How Do Social Enterprises Impact Upon Health and Wellbeing? Some Lessons From CommonHealth
The social enterprise ethos of prioritizing people over profits seems to align closely with disability-based organizations and their sister businesses created to provide vocational training and meaningful activity for clients. Rather than create a workplace tailored to a singular disability group, 541 Eatery & Exchange located in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada aims to deliver on the restaurant’s mandate to ‘welcome everyone around the table’ by fostering a work environment, culture and practices that are attuned to the needs of a diverse population of disabled people as one group among a broader community of paid employees and volunteers.
Through an ethnographic case study and interviews a detailed picture of the successes and limitations of this model emerges as the café balances the demands of addressing food insecurity in a socially and economically challenged neighbourhood while simultaneously providing opportunities to develop new capacities, foster new forms of social encounter and work experience for its paid staff and volunteers. As demonstrated by the restaurant, organizing a business around the collective goal of placing people first and meeting them where they’re at – geographically, but also in terms of their physical, mental, and emotional state on the given day – can create a space of care, dignity, and authentic human connection within which to work while addressing the needs of its community members.