Foundation Projects: Youth Social Enterprise
We lift our hands and hearts in deep appreciation and gratitude to all of the sponsors, the government of B.C. and Lookout Emergency Aid Society. Without the valuable support, the woodworking program could not have developed at the rate that it has. With their support, Amazing Tutors Children's Foundation was able to set up a community garden in their Parkway Shelter's courtyard. Parkway Shelter is a low-barrier, shelter for homeless adults and operates in conjunction with The Front Room, a 24 hour drop-in resource center. It is operated in partnership with and funded by BC Housing.
The Amazing Tutors Children's Foundation was blessed with the opportunity to help them develop a woodworking program which focuses on acquiring skills, building confidence, developing life skills, financial responsibility, and community while developing greater connection with nature. We wanted to inspire fresh thinking that creates economic opportunity, social equality and environmental well-being. We were fortunate to receive pallet and recycled wood from Fraser Valley Equipment Ltd., Home Depot, Chinna and Sons Contractors, Signarama, and local arborists, framers and neighbors in Newton. Potters contributed some plants and vegetables. We provided all the materials and power tools to build, paint, and stain West Coast rustic, outdoor furniture. Working together, we launched a ground breaking community garden and a unique "Do-it-together woodworking program" featuring recycled, reclaimed, repurposed, thrifted and upcycled supplies and items. This program used various economic sustainable strategies for employing existing resources optimally so that a responsible and beneficial balance can be achieved over the longer term. In addition, we offered the opportunity for Lookout clients to build skills and valuable experience that can be used for resumes when re-entering the workforce. For vulnerable population served by Lookout, many of the same challenges that cause homelessness (physical, or mental illnesses, substance use, disabilities) reap havoc on a person's self esteem and their ability to even imagine stability in their lives such as maintaining a job.
This program is structured similar to a high school woodworking program and utilizes real-world learning experiences to help program participants acquire carpentry skills, develop entrepreneurial thinking, practical money management skills and a drive to make a difference. They set and achieve goals, work in teams, engage in community therapy, acquire confidence and develop practical life skills. When program participants volunteer their time, they discover the beauty and impact of giving back. Essentially, the program provides a dynamic experiential learning environment to help program participants be part of a caring, giving and supportive community. They learn about tools and safety rules, acquire carpentry skills, build confidence, develop life skills, receive professional counselling, and financial responsibility by exploring the real world of social enterprises and business ventures. This program is designed to help them prosper, provide an opportunity to fulfill their potential, and to give them a sense of hope for the future. This ensures that they are developing skills that will be useful and they can look forward to opportunities that will help them to develop the capacity in their lives to move forward out of poverty.
This program met regularly twice a week to manage and share logistical tasks of coordinating the Eco-Friendly Woodworking Program, and to support each other socially and emotionally. We continue to acknowledge the importance of building relationships and developing a sense of connection, belonging, and a well-developed group support system. Like any successful relationship, a very effective group needs to be constantly nurtured and re-created. Our work has become generative, not extractive. Extractive community work is what happens when one project or group simply extracts resources and capacity from another group. Generative community work, however, is about "working together" in ways that generate more cooperation, energy, healing, interest and engagement. We were inspired by the values and good works of Canex Building Supplies, the Surrey Interfaith Council, Village Surrey Transition Initiative and the Blue Dot Movement.
As the woodworking skills programming develops, it will continue Lookout Society's evolution to serve the changing needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized people in Surrey. They will provide the training and employment of people who are typically excluded from the mainstream economy, thus creating capacity and self-sufficiency for individuals, and impacting their communities lessening reliance on the social safety net. This noble intention and element alone can denote a social enterprise. Unique products will be sold to help finance the social enterprise mission. The crew will receive additional mentorship from staff, honing their woodworking, carpentry, carving skills and gaining experience in the field. Throughout their participation and or employment, they are encouraged and supported to seek full-time employment in the trades. When consumers purchase products, they are not only getting handcrafted wood products --they are directly contributing to the next group of crew members to move through the training and take their career into their own hands.
Program participants can learn skills, prepare sample business plans, create unique and special products and marketing materials, and have a blast by participating in a summer Skill Show Competition and Barbeque outside the Parkway Shelter courtyard. This event provides an equal opportunity for them to showcase their achievements, gain valuable experience, win prizes and learn to earn money. Interactive exercises are used to introduce business planning steps. They learn to find sponsors to provide supplies, purchase and organize wood supplies, make the product and create a sample, professional-looking business plan. Throughout the program, they will make notes and track their own progress. Along with a foremen who professionally trains program participants to use tools, initiates on-site renovation projects, handles commissioned custom woodworking orders, a second coordinator teaches them to create unique and special seasonal products, supervises, guides and supports the program participants' volunteer work in the woodworking shop before entering the social enterprise. We provide the opportunity for program participants to experience all the responsibility, challenge and satisfaction of building a social enterprise. It is essential that they be the decision makers at every stage of this project and we help them view any "mistakes" as greater opportunities for learning.
This program was created to foster independent thinkers and innovators with the confidence to carve out their own unique roles in society. It is embedded with a creative element which encourages them to explore their own passions, incredible talents and interests. Program participants are provided with an opportunity to develop unique products, business plans and marketing materials. Coming up with a one of a kind product idea requires program participants to delve deep into themselves and harness their creative thinking skills. The challenge is to encourage them to create a product or service that "solves a problem or makes a difference in the world." They may choose to use natural materials or recycled items that would otherwise go to waste and landfills. We encourage program participants to make our world a better place by naturally creating ecological and environmental friendly products. In addition to acquiring practical money management tools and an entrepreneurial mindset, program participants actively develop vital 21st century skills as communications, creativity and critical thinking. By providing a real-world business venture experience, we teach them to plan and execute goals in a way that really empowers them to take charge of their own learning.
A Journey of a Thousand Miles towards a Social Enterprise begins with a Single Step
Part 1: Social Enterprise Business Ideas and Goals
This component provided an introduction to the operation planning system. Three different types of social enterprises such as manufacturing, service and retail were discussed and then program participants learned that their challenge for this program is to each make a unique product. They established goals for the social enterprise projects: learning about business, making money and supporting charities by donating ten percent of their profit. They were encouraged to make realistic goals and to use this learning opportunity to build practical skills for the future. They learned that they must first consider their target market. Program participants explored examples of products and were instructed to each select their own product idea. They will use their ideas to create market research surveys.
Part 2: Market Research and Social Enterprise Business Operations
Program Participants need to consider why customers will want to buy their one of a kind, special products. They initiated a critical discussion about the importance of making the product unique and special and what product features their potential customers and donors would like. They completed the product description then designed their own market research surveys and were challenged to use the results to create their products. Safety and business operations were introduced to help them start thinking about the steps they need to take when making their products.
Part 3: Social Enterprise and Money Plans
In this third component, program participants explored the concepts of cost, price and profit. They learn that as the price of a product increases, the number of buyers decreases. They must consider the "cost to make" and the "price to sell" and "break even analysis."
Part 4: Developing Marketing Skills
Program participants discussed creative ways to market products and services to attract customers and potential donors. They analyzed real-life examples and then started considering their own marketing strategies to help the social enterprise grow. They also created advertisements that will promote the Skill Show at the Parkway Shelter Courtyard.
Part 5: Developing Business Plan
In this component, we concentrated on preparing business plans. We worked in teams and were responsible in preparing plans for a social enterprise or business. The team members presented their plans to the group during a role playing activity. This exercise helped them gather ideas for their own future social enterprise or business plans.
Part 6: Evaluating Success
In this component, program participants reflected on their achievements. They discussed their own personal experiences, the effectiveness of their products and the importance of charitable giving. We praised their achievements and pointed out any personal growth that we have noticed. We asked the following questions: What worked for you? What would you do differently next time? What have you learned through this program?
Our project offered an excellent opportunity for individuals to spend their time productively. At the same time they begin to believe in themselves and take pride in their abilities. As our Foundation offers opportunities to develop leadership skills to youth attending our programs, Lookout Emergency Aid's leadership and contributions are an excellent example of people working together.
Many thanks to Lookout Emergency Aid Society for their long-standing dedication, excellence in customer service, and generosity to our community. We feel extremely blessed to have been given the opportunity by Lookout to engage with the community in such an important way, and to have youth in the community volunteering. At Amazing Tutors Children's Foundation, we believe that providing our students with positive and community based volunteer activities is an essential part of their development growing into responsible and capable citizens. We feel that meaningful engagement with students and volunteers supports crime reduction, and increases positive behavior, self-confidence, academic-related outcomes and overall healthy child and youth development. Through the prism of God's perfection, he casts a rainbow of grace, mercy and justice; and our souls are colored with the perfect faith he created for us. We look forward to partnering together in the future by bringing unity, brotherhood, hope, and happiness to the family of man. Together we create a world of caring and consideration in our community.
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