In three years, the social enterprise landscape in Jamaica, which comprises businesses and entrepreneurs whose for-profit entities generate income to fulfill a social mission has undergone a seismic shift.
The change emerged as a direct result of the drive by the country’s growing social enterprise base, which includes: the joint United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and JNBS Foundation’s, Social Enterprise Boost Initiative (SEBI); the Social Enterprise Institute; the School of Social Entrepreneurship and the Institute for Social Entrepreneurship and Equity, to reposition funding for charity operations.
“The response to the use of for-profit business models to support social causes has shifted,” says Saffrey Brown, general manager, JN Foundation, “as participants in the social sector are now aware of the concept of social enterprise.”
Consequently, the two-year extension of the programme by USAID; and the recent call for submission of applications by the Foundation, have resulted in more than 110 entries.
“We are buoyed by the response to our call for applications,” Miss Brown said, “As this means that SEBI has overcome the initial hurdle of defining the social enterprise model to members of the nonprofit community.
It is also an indication that entrepreneurs now recognise the unique opportunity for income generation, job creation and economic empowerment which social enterprise can offer.”
The more than 100 applications submitted included companies and organisations in sectors including: tourism, education, health and wellness, arts and entertainment. And, the individual entities are seeking to address issues such as: the socialisation of unattached young people, recidivism, unemployment among persons in rural and marginalised communities; as well as, training and capacity building.
Miss Brown noted that examples of social enterprise success can be found throughout the history of Jamaica,“Whether the Fisherman’s Cooperatives or nonprofit organisations, such as the Jamaican Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (JSPCA).”
However, she emphasised that, “Initiatives similar to SEBI are essential to the successful integration of the model, on a much wider scale. In light of dwindling donor funds, self-sufficiency should be the main focus of the non-profit sector; and, therefore, social enterprise provides the best opportunity for funds to be realised.”
During the initial phase of SEBI the eight pioneers, who participated in the incubator, have now generated more than $37 million in revenue; employed some 130 community members; and launched approximately 15 new products and services, thus achieving their growth initiative.
“Both the response and results in the sector affirm that social enterprise is an idea whose time has come,” Miss Brown affirmed.