Strong Social Enterprises Boost Individual Lives And The Nation’s Economy

When the baseball season started and new youth started their jobs at our sites in Atlanta, Seattle, San Francisco, and Oakland, I began reflecting on how important and rare a moment this is. Statistics show that youth of color suffer from an extraordinarily high unemployment rate and even those youth looking for a job struggle to find one. Without those jobs they lose out on skills, training, income, and opportunities they need to succeed.

What is at the root of this problem and what can be done to overcome it? Social enterprises like Juma provide one answer: create businesses driven by and built on a social mission. Create the good jobs our economy is lacking and you can help create the chances people deserve.

Creating Opportunity | Collective Impact Model

Take Devyon J, an 18-year old Atlanta high school graduate who struggled to find employment after graduation. Through his mentor at the National Urban League, a community-based organization partner, he was connected with Juma. Devyon was promoted after only a month, then once more before Juma connected him with UPS, one of our Atlanta job placement partners, where he now has full-time employment and is working towards becoming a supervisor.

Devyon had the dedication and commitment to succeed, but it took a partnership of community-based organizations, a social enterprise, and a for-profit corporation to help him overcome the entrenched issues that limited his opportunity. While the challenge is great, this creates a path forward for us as we look to tackle the inequality that has become a defining issue of our time.


Youth and Inequality

To see what that inequality looks like, consider this: while the US unemployment rate has fallen to 4.5% overall as of March 2017, we know that minority labor force participation and employment lags far behind that of white Americans. The differences become more pronounced when we look at youth. According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, among individuals 16-19 years old, white unemployment is 13.1% while unemployment among Black or African Americans is a staggering 24.3% and among Hispanic or individuals of Latino Ethnicity it is 17.9%. The disparity follows the same pattern for labor force participation rates as well as the employment-population ratio.

The roots of this disparity are as complex and deep as our nation’s history, but what’s clear is that our economy is not as productive, inclusive, or innovative as it can and should be. The result is that huge numbers of our young people are suffering

Social enterprises provide a unique way forward--combining practical business sense with a comprehensive social impact-mindset. They look not just to employ people, but to provide a holistic approach to the success of their employees.

Social Enterprise as an Economic and Social Solution

Youth who are unable to secure employment when they want it miss out on innumerable soft skills, including public speaking opportunities, relationship-building, and the confidence that accompanies that growth. Crucially, they also miss out on the privilege of the financial security that would enable them to engage in long-term planning and reflection.

Juma and other social enterprises look to provide a good, stable job, with understanding and qualified supervisors who help ensure our youth are given a great experience while they work with us. We provide direct support and connection to partner organizations that help support our youth in a number of additional ways. We partner with schools and companies to help ensure that our youth have a path moving forward and work with them to make sure they have an opportunity to consider their long-term plans and goals.

We also promote our youth from within, helping them gain additional leadership roles and experience just as Devyon did. This additional human capital development not only impacts the promoted youth, but also helps their peers see what they can achieve.

Our goal, as with all social enterprises, is not the strongest possible bottom line, it is the success of the youth we serve. That drives our philosophy and our business model in every part of our organization and helps us achieve the greatest possible impact.

What can I do?

The best thing you can do to support social enterprises is to support the business they run! There’s a vast array of them which you can discover. Use the power of your wallet to make a social change while also enjoying the great work and products these organizations are creating. Best of all: start your own social enterprise. If you see a need and an opportunity, use your skills and passion to begin tackling our social challenges head-on.

Huge obstacles may stand between us and a world where all people have access to good jobs and the security and benefits they bring, but social enterprises are creating innovative solutions and sustainable employment every day. Think differently, shop differently, and expand your impact.

As for me, I’ll start by taking in a game and getting a coffee from one of our Juma youth on their first day of a new adventure. I recommend you join me.

Dr. Marc Spencer is the CEO of Juma Ventures and has spent the past 25 years in the nonprofit management sector specializing in fund and program development; contracts and compliance; quality management; public-private joint ventures, and performance management.

The GradsofLifeVoice Forbes team provides thought leadership, research and expert commentary on innovative talent pipelines and related issues such as the skills gap, income inequality, workforce diversity, and the business case for employment pathways. We seek to change employers’ perceptions of young adults with atypical resumes from social liabilities to economic assets. This post was originally featured here.

Business Case, Diversity, Income Inequality, Management & Leadership, Personal Story, Workforce Development,
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