Social enterprises' helps people overcome barriers to employment
Published: Friday, Nov. 4, 2011 6:16 p.m. MDT
By Marjorie Cortez, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — More American businesses need to be about the "double bottom line," says Carla Javits, a national expert in social enterprise.
Javits, chief executive officer of the Roberts Enterprise Development Fund, said "double bottom line" means enterprises that employ people with high barriers to employment and self-sufficiency can also turn a profit.
REDF invests in nonprofit-run businesses. The venture philanthropy organization, based in California, is partnering with six nonprofit organizations that create pathways for people to go to work with appropriate supports. The clients are people who have been incarcerated, have had substance abuse issues, are mentally ill, have poor educational attainment or poor employment histories.
"There's a need for this 'transition,' if you will, so people are ready to get into the private job market and do well," Javits said.
"Social enterprise" is a fairly new concept in Utah, says Fraser Nelson, executive director of the Community Foundation of Utah.
"There isn't enough of this going on in Utah and people don't know how to do it," Nelson said.
On Thursday, Nov. 10, Javits will offer a presentation on social enterprise in the Founder Room of Zions Bank, 1 S. Main. Her presentation begins at 9 a.m. Registration is required. Go to www.utahcf.org for more information.
Javit's presentation is sponsored by the foundation, Morgan Stanley Bank and Zions Bank.
Javits will share REDF's extensive studies how this model creates high social and financial returns.
But is also builds self-esteem in people who, long before the economic downturn, were "frozen out" of the world of work, Javits said.
"A paycheck is critical. Everyone needs that. Work tends to impact a lot of things. It's a social network. It gives people a sense of value, a purpose or meaning to their lives. It makes it worthwhile to get up in the morning," Javits said.
Employers derive benefits, too.
Odyssey House of Utah, a nonprofit that has provided substance abuse treatment services in the Salt Lake Valley for more than 40 years, places clients who have gone through its vocational training program at a handful of businesses where they gain work experience and earn a paycheck.
The nonprofit provides transportation and Worker's Compensation coverage. The worker/clients continue to live at the residential treatment center, where they undergo regular drug testing and get support for issues they may encounter in the working world.
"These folks are really stable. We know they're sober. They're staying in healthy space at night. They're not out on the town or anything like that," said Kali Stoddard, Odyssey House spokeswoman.
The opportunity to work not only helps clients build their resumes so they can find work once they complete substance abuse treatment, it gives them the opportunity to pay for their own treatment instead of relying on parents or government funding.
"Then, they're fully invested," Stoddard said.
To the American sensibility, having a job to go on Monday morning is a matter of human dignity, Javits said.
But for people who have poor employment histories, substance abuse, mental illness "nobody wants to give you a chance. But we know that it's a lot easier to get a job, if you have a job. That's the point. We've got to give people a chance," Javits said.