Changing the environment for “social hires” in three (not so easy) phases

Bill Young at CIBC Presents Entrepreneurship 101
Bill Young at CIBC Presents Entrepreneurship 101

Since founding Social Capital Partners in 2001, Bill Young has been a fixture in the social finance scene in this country. After his own “ship came in” (Bill was CEO of Hamilton Computers),  he has been promoting individual social ventures (both non-profit social enterprises and for-profit social purpose businesses) and striving to determine how he can take his initiative to change the social hiring landscape in this country beyond the “interesting magazine article” stage.

On reflection, it appears the efforts of Social Capital Partners came in three distinct phases.

In the first phase, Bill supported four incredibly innovative social ventures with great potential to hire, and thus change the lives of, traditionally marginalized populations.

These ventures included:

Inner City Renovations, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Inner City Renovation is a general contractor and construction manager. It offers a complete range of services in the commercial and residential markets. Projects have ranged in size from a few thousand dollars to more than half a million dollars.

Atira Property Management, Vancouver, BC
Atira Property Management Inc. offers quality property management services for strata corporations, developers, rental properties, non-profit housing, and housing cooperatives in Greater Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

As one of the first mission-driven companies of its kind in Canada, Atira Property Management is a social enterprise that grew out of Atira Women’s Resource Society. All profits from Atira Property Management are used to fund the Society’s housing and support programs for women and children who are rebuilding their lives after domestic violence.

TurnAround Couriers, Toronto, ON
TurnAround Couriers is a professional and socially responsible bicycle courier service in Toronto. They have been providing “exceptional service at competitive rates” while changing the lives of at-risk youth since 2002. TurnAround Couriers recruits only at-risk youth for all its bicycle courier positions and back office staff. This affords job-ready young people a chance to gain the experience, confidence and financial means they need. But TurnAround Couriers is not a charity — it is a competitive, growing business with a heart.

Renaissance, Quebec
Renaissance is a charitable organization whose mission involves the professional and social reintegration of people having difficulties joining the labour market. It accomplishes this mission, in part, by operating a Montreal-based chain of second hand stores called Fripe-Prix. Every year, approximately 200 employment-training participants are employed in these stores for six months and then placed in private sector employment. The stores provide affordable clothing and household items to the community while creating employment opportunities for individuals with significant employment barriers. Renaissance is affiliated with Goodwill International.

What he accomplished in this stage was the proof of concept: that double bottom line ventures that transform lives and make money are possible. The problem – it was labour and time intensive and if we wanted to achieve scale we would have to think differently about the approach.

Phase 2

Bill then strategized about how to engage the for-profit sector. He was uniformly impressed with the people he met operating not-for-profit organizations. Their skills, dedication and commitment were honorable but it was also clear what they were lacking: access to capital and the rolodex to get it.

Then Bill discovered franchises and explored the opportunities they could provide.

He started with Active Green & Ross and added a new dimension to the employment training and placement landscape. His focus was on the needs of the employer, supplemented by the skills of the community services agency, such as the YMCA, that already have a job-ready pool of talent.

This turned out to be a great success so Bill expanded, adding other franchises like Mr. Lube, Nurse Next Door and WeCare.

But what he found next surprised him. Although he was able to provide attractive financing to those who used “social hires” it wasn’t long before the franchises discovered that this was the right thing to do – both for social reasons and because there was a strong business case there. The new franchisees were able to work directly with the YMCA who provided job-ready candidates and ongoing support. Bill’s financing “carrot” was no longer needed.

Cue light bulb! What we really need to do here is to change how HR function works at the entry level. Bill’s next vision: a 10-year plan that sees all FP500 reporting on social hires with existing placement agencies.

In phase 3, MaRS is very pleased to be working with Bill and Social Capital Partners to develop an HR tech algorithm focused on employment outcomes and engaging all the key stakeholders to affect this level of systems transformation.

Downloads and resources

For more information on this and other relevant topics and to answer some of the questions raised at the session, please see:

Weren’t able to attend the class? Need some notes or want to look something up? Click below for all of the goodies from the lecture. Watch the video and the slide presentation below.

CIBC presents Entrepreneurship 101 2009/10 – Week 21 – Lived it Lecture: Bill Young from MaRS Discovery District on Vimeo.