On the brink of business and charity: this is how we can define what stands behind the word “social entrepreneurship”. And if you want to see a functioning social enterprise with your own eyes, you should go to “Social Enterprise “Business Training Centre” Public Union, Poltava. Not a stranger in this area, the well-known Ukrainian organization found a like-minded partner and received financial support from the international technical assistance project “Partnership for Local Economic Development and Democratic Governance” (PLEDDG).
Assistance provided to small and medium-sized businesses, especially when it refers to socially-oriented entrepreneurship, is among PLEDDG’s key activities. This is so because social entrepreneurship is a completely different approach to addressing topical social issues.
— Our enterprise is named “Social Enterprise “Business Training Centre”. It was founded in October 2014. The enterprise is socially-oriented. Women discharged from detention facilities, adaptation centers, IDPs, and women just suffering from difficult life circumstances come here to find employment. Some of them stay with us, while others move on. Currently, the enterprise has 15 employees, and we additionally involve specialists to fulfill certain positions. The enterprise is oriented to finished textile production output. Our partner is a French brand IKKS. Now we are working on the terms of customer-supplied raw materials. It means that they deliver all and everything to us: from prototype models to sewings and buttons. The volume of our produce is 3 000–5 000 items per month. Currently, we are working to have our own end-product output. We do experimental finished sewing of T-shirts and bed cloths. Also, we want to obtain a license for training activities. And we are creating our own trademark, under which we are planning to have our own produce output for Ukrainian market, – said Maryna Smirnova, manager of the project “Professional training and creation of additional jobs for women from socially vulnerable groups based on social entrepreneuship. Social entrepreneurship development in Poltava”.
The project submitted by the Public Union was one of the winners of PLEDDG-organized competition and received a grant from PLEDDG SME Fund Grant Program. The purchase of new equipment, provision of training sessions, advisory assistance – these are only some of the measures taken in the framework of its implementation.
— The objective of this project is to enhance economic capacity of women from vulnerable populations, in particular, of those discharged from detention facilities, women suffering domestic violence etc. We train them and then employ these women. PLEDDG Project has opened new opportunities for us. We want to manufacture our own produce; we are opening our own design centre. We have great and ambitious plans, – said Roman Drozd, Executive Director of CO “Light of Hope”.
Even a small-scale study is enough to reveal how difficult it is for women from socially vulnerable groups (drug addicts, HIV-infected, or former prisoners) to find a job these days. The process of their social adaptation is hampered by the rampant problem related to seeking breadwinning opportunities. Being afraid of condemnation or rejection by potential employers, they do not know where to look for a job. “Social Enterprise “Business Training Centre” Public Union helps women from socially vulnerable groups not only get a job but also study, change or improve their professional skills without feeling condemned or pressed by the management or colleagues.
— I’ve been discharged from prison recently. At the moment I’m living in the adaptation center. When imprisoned, we were visited by representatives of this enterprise and told about an opportunity to come to the adaptation center and get employed here. As soon as I was discharged, I came here, and though I did not have a permanent job, I was employed as cleaning lady to be able to earn some money. This week I began working as a seamstress. While I was working as a cleaning lady, I had an opportunity to get acquainted with everyone. And here I don’t feel that I’m not like others. Everyone speaks to me and treats me in a good manner, – said Claudia Korsa, a seamstress.
She adds that she got familiar with the profession of a seamstress when she was serving her sentence in prison.
— While in prison, I sewed products made of coarse fabric only, whereas here the materials are soft and I must be very careful. Of course, I’m a bit stressed out but it’s very interesting for me and I like this job.
Natalia Pavlikevych, also a seamstress, shared her story.
— I’ve been working here for more than two years. As soon as I was discharged from prison, I was employed here in a couple of days. I like the job, though I’ve never worked in this area before. But I learned how to sew when I was in prison. Here I work as a seamstress. When I came here for the first time, we sewed pants. Now we sew clothes: dresses, twinsets, trousers. I like sewing twinsets the most. I like my colleagues. Newcomers are taught by masters, but we help them to adapt psychologically.
The project, which is supported by PLEDDG Project, is aimed at solving such problems as social inequality and social isolation, economic instability of vulnerable populations. Poltava, a partner city to PLEDDG Project, is a good case for many people, especially due to the fact that the local authorities have been actively and efficiently providing support to local social enterprises. For instance, “Light of Hope” charity organization, which is one of the founders of “Social Enterprise “Business Training Centre” Public Union, enjoys preferential terms for leasing premises, constant attention and a prompt response to all its applications from the local council.
It is in Poltava where in early February a kick-off meeting of Ukrainian social entrepreneurs took place, which was aimed at joining efforts of social enterprises, attracting resources, and fostering the development of social entrepreneurship in Ukraine. The event was organized by the “Light of Hope” charity organization in cooperation with PLEDDG Project.
— Social entrepreneurship is on the rise in Ukraine now. Cities where social entrepreneurship is popular include Kyiv, Lviv, and Poltava. It is very important. It means there are more jobs for disadvantaged social groups. And this is not about social support only, but also the psychological one. I think that authorities of any city should support social entrepreneurship initiatives. Poltava local authorities are in close cooperation with “Light of Hope” charity organization and are planning to further support these and similar projects, Tetiana Yurchenko, Poltava Deputy Mayor on Social and Economic Issues, said.