Social Enterprise Development as An Effective Tool For Immigrant Settlement

The following is a guest post by Raimi B. Osseni, co-chair of the CCEDNet Emerging Leaders Network.

A major Community Economic Development (CED) event made a mark at the beginning of June in Canada. The 2009 National CED Conference, “Full Circle: Sharing a Vision for the 7th Generation” was hosted at the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba. This event was also the occasion to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Canadian CED Network (CCEDNet), a “member-driven organization that seeks to increase the scale and effectiveness of CED – helping organizations and individuals strengthen their communities and create solutions to local needs” (more about CCEDNet).

Two local organizations co-hosted the conference with the Canadian CED Network: Ka Ni Kanichihk (the name means “those who lead” in the Ininew (Cree) language) and Supporting Employment and Economic Development (SEED) Winnipeg Inc. The theme of the 2009 conference was “Indigenous Models of CED” and more than 30 workshops were presented around various streams ranging from microfinance, employment and technical assistance, youth engagement, cooperative development, to Aboriginal and women’s leadership in CED and social enterprise.

Paul Chamberlain, Program Director at the Canadian CED Network, Nicole Rosenow-Redhead, Project Researcher with the same organization and Patrick Mutumbi of the Enviro-Safe Cleaning Worker Cooperative Ltd, delivered “Social Enterprise Development as an Effective Tool for Immigrant Settlement”. The well-attended workshop explored the definitions of social enterprise and CED and presented an example of a successful social enterprise created by a new Canadian. It was also the occasion to introduce the Immigrant Settlement and Integration through Social Enterprise (ISISE) initiative of the Canadian CED Network. Finally, Terri Proulx a social enterprise developer from SEED Winnipeg Inc. talked about her experience, SEED Winnipeg’s programs for immigrants and refugees and the success of the organizations they have assisted.

At the 2006 National CED Conference, the Immigrant & Refugee Community Action Network (ICAN) of the Canadian Community Economic Development (CED) Network was created. ICAN is a national network of newcomer CED practitioners, whose purpose is to offer opportunities for new immigrants and refugees to participate in the leadership of the CED and Co-operative movements in Canada. With the assistance of this network, the Canadian CED Network published studies such as “Creating Opportunities, Optimizing Possibilities” and “Storytelling Newcomers’ Experience with CED in Canada.” This research led to the identification of several gaps in the newcomer community in terms of CED and social enterprise:
The capacity-building for newcomer CED practitioners
The mapping of immigrant social enterprises in Canada
The definition of conditions of success
Providing support and resources to pilot projects, and to more people

The ISISE initiative came out of this research. It will provide support for demonstration projects and develop profiles of newcomers’ social enterprises such as Enviro-Safe Cleaning Worker Cooperative Ltd. Some of the conditions of success of these organization are: communication, building the practice of immigrant leadership (skills, tools, relationships), enhancing their knowledge of CED (think local), strengthening partnerships and networks (i.e. refer each other), and developing a target group (community organizations, for example, who want to hear about social and environmental goals). A survey will allow ISISE to identify more challenges faced by social enterprises as they develop. It will also allow measuring the settlement supports provided by the social enterprises in terms of housing, language and education training, life skills supports, business and networking skills.

Patrick Mutumbi is a member of ICAN and one of the five members of Enviro-Safe Cleaning Worker Cooperative Ltd. Enviro-safe, which employs newcomers and provides them with Canadian experience, defines success in terms of monthly sales and also recruitment of new members. The effective practices and conditions for the success they have identified for a newcomers’ social enterprise include governance (how to think together, dialogue and involve all members) and leadership, along with skill development and financial management skills. They see a lot of challenge in relating to their communities of origin where they are perceived as being a “small group.” What is more, immigrants and refugees seem to have more trust in settlement agencies than in social enterprises as a way to reach social integration and economic security.

SEED Winnipeg Inc. has helped several community-based organizations to start a social enterprise. Their programs assisted the Filipino Youth and Action Group to create a social enterprise -a bookstore- in order to bridge a generation gap between new immigrants and first and second generation Canadians. Moreover, this community-based organization will be able to assist the University of Winnipeg in the creation of a Filipino Studies program.

Their experiences with newcomers bring social enterprise developers to identify conditions of success for social enterprises created by immigrants and refugees. In the creation process, it is important to acknowledge the refugees and immigrant’s different conditions (differences between countries of origins and experiences). It is also important to build a trust before asking people share their stories. This way, a mutually respectable relationship is established and the newcomer’s specific value is acknowledged.

A social enterprise and a CED initiative have at least a double-bottom line. The outcome is business related but has also a strong social component: employment creation, increase of services to the community and/or capacity-building. Successful immigrant social enterprises provide Canadian work experience, English skills, networking, and an income. Although for immigrant and refugees in Canada social integration and economic security are challenges that could be tackled by the use of this model, only 77 out of 7000 co-operatives in Canada are led by newcomers. The Immigrant Settlement and Integration through Social Enterprise (ISISE) initiative of the Canadian CED Network presented during this workshop will hopefully bring more newcomers to see the creation of social enterprises as an effective settlement and integration tool.

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