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It’s not a new model, it’s not the latest social innovation, rather it is a well-documented but totally underutilized and recognized solution to the root causes of poverty – bridging the gap between available jobs and unemployment.

On top of solving parts of the poverty problem through employment, it also addresses related issues of health, crime, and homelessness. How does it work? Rather than making everyone fit into the same employment model, adjust the employment model to allow more people to fit into available jobs. 

Poverty has two parts, lack of economic opportunity which then means lack of income. No income means poverty. Poverty often means stress, desperation, and despair. There is a financial side and a human side.

Social enterprises are businesses that prioritize social value over shareholder returns. Years ago, they designed models to create employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. Some models were disappointing that they didn’t respect, pay or support the employees appropriately; while others found that given the opportunity for appropriate work environments and supports, the traditionally defined ‘unemployable’ began to flourish, with new found dignity, and increased income. 

Building on that foundation of re-engineering of employment to create employment, social enterprises over the last twenty years have expanded that model to include multiple and often invisible barriers to employment. The person coming out of prison, the person coming out of addiction recovery, the person lacking early educational supports, the person with cyclical mental health issues, and so many other traditionally ‘invisible’ barriers. 

As the chief of police in Winnipeg says, a youth at risk coming to the justice system has one option, go to jail; while that same youth entering a supportive work training system, like BUILD Inc, will hopefully have many more options. 

In Vancouver’s DTES multiple social enterprises encompass this philosophy and practice – EMBERS, East Van Roasters, CleanStart, The Cleaning Solution, HAVE, Potluck, MP Services, Atira, and more. All of these social enterprises offer goods or services, from catering, cleaning and labour solutions.

By purchasing from these social enterprise you support the re-design of employment that is one small step towards defeating poverty. Find a certified social enterprise to support today here.

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