Longitudinal Examination of Newcomer-serving Social Enterprises (LENS) is a research study that focuses on Employment Social Enterprises (ESEs) or Work Integration Social Enterprises (WISEs) and the impact they have on the newcomer and BIPOC populations in overcoming socioeconomic barriers. In partnership with the University of Michigan, The Immigrant Education Society (TIES) will assess the extent to which social enterprises, including WISE, assist immigrant, Black and other racialized Canadians to overcome socioeconomic barriers and help determine if social enterprises are appropriate providers to assist these underrepresented groups.
LENS aims to:
Work integration social enterprises (WISEs) are a common sub-category of social enterprises that have “a social mission to directly support vulnerable community members who are facing exclusion from the labour market” (Canadian Community Economic Development Network, 2022, p. 2), such as “those with intellectual or physical disabilities and other disadvantaged groups, including the long-term unemployed, back into the labour market and society through a productive activity” (Cooney et al., 2022). Social enterprises engage people in multiple ways, unlike the more confined employee and client relationships in a traditional business. The same individual may have multiple, intersecting connections to a social enterprise, as a member, recipient of training, employment, and services, or employee or volunteer. Social enterprises in Alberta have an average of 68 individual members and 22 organizational memberships (Elson et al., 2015).
WISEs are often employed by human service organizations to help vulnerable groups gain access to the labour market by providing them with various employment skills and opportunities. WISEs targeting black and racialized communities have a pivotal role in fortifying communities. They do so by promoting fuller integration of its members, socially and economically. These are paramount, especially for communities often vulnerable, such as racialized groups. Addressing their economic challenges and integrating them into the wider community framework is essential.
The LENS project represents a vital step forward in understanding and optimizing the role of WISEs in supporting Canada's racialized communities. By generating a robust evidence base and fostering collaborative partnerships, the project aims to drive meaningful, long-lasting change for some of Canada's most vulnerable populations. Many emerging initiatives across Canada are actively developing WISE to cater to immigrant communities. These various projects, however, are in the early stages of adoption, with best practices yet to be established and approaches still needing to be optimized. Therefore, many could benefit from a broad base longitudinal analysis and evaluation to identify strategies and practices that can ensure their effectiveness and positive impact.
Beginning in March 2023, TIES Research & Program Development Team have been seeking to identify the characteristics of social enterprises serving immigrant and BIPOC communities and understand their impacts in assisting immigrants and BIPOC communities in overcoming socioeconomic barriers.
Development of Toolkit
Canadian Community Economic Development Network. (2022). Alleviating homelessness: Quasi-experimental study. https://ccednet-rcdec.ca/sites/ccednet-rcdec.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/CCEDNet-WISE-Final-Report.pdf
Cooney, K., Nyssens, M., & O’Shaughnessy, M. (2022). Work integration and social enterprises. UNTFSSE Knowledge Hub. https://knowledgehub.unsse.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/Encylopedia-Knowledge_Hub_IY_25_EE.pdf
Elson, P., Hall, P., Sarah Leeson-Klym, Penner, D., & Andres, J. (2015). Social Enterprises in the Canadian West. Canadian Journal of Nonprofit and Social Economy Research. https://www.sfu.ca/~pvhall/pdfs/194-1114-1-PB.pdf
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The Immigrant Education Society (TIES) is located on the traditional territories of the Blackfoot and the people of the Treaty 7 region in Southern Alberta, which includes the Siksika, the Piikuni, the Kainai, the Tsuut’ina and the Stoney Nakoda First Nations, including Chiniki, Bearspaw, and Wesley First Nation. The City of Calgary is also home to the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region III.