The Forum brought together over 1,400 people working in Social Enterprise from across the world.
As a Social Enterprise manager for over 9 years, I have been increasingly concerned over what passes as a Social Enterprise. It seems to me that increasingly businesses want to identify as Social Enterprises but lack the ability to articulate what their social mission is or how they are making a difference in the community.
In addition, there were many inspirational stories of how people have succeeded against the odds, for example DC Central Kitchen which has grown by 10 times in the span of 5 years.
Solar Ear is a business which developed a solar charger for hearing aid batteries. Howard Weinstein who founded the organization, did not patent his product which was developed by people with hearing loss and will assist businesses who wish to manufacture the hearing aids and chargers in developing business plans and finding funding.
The Conference gave me motivation to think about our Social Enterprise, Out of This World Café, the challenges we are facing and possible solutions. Out of This World Café is 4 cafes, located at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, Ontario. CAMH is undergoing a period of redevelopment, with new buildings going up and some of the existing coming down. We face the possibility of losing 3 of 4 locations in 2020. We have been pushing for space in one or more of the new buildings but CAMH has been non-committal. There is a proposed renovation and expansion of the location that is certain to remain. This has led me to re-think how we use the space, what other food related business we could run there, for example, a bakery which operates outside of our regular business hours. Seeing how a Social Enterprise in Scotland allows customers to prepay a coffee for a homeless person, we are going to implement a similar program here to allow customers to prepay for a CAMH client.
The message of the damage single use plastics is having on the environment really resonated and we are in the process of eliminating plastics as a result. By the end of the year I expect all our packaging products to be biodegradable or compostable.
There was a discussion about financial literacy in the sector and how people in senior roles nearing retirement age are not prepared. This is something I have noticed over the years and want to have some discussions with funders and others to see if there is something we can do to improve the situation. I spent 12 years in the financial service industry and wrote many financial plans for people. I feel this is an area where I may be able to help some people out.