OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

What if local businesses and social enterprises pledge to hire a person in need?

What if every social enterprise pledged to hire one man or woman in need for a year program? We want to create a platform that makes it easy

Photo of Karyn Suwito
28 10

Written by

Who does this idea benefit, who are the main players and what's in it for them?

These programs will benefit women and men who have just graduated from job ready programs through other non profit organizations and can't find jobs. Social enterprises should act as a stepping stone and help introduce them to a traditional workforce. They will be able to learn the skills they need to excel their financial and working knowledge. Social enterprises will also be able to asses their individual strengths for jobs in the future. There will be room for expansion in the private sector

How is your idea specifically using the power of communities to improve financial opportunities and resources?

This idea specifically uses the power of communities to improve financial opportunities and resources because job experience is crucial in achieving both. As a community it is a small responsibility that everyone can take to change someones life. Organizations like the Downtown Women's Center and Chrysalis do a great job in providing job training and resume building but not every student that graduates from their programs wants to do the work that they have. Everyone has a different dream job.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

We could survey surrounding small business and social enterprises to see if they would be willing to take on one new employee and for what time frame? is one year too long? how much would they be able to pay them? is a mentorship a few days a week more likely? SOWN is a social enterprise that wants to do this work and not make social enterprises the dichotomy of earning money from one thing, and funneling it to the next. We want to practice what we preach and give women first hand experience.

What skills, input or guidance might you be seeking from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

We want to create a program so that it is easy for every social enterprise to hire on or mentor a man or woman in need. It shouldn't be a burden but a joy to give someone the opportunity to learn the skills and open up new financial opportunities and resources. Personal financial tips that you've grown up learning would be so valuable. We would be seeking expertise from the OpenIDEO community in how to create this platform and how to give these women the best tools to move forward.

This idea emerged from:

  • A student project or collaboration
Image title











UPDATES BELOW 5/14/15

Supporting Opportunities for Women in Need (SOWN) founders, Karyn Suwito and Tammy Sanchez, share a common goal to empower women by creating a path toward financial independence.

SOWN’s first product is a multi-purpose baby wrap produced by women who have completed job-ready programs conducted by Los Angeles organizations such as Chrysalis or the Downtown Women’s Center.  Through its unique design, the baby wrap serves three purposes:  a baby wrap, breast-feeding cover, and stroller cover.  Wraps traditionally have a short shelf life, but SOWN’s product is able to extend that life by adding two additional functions.

Market research has revealed a $25 million market for baby products in Los Angeles County alone -- and the market continues to thrive as babies are born every second of every day.  Recent studies have demonstrated the social-emotional benefit of wrapping babies and we have also validated the need for a multi-purpose wrap through a survey and focus groups.

Every year, millions of women try to escape poverty by migrating to find employment. Instead, they end up in squalid living conditions and are often physically or sexually assaulted.  That fate can be avoided if they have access to stable income sources in their own communities:  Studies show that when the rate of female participation in the labor force rises, local economies experience significant reductions in poverty rates.

SOWN recognizes no one can make it without the support of others, so in addition to employing women we will encourage our customers to become advocates of women’s empowerment.  Our target market is the millennial mother:  85% of moms believe it’s important for companies to support a cause and 73% are willing to try a new product because of its affiliation with a cause (Cone, 2013).  SOWN’s baby wraps will be sold online both individually and in baby shower kits that will include party essentials, an informational video and advocacy materials:  The celebrations will serve a dual purpose by giving participants an opportunity to help create change.

SOWN’s founders envision a world with equal opportunity for all women, the ability for them to choose their own futures, and the resources they need to create the lives they want.  Our mission is to provide transitional employment for women with unequal access to educational and employment resources -- and to simultaneously create products significant to the socially conscious consumer.

SOWN strives to create a model so that it could be applied to other social enterprises that are creating a product or service. This would be the sustainable social impact that we want to create locally, and globally. 


*** UPDATES***

5/14/15

Hi Everyone, 

This is just a little bit of background out how we got this idea started. We are both very passionate about gender equality and find this the root of our solutions and problems. We find financial independence and financial knowledge an important factor when trying to achieve gender equality. We find that often times men and women don't work together and don't see the benefit of shared responsibility and financial gain. We need to reintroduce the idea of a strong team and partnership in creating family. Men must be included in the conversation because they are half of the solution. In creating a platform first in the social enterprise space then in the private sector space for true job experience for people in underserved communities and just out of job ready programs, we are giving people real opportunities to learn and observe the benefits of working together. Not to outweigh the importance of personal financial empowerment. We at SOWN believe that no one can achieve anything without their support network. We truly rely on each other to make change. To financially empower those who need it most, well established businesses, social enterprises, and non profit organizations can work together to pledge to mentor and hire people in their communities that need the opportunity most. Below are some links you can click to get to know us a little better. We are new graduates from Pepperdine University. We're walking to get our masters this weekend, so family has been in town making it busy! We are truly so passionate about this cause and appreciate everyones thoughtful feedback and support. This OPEN IDEO challenge has really expanded and pushed our mission and vision. THANK YOU! 

Link to short video on what drives our work:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B472qnwzmwivMnp3NVF3MUx2SkE/view?usp=sharing

Link to our pitch for our social enterprise SOWN that is committed to created transitional jobs for people who have come out of job ready programs:

*Disclaimer: it is not the best quality but you guys will get a glimpse of our first pitch ever. 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B472qnwzmwivckdwQ2wtYnZpczQ/view?usp=sharing



28 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Jessica Lee
Team

Hi Karyn and Tammy,

SOWN's mission of empowering women through local solutions and partnerships is a deeply resonating one. A comment (or question rather) that I have is: what sort of monitoring or impact evaluation will SOWN have in place? Or will this sort of tracking be provided through the partnering organization, Chrysalis or DWC? It would be really interesting — and powerful — to be able to map out community-driven impact in a tangible way.

Many congratulations to the two of you on receiving your degrees!

All the best,
Jessica

Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Congratulations on making it to the Financial Empowerment Challenge Refinement phase, Karyn! We love how this idea goes beyond traditional approaches like financial literacy and educational tools and explores what it really means to be financially empowered – and that it starts with women. It’s also powerful how you suggest focusing on the critical juncture between completion of a job training program and the first employment experience that follows – a moment when someone can feel lost or discouraged after investing time into training that doesn’t lead directly to employment, or deeply empowered by finding meaningful work.

It will be exciting to see how this idea could play out – perhaps you’d like to put together some user scenarios that will bring the idea and user journey to life? Who are the groups we should be thinking about? What would the experience look like from the employer perspective (and what would their incentives for participating be)? Would the idea apply specifically to social enterprises, or any small business? Consider building your online team with OpenIDEO collaborators who can help you think through some of these questions. You might also learn something by looking into the work of REDF, which is an organization in California that invests in social enterprises that create jobs for people who have challenges entering the workforce. Lastly, what are your next steps for the coming month (or three months)? What do you foresee as the greatest challenges and key goals – and how will you know that these goals have been achieved? We're excited to see early experiments of this idea and related user insights, and to see how this exciting idea develops in the Refinement phase! Don’t forget to check out our Resources page (https://openideo.com/content/resources) and these tips for Refinement (http://bit.ly/oi-refine), too.

Photo of Karyn Suwito
Team

Hi Open IDEO - We've looked into some of your questions and found it really helpful answering them.

Perhaps you’d like to put together some user scenarios that will bring the idea and user journey to life?
SOWN has partnered with the Promises Foundation (http://promisesfoundation.org/our-foundation) to hire graduates of their job training program. During their first year with SOWN they receive on the job training to build their skills and resumes. One employee is using the knowledge she aquired to develop her own social enterprise to help bring financial literacy programs to low-income areas. As a result of our advocacy kits, we are seeing an influx in visits to our website, especially the advocacy section that provides opportunities for others to get involved. As sales of our product increases, we are able to hire on 4 of our clients full-time with SOWN paying competitive wages and providing full benefits. These 4 are now working in Sales and pattern design, with one managing operations. We have learned that we cannot keep everyone on full-time, so we are still operating as a transitional employer to help build skills and provide on the job training to more women, so they can transition to higher wage, higher skill jobs with another company. 2 have done this successfully so far. They have used sown as a stepping stone to supplement their income and improve their financial situation. We have 4 new hires beginning next month. With projections for next year near the $600,000 dollar mark, we are currently looking at transferring to a bigger space for manufacturing, which will allow us to bring more women into production. Finally, we are seeing our clients lives transform with greater self-sufficiency. They no longer need government assistance and their self-worth of knowing what they can accomplish is much greater as seen through the types of jobs they seek and confidence reported during interviews and performance evaluations. Our next steps will be to research potential new products to add to our line up and continue following up on the lives of the women have moved on from on from SOWN. This will include those who have successfully transitioned into the labor force, those that may have dropped out, and those that are still struggling to see how we can better assist.

Who are the groups we should be thinking about?
With a passion for gender equality, our pilot program is focused on low income women. More specifically, we are focusing on bringing jobs to low income women in Los Angeles County. The Los Angeles area has one of the highest costs of living which only exacerbates their situation.
What would the experience look like from the employer perspective (and what would their incentives for participating be)? Initially we are targeting non-profit organizations that provide a job training program with a focus on job placement. Incentive would be mission fulfillment for them.

Would the idea apply specifically to social enterprises, or any small business?
Non-profits and social enterprises to start until we can standardize our model.

Consider building your online team with OpenIDEO collaborators who can help you think through some of these questions. You might also learn something by looking into the work of REDF, which is an organization in California that invests in social enterprises that create jobs for people who have challenges entering the workforce.

Yes! we've already experienced such a great community on OpenIDEO and are excited to continue to collaborate with likeminded people. REDF and Chrysalis are both organizations that we look up to and definitely will bet contacting for their expertise and looking to collaborate with.

Lastly, what are your next steps for the coming month (or three months)? What do you foresee as the greatest challenges and key goals – and how will you know that these goals have been achieved? Product development is our primary focus for the next 3 months, before we can test out our model. Our greatest challenge is in developing an easy to use, multi-purpose product. Once we have our product we can hire on women and further engage the community. Purchase of our product gives our customer an opportunity to make an impact through their purchase. At the same time, they are becoming more than consumers every time they share the story of the origin of their wrap and share the opportunity being created to help others help themselves. Through our advocacy kit, provided with each purchase, our customers have the opportunity to be advocates and spread awareness of the need for women’s financial empowerment in their own community.

Photo of Justin Bean
Team

Hi Karyn! Love the idea and mission - empowering women is not only the logical and right thing to do, it has been shown to solve so many social and economic issues, and is one of the major challenges of our time. I was thinking it would be great for the women (and men) involved in the program to have some kind of knowledge-sharing tool or platform. Perhaps there they could share ideas about how they have dealt with struggles or had successes. This would not only be educational support that would help them be more effective and successful, it would offer friendly emotional support as well (an underrated aspect of work for all people, I believe).

The other comment I had was around funding - how can we secure resources for the companies and organizations that will be hiring these graduates (or maybe even non-graduates) so they have the financial ability/incentive to do so? It would be interesting to form partnerships with business accelerators that could possibly see this education as training for young entrepreneurs that would later go through their programs to start a social-entrepreneurship business or franchise (like a local Sown hub). Crowdfunding or supporting the employing companies with AirBNB/Instacart or other shared resources could help shoulder the costs for the companies. How else can we align the hiring companies' financial and strategic goals with the objectives of the new graduates?

http://empowerlounge.com/top-business-accelerators-for-women-led-companies/

Photo of Karyn Suwito
Team

Hi Justin,

This is such a great and sustainable idea. Tammy and I have also experienced this in the past using students. Through our mandatory global experience we were able to create a lasting partnership between Pepperdine University and the www.nicafund.org in Nicaragua, and students will continue being a part of their new women's health initiative called The Lily Project - www.thelilyproject.org . Also great tip about AirBNB and Instacart . Thank you so much for your insightful input.

Best,
Karyn and Tammy

Photo of Shane Zhao
Team

Exciting updates Karyn, and happy graduation! We've appreciated that you and Tammy have taken the time out to push this idea forward. It'd be helpful to insert the videos into the main body of your post. This way it'll be more visible to everyone on the OpenIDEO platform.

Also, to help explain your idea in a human-centered way, we’d recommend you have a go at creating a User Experience Map: https://d3gxp3iknbs7bs.cloudfront.net/attachments/5c28e26a-ba7f-44f4-859b-e82658264287.pdf It can be a great way to dig deeper into how things will play out and to explain the human-centered goodness on your idea.

Photo of Karyn Suwito
Team

Hey Shane,

Thanks for your response! We are working on our Experience Map right now. We agree that visualizing our idea is the best way to communicate it well. What does it mean by inserting it into the main body of our post?

The initial answers above?

Best,
Karyn

Photo of Steve
Team

This is a great idea Karyn! With consumers becoming more socially conscious, I believe there is a significant opportunity for organizations that have a social objective as well. Similar to the success of Homegirl Cafe, I feel if consumers are aware purchasing your baby wrap will help empower women who are struggling, they will be willing to choose your wrap over competitors. I see immense potential in this idea. It is a brilliant way to get the community involved in empowering those in need.

Photo of Lisa
Team

Hi Karyn! I love this idea so much. It's crucial to to create opportunities for women to enter the workforce. A social enterprise could find mentors for its young hires at other like-minded businesses. Maybe you'll be able to find willing mentors right within your customers, the young and socially conscious mothers. Giving them the opportunity to mentor a woman hired by a social enterprise is allowing them to practice the advocacy you'd like to instill in your customers. This also allows the small business that is hiring a woman to focus entirely on giving her a steady source of income. Mentorship is also valuable when its guidance is given by someone who does not directly work with you. It can often develop into more personal connections, freeing people to have more informal dialogues because now mentorship feels less like an obligation and more like a choice. So, it'd be interesting if you can organize social enterprises to give women jobs, and look for the mentors elsewhere. I feel that in SOWN's case, those mentors can be an email away. Ask your customers about their work and if they'd be interested in offering financial advice to the women social enterprises are hiring!

Photo of hdhzhmqipin
Team

I think this is a great idea

Photo of Jean-Marc Mercy
Team

Hello Karyn - You've got a fantastic idea for women empowerment! I like your SOWN idea, as it is similar to what we are doing at the Bridge Initiative to tackle youth employment. I want to offer my support to refine your idea and prototype it. Have you identified a group of women in your community to test the idea? Have you started a program or contacted a social enterprise to match the group of women with them? Is there any criteria based on which you select the group of women? Let's work together to refine your idea.

Photo of helen
Team

Great business plan and amazing founders. Sown has my full support . Karyn and Tammy are amazing people and women issues and empowerment are important to them and sown is one of many ways Tammy and Karyn are on a path to empowering women. I LOVE YOU GUYS. Best of luck to SOWN.

Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Congrats on this post being today's Featured Contribution!

Photo of Rollston
Team

I'm drawn to the mentoring side of this idea, I completed a mentoring program several years ago, through the logistics association of Australia ( http://www.laa.asn.au/scmp.htm ), which matched mentee's with like minded mentors. It was a 6 month program in which was completely voluntary so really relied on the motivation of both parties to regularly communicate and to organise catch ups to run through problems, ideas I was having in my own work environment. What I liked the most about this program was that I was matched with someone who was in the same line of work as I,though in a completely different industry and allowed me to observe similar issues that transcended through both industries but completely different ways of dealing with them.

Whilst I had a really positive experience and after 5 or 6 years of completing the program and I'm still in touch with my mentor, I was surprised by the % of drop outs in the program. If memory serves correct the group started with 15 and only 6 or 7 remained at the end of program. After speaking with a few of the mentees that dropped out, the reasoning behind it ranged from just being time poor to being matched with someone that they couldn't relate too or felt the mentor wasn't involved as much as they wished and lost motivation.

The matching of mentors in your program would be a crucial component to this program, I think my success was not so much down to the selection criteria that was used by the association but by the interest both of us had working in the same field (Supply Chain) but completely different industries ( Events & Distribution) and seeing the ways both our industries tackled similar issues, we both borrowed successful solutions and were able to apply them to our own work environment.

Great Idea !!!

Photo of Karyn Suwito
Team

Hi Rollston,

I would love some of these mentorship secrets! feel free to contact me at karynsuwito@gmail.com anytime. I agree that it would be a crucial component to this program. It gives both the mentee and mentor a great sense of value and support.

Best,
Karyn

Photo of April Parsons
Team

I absolutely love this idea! I am backing this 100%. The only question I have is about the "mentoring" you mentioned in place of the job. I took this to mean an internship of sorts and while I think this is still great idea, I think the monetary value part of this is what really makes it important. While I'm sure all women would love the knowledge and many would definitely go for it I fear that the women in need won't have the time to attend even a couple of hours a week if it means taking time away from their current job/family duties. Maybe stipends for this kind of work? Obviously different scenarios for different countries and places, but I just wanted to bring that up and hear your thoughts!

Photo of Karyn Suwito
Team

Hi April,
That is a really good point. The problem with a lot of non profit organizations or public sector work is that people feel like they don't need to pay as much because it is "charity" work or "not for profit". People greatly misunderstand the meaning of these things. With a social enterprise model, we want to value our workers and pay them a livable wage. In order to do this, they should get paid just as much as what a normal worker would get paid. Of course there is a training period in which stipends are allowed. But just as an internship would work, you still should get paid for your work. Also, given the demographic that we work with, we want to be sensitive to their needs current job/family duties as you mentioned. We will try to find social enterprises that have flexible work schedules and remote opportunities as well.

Thank you for your feedback and support!

Warmly,
Karyn

Photo of Karyn Suwito
Team

Thank you so much for all of your support and comments. We greatly appreciate it!

Photo of Joe Silva
Team

Hey Karyn- Your idea to devote a position in social enterprises to a person in need has got me thinking.

I'd go a step further and try to think of ways to pressure the big box businesses to be more inclusive this way. Ask them to include the people who need financial empowerment most, or under-qualified workers in internship positions and/or pair them with mentors... Maybe then, lobby to have a more open hiring process, a "leave no applicant behind" type model that supports individuals leaving employment programs like the ones you mention above. Not all businesses would be interested, but including a few opportunities for mentorships is a small appeasement that seems like an appropriate approach in CSR.

Are you familiar with work integrated social enterprises (WISEs)? http://www.fountainhouse.org/blog/social-enterprise-jobs-through-innovation

They are businesses that entirely revolve around the employees immediate needs. Their business plans are designed to make money in conjunction with addressing a social need (be it financial empowerment at a peer owned and operated credit union, or workforce development in a bakery for women recovering from a traumatic event... and there are many more).

I guess I want to challenge you to think about how you can include more women, who need this type of job the most, into your business plan- at every angle. The suggestion to include one woman in a light capacity kind of makes this great idea more corporate, and less powerful than if you consider adopting concepts from WISE.

Anyways; I think your product is totally dope, it's already branded well and the business is full of potential. I'd love to collaborate, so let me know if you're interested in discussing more examples of WISEs.

Take care!

Photo of Karyn Suwito
Team

Hi Joe,

This is amazing feedback. Thank you for your response. Is there an email I can reach you at to further collaborate. I was not familiar with WISE until I had read it. I'm very intrigued and would love to learn more about them. My personal email is karynsuwito@gmail.com

Thanks again for your time and thoughtful response.

Photo of Joe Silva
Team

Glad this made it to the refinement phase. jos.anthony.silva@gmail.com - let's chat more...

Photo of Alper Yaglioglu
Team

Great idea Karyn! I like how your idea helps people in need who are the main focus of this challange. You might want to push the idea forward with user scenarios. Feel free to check out this contribution for inspiration;

https://openideo.com/challenge/e-waste/concepting/neighbourhood-e-waste-champion

Photo of Ben Lopez
Team

I love this idea. It helps entrepreneurs satisfy the need to give back while also receiving help in return.

Photo of Jared Bybee
Team

This is one of the few ideas posted that doesn't assume folks have income to begin with - and I like that. Using "Financial Empowerment" to only mean managing your money better is a narrow view. It may be the narrow view that was intended by the challenge, but there are other ways to think about it as you have demonstrated. I would like to see more ideas like these - answering the question of "what are sustainable ways to put money in people's pocket in the first place".

Photo of Karyn Suwito
Team

Hi Jared,

Thank you for your feedback. I do like how you talk about the importance of how we view financial empowerment or how we define it in the first place. As you mentioned it is really important to find the sustainable solution. It's that saying "give a man a fish he'll be hungry in an hour, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."

Best,
Karyn

Photo of Joanna Spoth
Team

Awesome idea, Karyn! I'm excited to see how it evolves.

Photo of Karyn Suwito
Team

Hi Shane,

SOWN has not piloted this program but feel pretty prepared to do so. We are in the "Pre Launch" phase where we are building connections and just pitching our idea. We also have a very rough draft of a business plan.

Thank you for your response let us know what else we could provide.

Photo of Shane Zhao
Team

Thanks for sharing SOWN Karyn! We're curious to learn if you and your team have launched or piloted this concept. We welcome ideas in all stages of development. It'd be helpful to learn more about where which stage this project is currently at so our OpenIDEO community can give you better additional support. Looking forward to learning hearing more!