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While technology can at times be a curse, it can also bring much positivity around the world.

One of just the many benefits it has brought to The Connectives of late is its ability to help us spread our results-based knowledge overseas to people who otherwise would have been unable to learn from our experiences.

Of course it would be fantastic to fly around the globe, talking to people and organisations face-to-face, but unfortunately, time and budget restrictions don’t always allow for that. In these instances, Skype works for us and, what’s more, it works really well.

Just recently I was asked to deliver our social enterprise expertise to community leaders in a small town called Antigonish in Canada, as keynote speaker in a webinar.

Over Skype I was able to address members of the Antigonish Poverty Reduction Coalition (APRC), an alliance set up to help alleviate poverty among the hundreds of families in the town living below the poverty line, and also answer their questions.

The alliance, which is keen to address the intractable social issues it faces, was aware of my expertise in this area through a word-of-mouth recommendation from a Canadian-based charity called Tamarack Institute, who I met at a conference in Israel in 2012.

APRC has placed issues such as food poverty, housing, education and health among its work priorities and its members wanted to know how they could be tackled in the most effective way.

What was suggested?

The Connectives has many years’ experience of social enterprises, so we know what works and what doesn’t.

Things are done differently in Canada and North America, where social enterprise is characterised by charity and philanthropy. To this end, I simply encouraged alliance members to look at different models of social enterprises and shared how we bring change in the UK by turning them into businesses that can make profits, which are then ploughed back into the community for a social purpose.

I very much believe that APRC would benefit from tackling the longstanding social issues it is facing in the town with a business led approach, which will not only provide a service to those living there, but also create jobs in an area of high unemployment.

Social enterprises are typically closer to the communities they serve than traditional public sector services and can engage more readily with individuals in them. They are therefore ideal for addressing specific areas of need such as childcare, food security and health and wellness.

Sadly, Antigonish has a poverty rate of 43%. Some 415 individuals out of 973 are struggling with poverty and 360 families live below the poverty line.

APRC is desperately trying to find a way of creating and managing social enterprises to bring positive change to the town. During our webinar, I was able to tell them about community projects like the Trussell Trust and the success it’s had in helping feed people, who are struggling in the UK, through its foodbanks. I also explained how community enterprises, such as charity shops and recycling centres, are successful here not only in terms of generating funds but also in supporting people with mental, social, learning and physical difficulties.

It’s been a real honour to gift them our expertise as part of our more-than-for-profit work. Being able to support social entrepreneurs around the world in harnessing their energy, drive and passion to deliver improvements to living, health and wellbeing is part of what we do.

The feedback I got was fantastic and I was delighted to hear that the groups’ members came away extremely inspired and enthused by our new ideas. I look forward to hearing how they are put into action in the future.

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