In economic times such as these it is hard to invest in the future. So, we all have to make the resources we have work harder. For years Choices for Youth has been using social enterprise to do just that.
Impact Construction, which started as Train for Trades in 2008, has employed over 100 at-risk youth and has completed 140 construction projects, including 120 energy efficiency retrofits on low-income housing. More than that, it has provided vulnerable youth with the opportunity to complete their education, gain experience and realize their potential through continuing to post-secondary education or gainful employment. The success of this program can be measured not only by what it has achieved, but what it has avoided. The trajectory of many vulnerable youth can include future involvement with police, justice, child protection and the health-care system. Having an education, a job, and regular support changes the trajectory of a young person’s life and reduces the demands on the already stretched government systems. That’s smart money.
Impact Construction would not have reached this level of success without the expertise of BUILD in Winnipeg, which the program is based on, and the support of Hibernia Development and Management Company, Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation, the City of St. John’s, Carpenters Millwright College and countless others. They all share the belief in the potential of youth and the value of a program that achieves multiple positive outcomes for many stakeholders. This is the social enterprise model, or what some call the solutions economy — a shared vision among many stakeholders and partners with a commitment to invest in positive impact.
We have continued to expand our social enterprise model through partnerships with Enactus Memorial. Choices for Youth has been proud to construct and promote the hydroponic units for Project Sucseed. This program addresses food security in our province and in northern communities across the country. Again with Enactus Memorial, we recently opened YourTurn Boutique, a stylish and socially conscious boutique clothing store in the heart of downtown.
With more ideas in the pipeline we look to build upon the success of these social enterprises, all of which have four benefits: they provide youth with training and meaningful employment; are a direct benefit to society; create a reduction in demand for justice, child protection and health services; and have the potential to financially support the other work of Choices for Youth.
Many organizations across the province and country are taking this approach to their work. Stella’s Circle operates the Hungry Heart Café, Clean Start and Trades Helper programs. The Autism Society operates The Pantry Café and Catering, and The HUB operates a print shop as well as offering catering services. There are opportunities in every aspect of the economy including local food, business services, construction, manufacturing and energy efficiency, just to name a few.
As a consumer, consider supporting social enterprises like these with your wallet. Not only are you buying local, but you’re supporting a whole lot of good. As policy makers, think about how everything from procurement to cross-department collaboration can support the growth of social enterprise in the province.
Now, more than ever, we need to come together, design the future we want, and make smart investments.
Jonathan Duke, Chair
Board of directors, Choices for Youth