Social enterprise is community – Jordan C. Stewart

Jordan C Stewart_blogphoto

As a 2014 Farber Intern, I had the opportunity to meet and listen to some incredible individuals whom we serve. Hearing their stories made me think…a job, no matter who you are, should never be taken for granted. Someone took a chance on you. Someone believed that you were capable of supporting and advancing their organization. Someone wanted to give you a chance. Someone wanted to help you develop into something greater. Someone wanted you to be part of their community. This summer, I realized it is this community aspect that could change someone’s life forever and makes a social enterprise job, more than ‘just a job.’

While we often get so caught up with the job and surrounding supports, the community aspect is equally important and should not be overlooked in the social enterprise context. While at a cost to the social enterprise, these organizations give more than just a job, they give a series of wraparound supports which makes social enterprise not just about jobs, but about being a part of a supportive community.

The Friday before Father’s Day, I was invited to a REDF portfolio organization’s Father’s Day and Employee of the Month luncheon. Sitting in a half circle, the social enterprise director acknowledged the employees for their hard work and led a conversation on the importance of being a father and having a father-like figure in your life. The entire group of employees listened and shared their personal experiences followed by a fantastic barbecue with storytelling and laughter. It was at that moment I realized that social enterprise is not just a job to the employees. Social enterprise is community. It is an opportunity for these individuals to come together to learn from and share with one another. It is a community that cares for, is open with, and supports everyone who is willing to be part of it and make a change. I believe that for social enterprises to be successful, and to maximize the impact they make on their employees, they must make creating a community a priority.

The best social enterprises create communities by offering supportive programming to supplement the jobs and by prioritizing a welcoming and open environment where all judgments are left at the door.. . One of the challenges social enterprises have is the ability to stay in contact with employees after their social enterprise employment. If a community is created that is welcoming to all at any stage in one’s life, then I believe that employees will voluntarily come back to seek guidance, touch base, and give back to the place where their new beginning started.

Creating a community is as important as the job itself.  The support, the personal development opportunities, and the ‘at home’ feeling is integral to the overall long-term success of the employees. For future Farbers or practitioners in this industry, I recommend getting out and experiencing the power of the communities these social enterprises create. It will remind you just how important a job is, and also, how important a supportive community is to the overall success of individuals.

Jordan C. Stewart is an MBA student at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University where she held the position of Project Leader and Finalist for the Kellogg Impact Consulting Club. Currently, she is the Co-President of the Women’s Business Association and VP of Careers for the Kellogg Student Association.  She is also an active member of Kellogg’s Net Impact, Social Entrepreneurship, and Run-Bike-Swim clubs.  Prior to business school, Jordan was at  Deloitte Consulting LLP as a Human Capital Senior Consultant, where she worked on talent development and organization transformation projects.  As a 2014 Farber Intern, she created learning modules for redfworkshop.org, a knowledge platform website that will launch early 2015, and is designed to help establish social enterprise as a replicable, scalable and sustainable workforce development model.

This is part of our Farber Blog Series.