Free Geek Toronto: Shaping a Social Enterprise
(7 pages of text)
In late 2016, the executive director of Free Geek Toronto faced a challenge. Free Geek Toronto was a social enterprise based in Toronto, Ontario. It focused on recycling electronics waste and aimed to use its business profits to expand its scope of operations and deliver on its social mission of both reducing electronics waste going to landfill and employing at-risk and marginalized individuals. As a result, the executive director purposely hired individuals who had severe physical or mental disabilities, or both, and who had recently received, or were currently receiving, disability benefits, had poor health, or experienced general struggles with regular employment. The executive director’s challenges included juggling the financial and social goals of running a work integration social enterprise. In view of the constraints he faced, the executive director began considering whether to call on the assistance of volunteers—people who, despite their well-meaning intentions, might unwittingly disrupt the operation of the enterprise. Should he move forward with recruiting volunteers? If so, how could he ensure that doing so would not adversely affect the organization’s current culture or demoralize the current employees?
This case is suitable for undergraduate and postgraduate courses on social entrepreneurship. It is also suited to an exploration of the limitations of conventional human resources practices, particularly in the setting of a social enterprise. After completion of the case, students will be able to
- assess the potential of changing a social enterprise’s culture;
- identify the trade-offs that social entrepreneurs face, especially those working in a work integration social enterprise;
- discuss the balance between social impact and economic programs; and
- understand and overcome negative perceptions of members of vulnerable groups in society.
Social Advocacy Organizations
Canada, Small, 2016
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