“Self employment provides people with barriers to traditional employment the opportunity to perform relevant work, earn income and live with dignity.”
I made this declaration while representing a member organization of a newly formed ‘inclusivity reference group’. The mandate was to review and modify the services of the largest social agencies of that region to become more culturally representative of their changing social landscape.
I went on, “People with a criminal past, mothers at home with young children, workers with outdated skills, the physically disabled, internationally trained professionals and others with challenges to accessing stable, good paying jobs, can fulfill their potential by working for themselves.”
All I heard was the air conditioner humming, as everyone just stared at me.
Well it’s true. It was while studying to uncover ways that abused women could leave horrid situations and be able to financially support themselves and their children, I recognized self employment was a realistic option for the women and could serve others just as well.
What was and still is needed is public awareness and training. People classified as unemployable, whether by employers or by themselves, need to be empowered to know that self employment is a realistic option, no matter how exclusive people try to make it.
The leading institutions or organizations that put out entrepreneurship programs highlight innovation in technology, clean and renewable energy and global partnerships. This is incredible and will lead us towards more efficient, self sustaining societies, however on the micro-level these programs are excluding innovation at the grassroots level. It is not the institutions fault. Localized innovation is not their focus. They are funded to think on a macro-level. I have recently become aware of an entrepreneurship program that is ONE YEAR long! I thought to myself, ‘who can wait a whole year for their business to make some money?’ Clearly these programs are exclusively targeting students with paid tuition, or the employed. But what about the rest of us?
Why does is it seem like self employment and small business ownership is so unattainable?
The debunking of this myth is gaining momentum. Small community based entrepreneurship programs are increasingly launching to provide training to their members. Recognizing that the people know the needs and product or service gaps in their community, has started a wave of new small businesses to meet those needs. For example as new cultural groups centralize in neighbourhoods, the demand for specialized groceries, art, restaurants, social events and support services, arise bringing opportunities for people to create solutions and potentially earn an income.
You may ask, “what about a service provided by a person with a criminal past?”
“When they become self employed are they allowed to avoid full disclosure preventing me from making an informed decision as a consumer?
If an “ex-con” has received a full pardon, they are allowed to fully integrate back into society and there is no threat. If they are out of prison on conditional terms then they are being held accountable for their actions and will be limited to the type of business they can operate. It is also up to the customer to do their due diligence before making certain purchase decisions such as cleaning services, child care providers etc. The status of a flower shop owner or restaurant owner should be irrelevant, in my opinion.
By keeping self employment and small business ownership tied up in red tape and exclusive, we as a whole are missing the mark and neglecting a pool of problem solvers that can help develop communities by first being gainfully employed.