London business leaders take up royal challenge
By Michelle Strutzenberger, Axiom News
This story originally appeared on ENP Canada’s website.
ENP Canada has partnered with Axiom News to explore the Canadian social enterprise movement one story at a time. Each story will provide snapshots and profiles of local social enterprises and the emerging, supportive environment. This story is one of hundreds we will be publishing. Check in every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the latest news.
Axiom News is also a SEWF 2013 media partner.
Sandra Odendahl, Director, Corporate Sustainability, Royal Bank of Canada, will be speaking at the SEWF session "Scaling Social Impact: Reducing the Friction between Financial and Social Impact Goals ".
Pillar Nonprofit Network and Impact Junk Solutions will be attending SEWF 2013.
Readers that enjoyed this article may wish to check out the 2013 SEWF sessions "Inclusive Economies are Ending the Poverty Cycle " and "Social Innovations in Health Care".
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On June 20, during a unique London, Ontario business event designed to address poverty through the lens of mental health as a barrier to employment, a young woman shared her story of reaching rock bottom in her life, contemplating suicide, and then finding a way out of the darkness. She cited her employment in a social enterprise, Pathways Clean Works, as the key factor in her turn-around.
Through this supportive and non-traditional workplace,the woman has moved from being depressed, overweight and isolated to gaining new confidence, engaging with friends and co-workers, leading a small team at her workplace and losing weight.
As she finished her story, the group of business leaders listening gave her a standing ovation.
The young woman’s story sparked an “aha moment” for these London business leaders, says a coordinator of the event, Maureen Spencer Golovchenko, community collaboration program manager for Pillar Nonprofit Network.
"They saw first-hand how mental health barriers to employment can be broken down through social enterprises, which offer staff a stigma-free workplace," say Spencer Golovchenko. "And, now the business leaders are inspired to do more to support social enterprises going forward."
The presentation was part of a day-long tour of four social enterprises in London by a group of business leaders, including Brian Henderson, regional vice-president for the London/St. Thomas RBC Royal Bank, and Gus Kotsiomitis, RBC vice-president for commercial financial services and London Chamber of Commerce president.
RBC and the London Chamber of Commerce recently partnered with Pillar Nonprofit Network, United Way London & Middlesex and the Wellesley Institute to launch the Prince’s Seeing is Believing program in London, as a means of addressing poverty —through the lens of mental health as a barrier to employment.
The Prince’s Seeing is Believing is an experiential program created two decades ago by Prince Charles in order to engage corporate leaders on social issues and challenge them to action.
“Appreciating mental health as a systemic issue impacting London’s quality of life and economic prosperity, our RBC team is committed to working with the chamber, fellow business leaders and the non-profit sector to break down barriers and increase awareness across the community,” Henderson said in a press release.
"Wearing two hats, as RBC co-lead and London chamber president, I am pleased to embrace the Prince's Seeing is Believing program, as a meaningful tool to rally London's business community to address poverty through the lens of mental health," Kotsiomitis stated.
The day-long event began with breakfast at a café operated by Goodwill Industries, which runs a number of social enterprises.
The group toured the Goodwill enterprises and then bussed to see several operated by Youth Opportunities Unlimited in another part of the city.
Representatives from Clean Works, a social enterprise operated by Pathways Skill Development and Employment Centre, and Impact Junk Solutions, run by WOTCH Mental Health Services, joined the tour to share their stories. One of these stories featured Impact Junk’s notable achievement of owning a dump truck that’s never gone to the dump. A junk collection service, the year-old enterprise has managed to find a home for all the “waste” items it collects.
The tour ended with the business group discussing next steps, the first of which is to plan a meeting with additional business leaders to explore actionable ways they can support the growth of social enterprises in the city. They are also considering the development of education and support initiatives to help break the mental health stigma in workplaces, as well as make mental health issues less of a barrier to people’s employment.
“We are really thrilled,” says Spencer Golovchenko reflecting on the tour’s success, noting Pillar Nonprofit Network has been trying to engage the business community for several years.
The London business community has typically supported the non-profit sector through the donation of funds. This effort appears to have opened business leaders’ eyes to the possibilities and opportunities in bringing their business acumen and resources and networks from the “board room down to the community level,” Spencer Golovchenko says.
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