Social enterprise: another type of organization

Social enterprise: another type of organization

Meet The Orenda Tribe, the enterprise that’s changing children’s reality through art

The Orenda Tribe | Photo courtesy of Zaid Souqi

In a world where competition and profit are always on the top of discussions for many business corporations, another type of organization is gaining space and is being considered the fourth sector split - after the already existing ones (government, profit and non-profit).

We are talking about social enterprise, which mixes philanthropic and cooperative meanings and can be found in different categories. A social enterprise organization will look for generating sales of goods or providing services, but having social impact as its primary goal. Therefore, it is different from a company which has indirect involvement with social causes – in this case it is a consequence and not a cause for their business whereas, in a social enterprise, the collective and community will be part of their mission and vision.

Although the idea is not necessarily new, some factors have allowed the concept finding fertile soil nowadays. Internet is one of them, which has definitely a huge impact on how we communicate with others and respond to situations; internet is responsible for giving a total new meaning to social interaction.

A second impact is higher unemployment rates, especially among young people. A survey conducted in 2013 by the RBS group in the UK - announced in 2016 as one of the three best countries for social enterprises (just behind the US and Canada) -, was already giving some data about what could be expected for the next years. For example, in the report it was observed that young people among the economically active population was more enthusiast to start a social enterprise (54% compared to 36% of the general population). Five years after, some turned the plan into reality and the 2017 State of Social Enterprise Report confirmed this, as “25% of social enterprises are under 3 years old, three times the proportion of start-ups compared to SMEs (8%). Almost four in ten social enterprises are five years old or less, showing that the start-up wave continues.” And this can be seen in other not so obvious places. In the MENA region, for example, there are some good initiatives changing the landscape and creating opportunities, such as The Orenda Tribe, which’s empowering children through art.

The Orenda Tribe: social responsibility to build a better future

Kids drawing at The Orenda Tribe | Photo courtesy of Zaid Souqi

In 2015, Zaid Souqi was in South Africa serving at an NGO which helps orphans & vulnerable children in rural communities. Around the same time, he was finishing his MBA and was introduced to social entrepreneurship’ ideas. Both would be the core basis for The Orenda Tribe - and only nine months passed from its conceptualization until its launch in the market. Their product? A T-shirt, but one with an interesting concept behind.

The Orenda Tribe’s projects include Art Education, Art Therapy and School Beautification in partnership with communities, and it is the art created by children in refugee camps and deprived communities that stamps the shirts. The idea serves different purposes: linking people from advantaged and disadvantaged parts of the world while raising awareness about those children and their community realities, plus allowing art related activities in those places - since part of the generated revenue is reverted to the projects. But why Art? According to Zaid, “We realised that art is a great tool to break barriers between different communities, therefore we added that aspect to our mission. Today our mission is to both empower children and break barriers between communities through art”. Not less important is talking about their environmental responsibility, as the shirts are 100% organic cotton and packaged with recycled materials.

Naturally, as a new business and as a social enterprise, they still face a lot of challenges, such as learning about design and fashion; there is a constant learning and taking customer’s feedback is important. Offering a top quality and fashionable product is crucial and directly correlated to what represents their cause: “We also have customers from more than 18 different nationalities. I guess this is the beauty of art. Art is a universal language that doesn't know age, country or social group. Everyone speaks art”, adds Zaid. Simultaneously followed by their customers, come the children’s impact: until now 1,796 children have been beneficiated through 17 projects in 6 different communities.

Zaid Souqi | Photo courtesy
Kids wearing The Orenda Tribe's shirts | Photo courtesy of Zaid Souqi

 

The Orenda Tribe's shirts | Photo courtesy of Zaid Souqi

 

Participation at E4SC

The Orenda Tribe’s philosophy is not a lonely echo and its voice has started to produce some good initiatives. Imagine receiving an exclusive and intensive week training and having the opportunity to exchange experience with entrepreneurs from around the world? This plus a 12 months mentoring is what the E4SC (Entrepreneurs for Social Change), which took place in Turin in November 2017, offered to twenty-five young entrepreneurs aged from 18 to 35 years old. The project, funded by Fondazione CRT, received more than 500 applications from 26 countries in the Euro-Mediterranean region, and the 25 entrepreneurs selected came from 17 countries. The Orenda Tribe had the opportunity to be selected, as Alep Studio.

The aim was to support the social changes these young professionals want to achieve by focusing on “sharing an in-depth experience with their peers, presenting their projects to potential investors, become role-models for future entrepreneurs”, according to Massimo Lapucci, Secretary General of Fondazione CRT. It definitely is an opportunity for those who have been bold until here and are continuously seeking for how to take the next step. “Being around like-minded people and in a program created by two huge institutions who believe in the power of social entrepreneurship is such an empowering experience that fuelled me to put more effort into The Orenda Tribe and hopefully have a bigger impact” concluded Zaid.

Why to invest in a social entrepreneurship project?

In 2012, Time magazine had already written that companies can no long afford to ignore their social responsibility:

“Ten years ago, for instance, only about a dozen Fortune 500 companies issued a CSR (corporate social responsibility) or sustainability report. Now the majority does. More than 8,000 businesses around the world have signed the UN Global Compact pledging to show good global citizenship in the areas of human rights, labor standards and environmental protection. The next generation of business leaders is even more likely to prioritize CSR.”

This only confirms what we already know: the world is in constant change and humanity keeps in its cycle of creating problems, finding solutions, creating new problems, finding new solutions. Social entrepreneurship is a reality and a consequence of what we have caused: overpopulation, wars, climate change, poverty, lack of resources etc. All these reasons are a call for taking action and those who can see the bigger picture have already started it.

Investors and customers are getting more involved with companies, not limiting themselves only by a shareholder or purchaser role; they want to be part of a community and are aware of the social and environment impacts that companies are making or not. Likewise, this type of organization has some new business advantages compared to the other three, as bigger impacts will be linked to bigger financial gains.

Candidates looking for jobs are following the same thought of investors and customers; money is not everything anymore and working in an environment where they can add value and feel their work has impact make social organizations the perfect fit. In the long scale, they will be the ones able to retain the best talents and stimulate diversity. Continuing what the last Social Enterprise Survey in the UK showed, “social enterprises also had more inclusive and diverse leadership with 40% of social enterprises led by women; 31% reporting Black Asian Minority Ethnic directors and 40% having a director with a disability. Meanwhile, 41% of social enterprises created jobs in the past 12 months, compared to 22% of SMEs, and 59% of social enterprises employ at least one person who is disadvantaged in the labour market”.

What this new type of company has been showing is that their involvement with the future is in every single part of their values, thinking about impacting now and in the next years: workers, customers, society, the planet. Although Zaid reminds us that there still is a lot of stigma and that many people still don’t understand the concept behind it and automatically relates it to non-profit, he’s optimist about the potential and the impact they can make: “For a social enterprise to be sustainable and succeed, other businesses have to treat it as a business. (…) ORENDA means a mystical force present in all people that empowers them to affect the world, or to effect change in their own lives. We all have one. Find your ORENDA and start making change”.

Want to know more about the Orenda Tribe? Follow them on Instagram The Orenda Tribe or access their website: www.theorendatribe.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Alep, Aleppo, Halab: the story we want to tell

It is when we are challenged that we have the opportunity to grow the most. Think about some successful stories. They might have different approaches, take more or less time to reach a goal, face small or big problems, but all of them have a point in common: positivity. If you fall, you stand up. If someone tells you no, you insist on looking for yes. If a door closes, you open a window. Therefore, it is with the same positive spirit that we aim to tell a different story of the place that inspired our brand’s name and its people.

No doubt the war that transformed the Syrian landscape is something that we all would like to avoid; however once it is a reality it is up to us to write a new chapter now. After all, expertise and culture are things that can’t be destroyed. And that’s what many Syrians who resettled in other countries have brought, within the will to rebuild their businesses. We know the quality of Syrian products and artefacts, such as F&B and Textile & Garments, and that’s why we strongly believe that they can compete in the international market. Our job is to make it possible by giving them the necessary tools to adapt to the new environment.

Kids playing in front of collapsed buildings. Source: Instagram Aleppo to the world | Credits: @muhammad.bazerkan

It is a challenge focusing on the positive aspects of a culture when the world is talking about what the war has done to a whole country; however it is a matter of someone start to remind everybody about its particular features then. We consider part of our responsibility having a social engagement with the Syrian community and we want to spread the same spirit around all our projects, to our clients all over the world. The advantages of beginning as a start-up and with such passion is that we adapt fast and have attention to the tinniest details, something that many big companies have lost or find difficult to follow up with due projects’ size they take or even because of inflexible terms & conditions. At Alep we work as co-creators and collaborators because we don’t want to just deliver a service; we want to get involved in every aspect of our client’s ambitions.

The story we want to tell is the representation of thousands of voices which had to endure tough experiences, but are not defined by them. Strong, creative and independent voices, that’s what they are. And next time someone asks “What about Aleppo?” may the answer be related to its rich heritage and beauty, definitely represented by our work and values.

Tourath House | Source: Instagram Aleppo to the world | Credits: Daniel Demeter

 

Source: Instagram Aleppo to the world | Credits: @abdo_hajj_ahmad.photography

 

Source: Instagram Aleppo to the world | Credits: @legongsorcier

* Opening image source: Instagram Aleppo to the world | Credits: @catherineward22