Employment Model

Employment Model

The employment model of social enterprise provides employment opportunities and job training to its target populations or "clients," people with high barriers to employment such as disabled, homeless, at-risk youth, and ex-offenders. The organization operates an enterprise employing its clients, and sells its products or services in the open market. The type of business is predicated on the appropriateness of jobs it creates for its clients, regarding skills development, and consistency with clients' capabilities and limitations, as well as its commercial viability.

The employment model is usually embedded: the social program is the business, its mission centers on creating employment opportunities for clients. Social support services for employees such as "job coaches," soft skill training, physical therapy, mental health counseling, or transitional housing are built into the enterprise model and create an enabling work environment for clients. The social enterprise achieves financial self-sufficiency through the sales of its products and services. Income is used to pay standard operating expenses associated with the business and additional social costs incurred by employing its clients.

The employment model is widely used by disabilities and youth organizations, as well as social service organizations serving low-income women, recovering addicts, formerly homeless people, and welfare to work recipients. Popular types of employment businesses are janitorial and landscape companies, cafes, bookstores, thrift shops, messenger services, bakeries, woodworking, and mechanical repair.

Theoretical example: a wheelchair manufacturing social enterprise is run by clients--victims of landmine accidents--who face discrimination and marginalization in the open market. Workstations are specially fitted to accommodate clients' handicaps. Clients learn marketable skills such as welding, casting, and assembly. The social enterprise sells wheelchairs to hospitals and medical supply companies. Income is used to reinvest in the business, to fund public education campaigns on landmines, and cover the social services costs of physical therapy and counseling for clients.

Mazunte Natural Cosmetics Factory, an example of Employment Model

The Mazunte Natural Cosmetics Factory is situated in the village of its namesake on Mexico's Pacific Coast. Until a few years ago, Mazunte was an obscure village of 1,000, most of whom were employed in the sea turtle trade. When the Mexican government first banned the slaughter of sea turtles, this closed the town's sole employer--Mexico's largest sea turtle slaughterhouse--Mazunte's population was devastated.

Today, the cosmetics factory is known as the "Miracle of Mazunte," because it replaced jobs lost by the slaughterhouse. The small, cooperatively-owned social enterprise produces and distributes environmentally friendly products, and in doing so, provides dozens of manufacturing jobs, sales, and management jobs in the community. The impact, or miracle, proved greater than first expected: the Cosmetics Factory has become the cornerstone of the region's economy. The cute, palm-shaped adobe factory is a tourist magnet, and has sparked the development of a numerous tourist related eco-businesses in the area.

[Source: Information provided by Ashoka's Changemakers ]

Digital Divide Data, an example of Employment Model

Cambodia's long history of war and devastation left a large number of disabled, disenfranchised and displaced people who face barriers to employment. Many Cambodian women have few economic choices other than to enter the sex trade. The poor become trapped in low-income jobs because their families could not afford to send them to school. Rural immigrants, who came to urban areas hoping to find a better life, instead wind up in squatter settlements scratching out a subsistence living picking through garbage heaps. Large numbers of Cambodians physically maimed or disabled in the war are completely marginalized from the workforce as a result of overt discrimination. The situation has created a huge surplus of labor in Cambodia, yet few institutions provide vocational training for this target population to secure relevant jobs.

Technology avails an opportunity for poor and marginalized people to start entry level jobs and gain high value workplace experience and marketable skills while earning a livable wage. Digital Divide Data is a technology-based employment social enterprise that provides vocational training to disadvantaged people in Cambodia. Its clients are landmine victims, abused women, rural immigrants and orphans. Through Digital Divide Data, they receive computer literacy and technology training to qualify for basic and low-skilled jobs in the technology sector. Clients are then placed in data entry jobs within Digital Divide Data whereby they receive paid on-the-job training in a supportive environment.

Digital Divide Data secures contracts for data entry work outsourced by universities and businesses, which provides employment for its clients and generates income for its operating costs, including fair wages and social costs related to education and training. The combination of paid work experience and computer literacy, coupled with education prepares clients for higher-paying skilled work opportunities.

[Source: Information provided by World Bank Development Marketplace 2003]