You may have heard the term, “social enterprise” popping up in the media, during boardroom discussions or being coined as essential to our community future for local revitalization. However, social entrepreneurship has always existed in Rural Newfoundland and Labrador, one of the more notable social enterprises dates more than a century years ago with the establishment of the Grenfell Mission. Rural regions are very social in nature, ask anyone who has ever met me! We have a number of social institutions that strive to provide services and enhance the quality of life, entering a market where private business and/or government(s) are more than hesitant.
A social entrepreneur is someone who recognizes a social problem and uses business-like principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make improve social conditions. Social entrepreneurs are most commonly associated with the voluntary and not-for-profit sectors, yet this association does not mean they can not and do make profits.
Moulder of Dreams Inc., located in Port Hope Simpson was started in 2000 to assist a group of people suffering from Myotonic Dystrophy gain therapy by using their muscles to make various types of pottery. Government funding made training these people, providing the necessary knowledge and skills to make Inukshuks, mugs, candle holders and bowls. This was a social group activity, therapy and not considered a sustainable business. Why?
I suspect dependency on government funding and a lack of long-term plan. It is not uncommon for Government to fund programs, enabling agencies that apply to hire people short-term, provide skills training and make product(s). After a set period of time, the worker is finished and the agency must scratch its head and start considering a new project, as the previous project is done as there is no more funding available for further development. There is something clearly wrong with this picture. I am not knocking the worker, as they clearly need employment or the agency, as this is the environment government has built for them. I do not disagree with government assistance to initiate and foster economic development in rural regions, but it must institute proper mechanisms to enhance their investments, enabling these dollars to work towards the development of sustainable business or social enterprise from the present formula. Does overdependence on Government subsidies and funding hinder social and economic development?
The success of Moulder of Dreams came much later than if the government had alternate measures in place when it awarded its initial funding back in 2000. The business closed in 2003 primarily due to loss of government funding and not having an appropriate financial plan to continue operations into the future. A lot of ground was lost, as it took more than 4 years for a determined group of individuals to obtain the appropriate supports to assist with business planning, product development and marketing to clearly refine this concept.
Moulder of Dreams re-opened with a business mindset, providing a steady stream of revenues to support operations and provide an income supplement to workers. It now has 8 employees with products available in more than 15 sites across Newfoundland and Labrador. I actually purchased my Inukshuk at the General Store on Battle Harbour (historical Capital of Labrador).
This social enterprise is a success story, making milestones as it continues to work towards long-term sustainability. Throughout Rural Newfoundland & Labrador, many more success stories are have occured and others possible with the same level of determination and request for business supports. We have invaluable cultural skills and knowledge that can be shared and passed on in the form of social enterprise. If the key decision-makers, (the powers to be), would act now, make the necessary changes in programming we will have a much brighter and prosperous rural Newfoundland and Labrador. However, our Government is likely to hire an independent out-of-province consultant or look-into the matter in the form of a study, which will possibly take years, hinder the process and for me to only have the same discussion and dialogue again. So stayed tuned to Live Rural NL’s blog and hope that I am wrong.
We have the power, the voice and the ability to institute real change. We can make a difference in our communities and improve the lives of those around us and for future generations – becaue there is a future as we Live Rural NL. We must act now, we can not wait any longer.
The social enterprise awaits –