about environmental concerns. PACE's environmental focus is recycling, particularly the recycling of electronic waste. By bringing your e-waste to PACE, you can be assured it will either be reused, refurbished or properly recycled.
Hopefully this information give you a better idea of what a social enterprise is, and provides some insight into how PACE works