SEBI Overview

How SEBI got started

An islandwide search for business ventures with a social mission; Project Manager Jennifer Sharrier, takes us through how SEBI began.

What was the main goal of the ‘Call’ for proposals’?

The aim was to identify and invite those organizations with a social and/or environmental mission (who were exploring ways to become financially sustainable) to apply to participate in SEBI’s three year business development and technical capacity building programme, one which would facilitate and support the growth and development of social enterprises in Jamaica.

Did you specify areas of interest?

No, the field was open; however we were looking for organizations that addressed social needs; were focused on economic growth and development, and/or were interested in environmental sustainability. These organisations had to be far-reaching, or had to have the potential to reach a large number of under-served communities/groups. There were some restrictions based on the social enterprise guidelines – for example, we would not consider businesses that were purely for personal benefit; affiliated with government; geared to assist beneficiaries outside of Jamaica; or if the proposed products or services infringed, in anyway, on environmental laws and regulations. We also looked at whether the organization had received previous funding, and if it had been put to good use.

What was the response like?

We received 90 applications from all parishes, except Portland and Hanover. Most were formally registered and included NGO’s, community based groups, co-operatives and limited liability companies. Some were established with revenue generating initiatives, some were startups while others were purely concepts which needed to be developed. The majority was in agro-processing, business resource centres, agriculture, recycling, tourism and education.The social missions were varied and included community regeneration, job creation, environmental protection and sustainable farming.

SEBI sought to select no more than ten projects, why?

It is an intense programme launched in an environment that is not particularly enabling for social enterprise. And while the focus is on these projects (business development, implementation, mentoring and training), it is also about lobbying and advocacy to create that enabling environment, so there is a lot of work to be done in many areas. So it was agreed that no more than ten was optimum, allowing us to achieve our goals by June 2015.

In a nutshell, who are the projects selected?

We selected a very diverse and interesting group from several parishes. It was a good representation of what a social enterprise can be – focusing on youth, employment, disabled and the disadvantaged; and involved in a variety of areas from agriculture, agro processing, training, empowerment, skills development to furniture making. They include: Grotto Community Development Committee, Mustard Seed, Dress for Success, Ulster Spring Women’s group, The Source, Superior Crafts and More, MultiCare Foundation and the Network of Women for Food Security.

What were some of the things you learnt about the sector?

Most relied heavily on donor funding, and had no income generating streams.Others operated on a very informal level. Some were just ‘doing a thing’ such as Grotto which was producing fresh juices for sale on a very small scale. The Ulster Spring Women’s Group was quite unique, it started as a hobby of enterprising women in the community who liked to bake – they would sell cakes and other baked goods, and enter competitions, and the proceeds would then be put towards a community effort. Some were operating within the wrong structure, such as Superior Crafts and More, which was registered as a sole trader, gaining none of the benefits that they were entitled to.

It was a very informative exercise for us as we were able to put together a database and make a full detailed assessment, look at the gaps, and then tailor the programme to serve the needs of not only the ten projects, but also of the social sector.

The SEBI Programme is for three years, what happens after that?

The programme currently has an end date of June 30th, 2015, however the last quarter of the project is to be spent closing all activities and preparing a final report.  This assumes that there would no longer be a need for SEBI, even though there is clear evidence that is not the case.

It is therefore of paramount importance that during the programmes implementation consideration be given to how the Initiative itself can become a sustainable business model, one that does not rely solely on donor funding or grants, especially as the co-operative agreement between USAID and JNBSF will expire.  In addition, many of those projects selected for the programme will need on-going support after June 2015.

Our long-term plan is to establish the Social Enterprise JA (SEJA), a self-sustaining social enterprise which will provide ongoing support to the Projects. SEJA will also offer a range of support and consultancy services to social enterprises in Jamaica and the Caribbean, as well as to the public and private sector.

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