What is the social challenge that could be addressed through your social finance concept? Please describe (Maximum of 1000 characters)
A social challenge we currently face is our education system’s inability to accommodate the differing learning styles and needs of today’s youth. Rote teaching methods do not inspire or hold the attention of many students. Combine this with our economic system’s exclusion of people with strengths outside of the norm and the result is a segment of our population trapped in their dependence on the public sector to meet their basic needs because they face insurmountable barriers to employment in the private sector.At SEA Change Nation we are leveraging the principles of social entrepreneurship to grow a compassionate economy that will bridge the gap between the public and private sectors and serve as an exit strategy for vulnerable youth from a dependence on social services to meet their basic needs. A blend of education and employment, our LEARN-LAUNCH-SHARE model is designed to transform youth into social entrepreneurs that respect (1) ALL People, (2) Our Planet and (3) Profit.
Please identify and describe the target population that requires support through your social finance concept. (Maximum of 1000 characters)
According to The United Way of Calgary’s 2011 Vulnerable Youth Report, their need for employment is acute. Research indicates 11,000 possible vulnerable youth that desire employment, but do not have access to it. Existing services for addressing this issue such as job skills training, resume writing and job search assistance are not effective over the long-term because employers in the mainstream economy do not have the training (or in some cases the profit margins) required to accommodate the higher needs of vulnerable youth. After failing many times to live up to the expectations of their employers, we have witnessed youth lose hope and resign themselves to surviving on social services and/or illegal means such as theft, prostitution, drug dealing etc. At SEA Change Nation we have a passion for investing in youth so they can reach their full potential. As a social enterprise, our profits serve this mission.
Please describe the elements (such as support or services) that would be put in place to address the social challenge. (Maximum 2000 characters).
At SEA Change Nation we believe today’s youth are natural social entrepreneurs. They are compassionate, creative and risk-seeking. By leveraging these facts we can transform them into leaders and put an end to their vulnerability.
Aligned with our belief in today’s youth, is our innovative 3-SEA Change Model. Through the interconnected actions of (1) Learning, (2) Launching and (3) Sharing, we have created a holistic model of support, employment and education for youth as well as a growth engine for the compassionate economy.
The 3 SEAs of our 3-SEA Change Model:
(1) LEARN at The Social Entrepreneurship Academy – Our Academy transforms youth into compassionate social entrepreneurs during their employment in a for-profit social enterprise within our SEA Change Alliance. This innovative training program is flexibly designed to allow youth to explore and discover their passions, strengths and dreams. The founding partners of SEA Change Nation include a 25-year social worker and an MBA with over 25 years of experience in business and social entrepreneurship. This unique combination of skills, strengths and values allows SEA Change Nation to directly support the higher needs of vulnerable youth while simultaneously teaching them the valuable skills needed to succeed in business and in life.
(2) LAUNCH in The Social Entrepreneurship Accelerator – To accelerate the growth of the compassionate economy and to create more meaningful employment opportunities for youth, our model includes a social enterprise accelerator that supports the launch of youth-powered social enterprises after their graduation from our SEA Change Academy.
(3) SHARE inside The Social Entrepreneurship Alliance – To overcome the low success rate of new enterprises, each social enterprise launched by our SEA Change Accelerator becomes a member of our alliance. It aims to provide ongoing support and lower operating costs through shared services such as accounting, purchasing, and legal services.
Please describe the roles of the participant organizations in the proposed project. (Maximum 1250 characters).
The main goal of SEA Change Nation is to provide continuous support to our youth on their entire journey away from a life of vulnerability towards a life of their dreams. This means supporting them not only in their career/learning path, but also (as Maslow would say) in their entire “Hierarchy of Needs” including but not limited to physical, mental and spiritual health, relationships, housing, transportation, etc. For our holistic approach to succeed, we are partnering with existing youth serving agencies that can provide additional resources, expertise and services to our youth and looking to them for referrals of amazing youth.
Academy: To increase opportunities, we are aiming to find and support existing businesses willing to serve as an Academy that employs and educates vulnerable youth.
Accelerator: Our Accelerator is in the early stages of development, but it will be powered by a set of volunteer mentors with the professional skills needed to support our youth in the launch of successful social enterprises. We are also aiming to connect youth to social finance.
Alliance: We will be partnering with and sourcing (where possible) our goods and services from locally-owned, socially/environmentally responsible businesses.
If possible, indicate how funds would flow between the partners that might undertake the project or deliver the services.(Maximum 1250 characters)
In alignment with our value of providing a hand-up instead of a hand-out, the main flow of funds for SEA Change Nation will come from the revenue models of our social enterprises. For example, the first social enterprise we are launching (in August 2013) will be a teen clothing consignment store.
Similar to all innovative start-ups, early stage financing in the form of grants could help us prove up our model. The challenge we face is that we are a for-profit social enterprise and existing grants are mainly available for charities or non-profits.
Because we are taking a holistic approach and working with our youth to ensure all of their needs are met, our profit margins will be lower than a traditional business. For this reason, wage subsidies for our youth (either through government or non-government investors) would increase the number of youth we can employ. In addition, in order to purchase equipment and inventory we could benefit from patient capital in the form of low (or no) interest loans with longer payback horizons.
Opening up crowdfunding beyond donations into loans and equity in Canada would also be an effective way to raise capital because they help to build community support for social enterprises.
Describe what measurable results the project or services outlined in your concept will have on the target population. (Maximum 1700 characters)
In general, we believe an investment in the growth of a compassionate economy that creates meaningful employment for people of ALL abilities can lead to:
• A decrease in taxpayer dollars invested in social services (and charities) that serve as band-aids, not solutions
• A decrease in the number of people unnecessarily dependent on social services
• The end of chronic poverty
• The end of our societal bifurcation that traps people in their dependence on the public sector because they are excluded from gaining independence in the private sector
At SEA Change Nation our main “measurable result” will be the number of youth that have successfully transitioned from a life of vulnerability to a life of stability and true community. We value quality over quantity and will only hire the number of youth that we have the resources to fully support.
The social impact of employing vulnerable youth and transforming them into social entrepreneurs will be reduced rates of unemployment and criminal offending, higher rates of participation by youth in the labour force and reduced reliance by youth on social services. Successful transitions from youth to adulthood will also lead to better health outcomes, increased levels of well-being and greater community engagement.
At SEA Change Nation we have implemented a weekly budget and goal setting process at both the individual and organizational level. This approach will provide timely, accurate information about the positive changes in the individual’s life as a result of employment in our social enterprise as well as support our measurement of the positive social impact and cost-savings to society.
Is there evidence from Canada or elsewhere that concepts similar to the one you have described are working? If so, please cite or provide links to some of this evidence below. (Maximum 1000 characters)
There are concepts working for pieces of our 3-SEA Change Model, but none are using our integrated approach.
Academy: The following non-profit social enterprises create employment for people that face barriers:
(1) Kids in the Hall Bistro, Edmonton, youth-at-risk
(2) Vecova Bottle Depot, Calgary, persons with disabilities
(3) EthniCity Catering, Calgary, immigrant women
SEA Change Innovations: (1) Training in all aspects of launching and running a business, (2) Youth will be paid in trust and guided through a structured budget and goal setting process, (3) We are a for-profit enterprise.
Accelerator: Momentum Calgary has programs to help people facing barriers launch their own businesses. None are currently aimed at youth.
Alliance: Our research indicates that in order to increase success rates, there is a need to provide on-going support services to the social enterprises such as marketing, accounting, legal and human resources. We have found no examples of this type of Alliance in Calgary.