Did you know May is Social Enterprise Month in B.C.? And what better time for us to unveil an exciting program that we’ve been working on for the past year.

It’s tentatively called the Aboriginal Social Enterprise Program (ASE) and it’s all about amplifying the entrepreneurial spark in Aboriginal communities throughout B.C. We hope to formally launch the program as an independent Aboriginally-led social enterprise later in 2016. Our vision is to see the Aboriginal Communities lead a thriving social enterprise sector in Canada.

Why Do This?

Unfortunately the gap in employment for Aboriginal Peoples in British Columbia and in Canada as a whole remains unacceptable. Disturbing levels of poverty persist and we need to change that, together, in the spirit of Reconciliation, but where to begin?

Meaningful employment, consistent with cultural and community values, respecting the natural spirit of innovation that has been the hallmark of Indigenous Peoples, is a great place to start. People naturally want to support themselves, their families and communities, and they want to do it in a way that is aligned with their beliefs and values, while reinvesting in Community. The new ASE program will focus on helping to create not just jobs, but livelihoods. It’s about reaching out to and better supporting Aboriginal Entrepreneurs and supporting thriving social enterprises.

Social…What?

Social enterprise is a recent term for something Indigenous Peoples have been doing since time immemorial. Valuing family, environment and collaboration, and business that focuses on not just the bottom line, but also on bettering the community.

We’ve designed the ASE Program to help harness that natural strength and ability; providing the right kind of support and outreach, and channeling it into entrepreneurial endeavors. It’s not about a ‘handout’, it’s not about ‘outreach’ and it’s definitely not about sharing stuffy business plans and guidelines crafted in formal boardroom language. That stuff doesn’t work—we know this.

Support and expertise that will travel to you!

Unearthing budding social entrepreneurs isn’t about connecting online or handing out jargon filled textbooks or slide decks—it’s about eye-to-eye, face to face, real human contact. It’s about acknowledging that people belong in their communities and shouldn’t need to leave home or jump through hoops to access this kind of program. Rather, ASE will come to them—our focus is “inreach” rather than outreach.

Second, it’s about communicating better, in ways that take Aboriginal ways of learning and knowing into account. We need to translate westernized business language and strip away the jargon.

Third, it’s about getting out of the way. Our vision is that the ASE program be run for Aboriginal peoples, by Aboriginal people. We will bring knowledgeable Aboriginal mentors into communities and connect them with passionate entrepreneurs of the future. From there the magic starts and as ideas for businesses start to take shape and evolve. Ultimately, once these businesses take root and become successful, we hope to see this cycle of support, collaboration and growth repeat naturally.

What’s Next? We Need You.

So, how do we get there? We have a solid plan in place, and we’re ready to get rolling.

And, we’re ready to hire. Our first hire will be our most critical—we are looking to engage an Aboriginal Executive Director, a leader who will ultimately steward this program and manage a team of 4-5 other employees.

We are also inviting potential partners and funders into the conversation with us, to help us continue to shape the program

This is a journey we’re excited to be on, together. If you are a passionate potential partner who wants to collaborate and help improve the future for Aboriginal communities, we want to talk to you.

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