A social enterprise is a new organizational model that was developed in the 1970’s. In the past several decades it has taken off because combining earning profit with a positive social impact has become the new ‘it factor’ for modern companies concerned about their long-term sustainability in the conscious consumer’s age.
However, if America has just begun to catch the social enterprise bug, it will probably be a good while before the Caribbean catches that cold. Our future prosperity depends on our ability to take the risk and provide innovative solutions to multiple problems. Caribbean social enterprises could be the answer that we have been searching for.
But We Cyan Afford Dat…Can We?
The Caribbean has always been plagued by a lack of natural resources and an oversupply of talented labor. Although there are no metrics to quantify a hard-working spirit, the records that Caribbean people set overseas and the discipline that allows us to conduct multiple careers speaks for itself. We’re also known for being empathetic and aiding those amidst their struggles when we can. The lack of cooperation found in the Caribbean is not for lack of trying. Instead, it has been ingrained in our society that we will always have to compete for limited resources.
“Our radical imagination is a tool for decolonization, for reclaiming our right to shape our lived reality.”― Adrienne Maree Brown, Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good
Where There is Desire, There is Opportunity
Non-profits by design are conditioned to rely on foundation and grant money. This pre-dated rule intentionally keeps giving the amount of financial capital spent on social causes limited compared to for-profits with no social responsibility in terms of spending. Social enterprises can be started with little next to nothing and immediately generate impact, albeit small in the beginning. Thankfully, we have our hustler spirit, which is useful abroad but invaluable a yaad. If the Caribbean were to openly embrace social enterprise, every mikkle would soon make a mukkle. The momentum of creating internally driven progress and a steady stream of profit would fundamentally change the nature of business relatively overnight.
Seeing as how in the Caribbean you are only worth as much as your peers esteem you to be, and business leaders always accrue a natural following of supporters and partners, redirecting that positive energy to more comprehensive social benefits would be mutually prosperous. Owners of social enterprises would receive praise from the communities they support (which arguably is worth more than the money to some people). Simultaneously, the community members receiving assistance would be more invested in doing the work themselves, leading to a mutually prosperous cycle.
The Borgen Project lists five examples of social enterprise in developing countries that are impressive role models in their own right. Still, there are countless examples of work in our communities; we just need to start celebrating each other. In that spirit, here are three examples Caribbean Social Enterprises that I believe the Caribbean-American community should be aware of.
My first example is The Center for Black Innovation (formerly A Space Called Tribe), a think tank and black innovation ecosystem in South Florida. Felecia Hatcher is one of the founders and was a recent guest on the Carry On Friends Podcast.
My second example is Corp Care, a strategy firm laying down the foundations of Corporate Social Responsibility in Kingston, Jamaica. Ali Matalon founded the company in 2019 and is a philanthropy powerhouse in her own right.
My third example is Honai Beez, the most genuine depiction of what it means to operate a social enterprise in Kingston. Adrian Watson founded the apiary to save urban areas from environmental degradation and offer young people sustainable employment opportunities.
Organizations of this nature are the flagship of a new generation geared towards successful business and change. A social enterprise is definitely an industry that anyone could reasonably see themselves doing. At this time, however, we could all do a better job of supporting innovative organizations already propelling significant systemic change. By supporting this trend, we can all do our part to ensure that philanthropic-based capitalism eventually overtakes pure capitalism. Overnight, giving back will become the new hype factor, permanently creating a shift in culture and rebranding the ecosystem as a unique, worthwhile investment opportunity. In the end, the Caribbean could finally become a paradise, not only for the tourists who spend a week but for ourselves permanently.