Cross-Posting from the Massachusetts Social Enterprise Networking Group on LinkedIn

So, what do I do in my pre-launch phase, you ask? One of my favorite things is meeting the good people who are taking on social enterprise in so many different ways here in Massachusetts. Here’s a recent meeting I was fortunate to attend and happy to write about on the MASS SENG LinkedIn Group that I help to manage with Anne Wunderli… Read on for the follow-up I shared on LinkedIn:

Event Follow-Up and Thanks to Organizers, Participants and Attendees at MASS SENG’s Panel Discussion “Building Sustainability through Social Enterprise”

Belated thanks to Anne Wunderli
( )
for organizing last Thursday’s inspiring morning meeting,

to co-sponsor Providers’ Council ( ),

and to those involved from Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management ( ), and the University’s NetImpact Club ( ) that helped bring the meeting together.

Our heartfelt thanks also go to the speakers, of course, who were all wonderful ~ each bringing a different and worthwhile perspective. I thought I’d share the website links of all involved here and, before I knew it, added a short description of what they shared! I’ve exceeded the character limit (something I am often guilty of!) so read the first comment for the rest of the details!

Jim Cassetta, President & CEO of Work Inc.

Jim shared his thoughts on the use of best business practices in the operation of Work Inc.’s social enterprise to support the organization’s overall mission. As a non-profit, WORK, Inc. is the sole owner of Facilities Management and Maintenance, Inc. ( ) a for-profit building maintenance company, with 100% of the net profits going back to fund services at WORK, Inc.. Jim described the benefits of employing people with disabilities in positions with a modest skill level as a win-win ~ fulfilling the individual’s need for employment and self esteem, and, through directed training and support, providing the employer with employees with great work habits, pride in their work and longevity.

Suzanne Kenney, Executive Director, Project Place

Suzanne shared her thoughts on the considerations an organization should take into account with regard to potential social enterprise endeavors. First and foremost, she advises that a mission for a social enterprise within a non-profit should match the mission of that non-profit. The social enterprises that fall under Project Place’s umbrella of activities and services (including a cleaning company, a food service company and a vending service company) all consider the barriers to employment for people facing the challenges of chronic homelessness, substance abuse and/or mental and physical health concerns. Through their social enterprise and job training and other support services, Project Place helps those people served to overcome their own personal hurdles in an effort to reach a more dignified, independent point in their lives.

Audrey Higbee, Vice President of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, Center for Human Development
Director of Riverbend Furniture Social Enterprise

Describing the social enterprise as a time-consuming but very worthwhile portion of her agency’s work, Audrey shared the challenges faced over the last year after critical Department of Mental Health funding was lost. She described the stages of change she and her staff experienced, beginning with denial, moving through anger, depression and, finally, to acceptance. While it was heartbreaking to give up many of their workers who were funded through the DMH, Audrey and her Operations Manager at Riverbend have switched their employee mix to include others with different, but important, needs and challenges. Currently, the furniture company employs at-risk students as well as adults who have been in the prison system. Still concerned by the needs of the many people that had to be let go, Audrey shared her interest in uniting efforts in support of changes to the laws regarding employment of disabled workers in our state.

Jodi Rosenbaum, Founder and Director, More Than Words Social Enterprise

Founder and Director of this younger organization, Jodi Rosenbaum shared her perspective launching and leading a smaller-sized social enterprise, a used book store and coffee shop run by at-risk teens. For More Than Words, the focus is on self-efficacy, education and employment. Jodi pointed out that the books are merely a vehicle for the organization’s mission, improving the work skills and social skills of the young people whom More Than Words serves each year, and their sense of self-worth and hope for the future in the process. Through the authentic responsibility that comes with playing an integral role in a youth-run business, those young people who go through the MTW programs have an increased chance to surpass some discouraging statistics which Jodi shared describing the possible outcomes for most youth who have been court-involved, in the foster system or homeless.

Nearly 50 attendees, including members of our LinkedIn group, gathered in the Zinner Forum at Brandeis’ Heller School for Social Policy and Management, contributing to a worthwhile “question and answer” session after the panel discussion. So, thanks to all who attended as well.

I’d say it was certainly time well spent!


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