Eight senior business leaders visited a series of community-based social enterprises in London, Ontario, as part of the national roll-out of the Prince’s Seeing is Believing (PSiB) initiative. PSiB was developed by HRH The Prince of Wales as a practical platform to engage senior business leaders in vital community issues. It is being developed in Canada by Prince’s Charities Canada with the operational support of the Wellesley Institute.
Social enterprises are businesses with a social purpose instead of the usual business bottom line of returning value to shareholders. The social purposes might include hiring people excluded from the conventional labour market, training, delivering a critical service or perhaps generating vital revenue for non-profit organizations. Effective social enterprises blend a strong social purpose with solid business fundamentals.
The four London social enterprises included:
- Goodwill Industries, which has evolved from a thrift store to a wide-ranging employment initiative and social innovation hub;
- Clean Works, a full-service commercial cleaning company that provides employment to people who have been shut out of conventional jobs;
- Youth Opportunities Unlimited, a multi-service agency for youth that includes housing, education and health services, along with a social enterprise café; and
- Impact Junk Solutions, which provides employment for people living with mental health issues.
Research from the Wellesley Institute shows that a strong community sector is vital to population health. Our work with PSiB is aimed at laying the foundations for creating healthier and more equitable communities.
While corporate philanthropy and volunteerism are useful for community organizations, PSiB aims to move business leaders beyond charity to challenge them to identify practical ways that they, as business leaders, can provide pragmatic support for high-performing community organizations working on critical social issues. PSiB aims to break down the barriers that often exist between the corporate and community sectors and create meaningful business-community alliances that lead to systemic change.
To date, two PSiB community visit days have been held in Toronto and a third has been held in Regina/Weyburn. The London event was the fourth. Another Toronto visit day is scheduled for early October. Other PSiB activities for Halifax, Calgary and Vancouver are in the planning stages.