Entrepreneurs emerge that place social and economic profitability at the same level

The Foresterra labor cooperative society carries out works of conservation of the territory. Modest Soy and Xavier Laporta, in the photo in the foreground, are the promoters of a project that employs long-term unemployed people. In the background two of the people hired (Own) Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Whatsapp 

After spending five months in a camp for displaced people in Kenya, Daniel Karanja Njenga, his wife, Nancy Gathoni, and their five children were able to return home. They saw that their livelihood was to make productive their small garden and a government aid of 100 euros allowed them to buy a kind of pedal water pump to irrigate their crops. In a time of escalating food prices, the contraption in question has allowed this family to subsist by selling their crops in the local market. Behind this water pump are Martin Fisher and Nick Moon, two social entrepreneurs who created the firm KickStart, in San Francisco, to promote the development of Africa. “Social enterprises, if they do well, contribute more to development than NGOs, Africa needs more social enterprises,” suggests Alfred Vernis, director of university programs at the Esade business school and an expert on the subject.

Vernis points out that acting in the market is more likely to cause a change in society than doing charity. “The issue is not giving food and shelter to people living on the street, but offering them a job so that they can earn a salary, can afford a home and recover their self-esteem, which is what they need the most”.

This professor from Esade reminds us that this type of enterprise was created in the United States in the 1980s by people who had worked in NGOs and who sensed that penetrating the market made it easier to achieve a social and/or environmental objective. Give a job to vulnerable people, manufacture products destined for markets that do not interest anyone and protect the environment. Vernis distinguishes between non-profit initiatives and those that seek to be profitable, understanding that this will benefit more people.

Esade and BBVA have selected ten initiatives of these characteristics

have trained and advised their managers so that next October they present a growth plan. The goal is to get investors and in addition to social value create economic value. One of them is La Tavella, located on a farm in Cànoves, next to the Montseny Natural Park, where thirteen people, nine with intellectual disabilities or severe mental disorders (TMS),

grow vegetables without pesticides or chemical fertilizers. “It is a social, ecological and proximity project, we follow the philosophy of kilometer 0. In addition to our products, we buy others to local farmers to make baskets, about 500 a month, which we distribute in the Vallès, Maresme, and Barcelonès”, details its manager, Carlos Sopeña. The Tavella is still not profitable; this year it will invoice 160,000 euros with losses of 10,000, but Sopeña calculates that the balance will be reached next year, coinciding with an expansion plan that includes an egg farm and two farms with goats. In this way, they would expand their offer of fruits and vegetables with eggs, meats and also organic cheeses.

It is the mental health services of the region that propose and monitor the workers. “The contracts are annual and if they do not find another job in the ordinary market they continue with us, in principle, they charge the interprofessional minimum salary and as they progress they are increasing”, adds Sopeña.

Moltacte is another of the undertakings that have people with TMS on the payroll, specifically 15, in its three outlet stores in Manresa and Sant Boi de Llobregat. “Our goal is to create economic impact, to have benefits, as better, but not at any price.” We always say that we are a non-profit company with a desire to grow, to create a quality of life. in a different way, with values, without forgetting people, “says Miquel Isanta, its manager.

Jaume Oller, founding partner of Tandem Social, a cooperative that offers consulting services in this field, also predicts that “many companies will have to convert themselves into social enterprises because otherwise, they will disappear, if there are no public funds, there is no way to survive. , like that, they receive money from administrations that they have to denounce for their policies “. One of the weaknesses of some NGOs is their dependence on external funds, which mortgages their freedom of action.

What other changes will be seen in this sector?

Loans

 

There will also be a transition backward, in the future companies will be social or they will not be because people will no longer accept “anything goes”. Before anyone questioned whether the soccer balls were made by a child in Asia, now, yes, there is no conscience.

Oller points out that the majority of social enterprises are special work centers (CET), certified by the Generalitat, or labor insertion. In the first case, they occupy people with some type of disability that can not be integrated into ordinary companies and, in the second, those citizens at risk of exclusion, immigrants, former inmates, victims of sexist violence, long-term unemployed. The cuts have also reached the CETs that have seen how the aid offered by the Generalitat to create jobs have practically disappeared, warns Miquel Isanta, from Moltacte. “Now, for the new hires, we only have the Social Security bonus.”

A technician in agricultural operations, a forestry engineer and a biologist have launched Foresterra, a labor cooperative, based in Vilajuïga, in Alt Empordà, which during its first year of operation has hired five long-term unemployed. It is the town councils in the area that send Foresterra people at risk of exclusion who follow a training program before working on forestry and agricultural tasks. “The town councils give us a little help for each unemployed we hire, we focus on fixing old roads, cleaning forests, setting firebreaks and we have also reintroduced sheep in abandoned areas and recovered old farms,” explains Modest Soy, one of its promoters.

I am emphasizing that, in addition to protecting the environment, this project offers labor integration “in a natural and very calm environment to people with problems and who have lost their self-esteem”. The scope of action reaches the Cap de Creus natural park and the protected area of l’Albera.

The emergence in Spain of this type of entrepreneurship comes in the year 2000, says Alfred Vernis emphasizing that in Esade every time students show more interest in these projects. Harvard, he adds, created the first Social Entrepreneurship program in 1998 and Esade in 2006.

Innovation in environmental issues, new technologies, and social networks come from the Northwestern coast of the USA, from the stimulating Silicon Valley. Social business, too. Kiva is one of the cases highlighted by Vernis: Internet loans of 25 dollars to finance small entrepreneurs from the countries of the South that do not have access to traditional banking- Consolidation Now. And the level of delinquency does not even reach 2%.

The example of La Fageda

The example of La Fageda

 

La Fageda has never stopped undertaking until it has worked: before making yogurts, its promoter, Christopher Columbus, devoted himself to religious imagery in Olot, to gardening … He has not stopped until he has found a profitable business “, highlights Alfred Vernis. Harvard University, which leads the Social Enterprise Knowledge Network, a network of American universities in which Esade is also present, has studied the case of La Fageda, which employs more than 100 people with intellectual disabilities for the production of yogurts and ice cream and the care of your farm and your nursery. The lesson of La Fageda is that before tasting success you have to overcome many failures.

A group of eight young people, mostly engineers from Catalonia, Cuba, and Belgium, created less than a year ago Sols Ingenieria, a cooperative based in Barberà del Vallès that offers training and technology to communities in tropical countries for the construction of housing with materials local. Sols Ingenieria encourages the creation of microenterprises that manage the plants where these materials are produced to create structures that withstand hurricanes. “We institutionalized a safe and quality building system in Asia, Latin America, and Africa,” explains Ana Fernández, coordinator of Sols Ingenieria and social economist. Currently, they are looking for funding to launch a research and development center in Havana. Until the cooperative is profitable, its partners maintain other jobs.

Should a social enterprise have a profit motive? The answer in which many experts agree is that profit motive, no, but profit motive. The main objective is to reach sectors of society forgotten by the conventional economy: people at risk of exclusion or with some type of disability or mental illness; also to the populations of the countries of the South and/or at the same time act without damaging the environment. Is it contradictory to generate social value and at the same time create wealth? Alfred Vernis believes that “only acting on the market can cause social change.” And if there are profits you can reach, hire, more people. “We bet 100% on the market,” he says. His philosophy is that the integration of vulnerable groups is more viable by fostering social enterprises than by practicing charity.