Marina Giacomin on Venturing into the World of Social Enteprise

In the following guest blog post, social enterprise practitioner Marina Giacomin explains why she is attending the Enterprising Spirit Conference on November 17.

As an experienced social worker and agency leader for over 20 years I’ve never had any difficulty with the “social” cause, or vision of the Social Enterprise business I lead at Servants Anonymous Calgary.

However, where my “social work” brain struggles at times is with the “enterprise business” part!  Like an explorer, I find myself discovering strange, new worlds and learning a new language on a daily basis.

Where before, “hospitality” merely meant being welcoming, kind and inviting to the people who came to us for help, now as I lead a Social Enterprise events and catering service, it has also come to mean stock and inventory, profit and loss statements, and social return on investment.

As a non profit Executive Director, the tenuous nature of funding and how to sustain our social services is something that keeps me (and my Board) awake at night!  Social Enterprise can be an important key to changing this experience.

A successful social enterprise not only provides opportunities for people to develop in their understanding of a community’s issues; but also provides a pathway for the greater sustainability of social programs and services.

Two things I’ve learned so far:

Get the right people into the right positions – yes, social services folks should be staff in your social enterprise business but should they manage it, or manage it alone? The world is full of “corporate refugees” – business minded and experienced people looking for a way to use their skills and gifts in greater service to the community!  Find them!

It is challenging but crucial to adjust your “non profit” mindset in your social enterprise – a coach I once had told me that social service workers sometimes begin to mirror the issues we are serving in.  Example – the scarcity mindset (not enough funding), or struggle for sustainable funding, is not that different from the struggle to make ends meet, pay the rent, and feed the kids that many of our clients experience.  People in successful social enterprises think outside the box, are innovative and willing to experiment or take mindful risks. This is the challenge for our boards, our staff, and ourselves as we venture into the world of Soc Ent!

I’m excited to attend the Enterprising Spirit Conference on November 17 and learn from people who can help me expand the horizons of my agency’s social enterprise business. And I’m excited to meet with other newbie adventurers – to share our ideas and dreams for the sustainability of our work in making the world a better place.  See you there!

Marina Giacomin MA, RSW

Executive Director

Servants Anonymous Society Calgary and Fireworks Cooperative

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