Movements across the globe are calling for systems change to build a world that is sustainable, equitable, and prosperous for all. But what will that world look like, specifically? It’s easy to get lost in the jargon or talk vaguely about broad topics. What tangible policies, models, and actions will create the world we want to see?
Next Economy Conversations, our monthly tête-à-tête with industry leaders, brings the people building systems-level solutions to the table to break down their approaches, provide key insights, and learn from their successes and failures.
In the lead up to our Next Economy Conversation with Kalen Taylor, Executive Director of the employment social enterprise, Purpose Construction, on June 24, we’re explaining all things employment social enterprises (ESE) so you can enter the conversation in the know. Building the Next Economy requires all of us. Here’s the breakdown before we build.
What is an Employment Social Enterprise?
According to the Toronto Enterprise Fund, employment social enterprises are “businesses that create training and employment opportunities for people facing systemic barriers to entry into the mainstream labour market.”
At an ESE, People often bring their whole selves to their work because their whole self is supported: ESEs provide guided training, skill development, and wraparound support, such as transit, housing subsidies and other assistance, to empower people to attain and maintain employment. Taking a holistic approach is necessary to overcome the direct and indirect employment barriers facing various communities.
Employment social enterprises exist all over the world and across Canada, For context, over seventy employment social enterprises take up residence in the Toronto region.
Why Employment Social Enterprises are Fundamental to Building the Next Economy
ESEs are fundamental to creating an inclusive economy. Employment social enterprises create viable employment opportunities for those experiencing systemic employments barriers, including:
- Newcomers and refugees who often face limited employment opportunities and lower-wage jobs due to the devaluation of their credentials, lack of social capital, cultural differences and language barriers.
- Formerly incarcerated individuals who are much more likely to have trouble finding quality employment than their fellow citizens even over a decade after reentering society, with many earning below the poverty line and others reoffending due to exclusion from the legal economy.
- Single mothers who experience considerably higher unemployment rates than mothers in a two-parent household, often struggling to re-enter the workforce following childbirth and access child care (a problem amplified by the pandemic).
- People with disabilities who experience limited or low-skilled employment opportunities that are at risk of automation due to inaccessible workplaces.
Quality, long-term work transforms lives and strengthens community wealth. According to the Toronto Enterprise Fund, ESEs have “demonstrated success in increasing employee’s income, increasing attachment to the labour market, improving health, increasing housing security, and keeping people out of the criminal justice system.”
Case Study: Purpose Construction
Purpose Construction is an employment social enterprise construction company. But they aren’t just any construction company. Purpose Construction is a “company that feels more like a family than a job. A company that believes in people.”
244 employees make up this family. Senay Mosazghi is one of those employees. After being wrongfully imprisoned for practicing Christianity in his home country, Eretria, he fled religious persecution, travelling to Sudan where he eventually became sponsored as a refugee and moved with his family to Canada. A lack of Canadian job experience and developing English language skills might have proved a barrier to employment elsewhere but not at Purpose Construction. Senay received trade skills training, experience, a long-term job and deep community relationships that enabled him to strengthen his English language skills and raise his family in a supportive environment.
Purpose Construction is a good example of how employment social enterprises harness the power of the market to create social change. According to their website, Purpose Construction is “reducing government social assistance costs, reducing recidivism rates, bringing families back together and helping people build stable, healthy lives.” Based on an independent third party social impact analysis, “for every $1 spent on services at Purpose Construction, [Purpose Construction] returns $4.29 in positive social impact.”