Concept of social enterprise (SE) is put on a policy agenda and is increasingly utilized as a way of attaining long-term CSO sustainability to address the needs of their vulnerable constituencies.
Over the years, EPF has been supporting social enterprise (SE) development in Georgia, to contribute to increased civic engagement and inclusive growth. Given the novelty of the concept, EPF started with its promotion by collaborating with local and international players waging public information campaign and supporting SEs, so as to create positive examples for both CSOs and the Government to emulate. Just as importantly, EPF succeeded in creating lasting collaboration between CSOs, universities, businesses, and public authorities, including through annual competitions Students for Social Enterprise.
During 2009-2015, EPF conducted four training in social enterprise development for CSOs interested in establishing SEs. In total, 89 CSO representatives participated in the trainings. Already eleven social enterprises have been set up with grant support from EPF, out of which eight are still operational. More than 100 jobs were created for individuals representing socially vulnerable groups (e.g. PWDs, IDPs, women, rural population). Currently, around 86 beneficiaries are employed at the enterprises. Representatives of different vulnerable groups benefit from the potential to be employed in newly established or strengthened social enterprises, as well as from increased sustainability of the targeted CSOs that serve these constituencies. At the same time, this allows them to become more integrated in the Georgian society and to take control of their lives.
EPF monitored the awarded projects, majority of which have made progress toward their objectives and outcomes. The efforts of EPF and its partner organizations to promote the SE concept have not gone unnoticed and the SE concept is being replicated throughout the country with support from other donors. Today, more than 50 SEs are funded by the Governmet of Georgia and other donors. New stakeholders issued grant support to SEs, e.g. People in Need (Czech CSO) in Western Georgia, the Young Economists’ Association of Georgia, LEPL Children and Youth Development under the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs, and ASB Georgia, Hilfswerk Austria International, and Charity Fund of Bank of Georgia, International Organization for Migration.
EPF will continue to promote the concept of social enterprise as one of the ways for CSOs to ensure their long-term sustainability and in this process to foster improved socio-economic integration of vulnerable groups and contribute to job creation. While EPF will foster business community’s engagement in all of its programs, input from local businesses will be particularly sought out in the effort to promote the SE concept and support CSOs in diversifying their funding. During the implementation, the Foundation’s efforts will be focused on engaging national and local authorities, CSOs, and business community through a multi-stakeholder platform that will (1) develop concrete proposals on how to improve regulatory environment and practice to support the creation of SEs and (2) lobby relevant public authorities, including the Parliament, to see through these proposals. The work of the platform will contribute to fostering enabling regulatory and policy environment for civil society in Georgia.
EPF will also continue its successful practice of engaging students, in its efforts to promote the SE concept, through conducting annual student competitions. These efforts will benefit from grant support from EPF and advice from leading specialists at well-established business enterprises. EPF liaise with local business community, so that they contribute to the SE development through provision of pro bono financial, marketing or other type of advice. EPF will also develop business student volunteer database, which will identify the specialization and interest of each student willing to volunteer for a social enterprise and will match the SEs with the volunteers, so as to contribute to the concept promotion and SE sustainability.
As in the previous years, EPF will support CSOs to utilize SE model for diversifying their funding and, thus, contributing to the achievement of their social mission. To this effect, EPF will solicit and fund projects for SE development, as well as organize training and provide technical assistance on business plan development, marketing, taxation and financial planning, etc. Part of the training component will involve gender, as improved gender perspective has been observed to have a positive effect on the organisational performance, such as leadership, staff retention, productivity, and customer relations. EPF will ensure that the gender training is linked to business performance, so that it is easier for the targeted CSOs to see the benefits of mainstreaming gender considerations into their everyday work. Additionally, EPF will support SE development through organizing roundtables, fairs, and other outreach events to further promote the concept and inform Georgian CSOs about its utility in reaching long-term sustainability.