Could for-profit entrepreneurs be convinced and supported to consider deliberate social impact as part of their businesses? Bold and innovative organizations like Charity Humanitarian Centre „Abkhazeti” Georgia (CHCA) seek to take on the challenge and answer this question in practice.
CHCA is a Georgian non-profit established in 1995 that aims to improve the livelihoods of conflict-affected and other socially vulnerable people. During more than 20 years of existence, CHCA has led numerous initiatives to empower internally displaced people, migrants, former inmates and vulnerable youth to start economic independent activities that contributed to their social and economic integration. CHCA is a longstanding and reputable organization in Georgia headquartered in Tbilisi, managing five regional offices.
During the past two years, they have embarked on a journey to explore social business as a vehicle to lead vulnerable youth towards an independent life. In their quest to find the appropriate inclusion and business development models, the organization carried out a number of study visits and in-depth interviews with landmark organizations in Europe. Following this research stage, CHCA decided to partner with two other non-profits, Divine Child Foundation and Society Biliki, and select five traditional entrepreneurs in their pilot program, with the goal of jointly establishing new social ventures that would train and employ vulnerable youth.
In the newly established entities, they set up a joint governance structure to manage the operations. The for-profit owners are in charge of the business strategy, but their activity is being overseen by a Board of Directors formed by CHCA, Divine Child, Society Biliki and the commercial enterprise. While not interfering with commercial strategy, the non-profit leaders get to watch the unfolding of the social mission for each social venture, retaining the right to veto any action that might compromise social impact in the future.
Social Impact: Looking Forward
We have been invited by CHCA to host a workshop for these traditional entrepreneurs – now shareholders and managers of social ventures. For two days, we dived deep into topics centered around Social Impact:
- How does the stakeholder landscape change for a social venture compared to a traditional for-profit? How to respond to these changes?
- What is quantitative and qualitative deliberate social impact and how to measure it?
- What is fundraising and how to attract more support to accomplish the social mission?
Georgian entrepreneurs are curious and inquisitive by nature, but we knew this already. What surprised us though was their attitude towards the new experience of being part of a socially driven organization. Their interventions and questions during the two days of workshop painted a picture of people that perceived deliberate social impact within a business as something mysterious and unexplored. More than that, their many concerns revealed genuine interest and care for their vulnerable employees as fellow human beings, and a desire to get those questions answered to advance on their way to foster a positive environment that would enable vulnerable youth to grow.
The integration of vulnerable employees in a predominantly for-profit workplace is a topic largely discussed in the ecosystem that could hardly be addressed in one iteration. However, we trust that our tailored agenda set these organizations on their path to explore the value and opportunities of their joint board membership.
There is a fair amount of work to be done to ensure social impact would become the fabric of the newly established entities and the challenge has just started for the Board Members. However, CHCA undertook a large and meaningful role in introducing commercial enterprises to social impact and we trust their ability to guide the leadership into discovering the core values of integrated support. We applaud them for their courage and their appetite to innovate and wish them best of luck with this endeavor!