During the 2019 Annual Gathering in Albuquerque, New Mexico, five Catholic Charities agencies presented one of their successful innovative social enterprise programs. Take a moment to check out the videos and the related questions as you spark your creativity and challenge your agency to innovate today!

Franklin-McKinley Children’s Initiative
San Jose, California

Can you picture an impoverished neighborhood where children didn’t feel safe going to and from school; where children struggled to learn in school; where they were hungry; had a hard time learning and the teachers were overwhelmed? Do you see a neighborhood where parents couldn’t get meaningful work because of their immigration status and language barriers; where nonprofits and city programs would come and go, but weren’t connected or rooted in the community? Now, imagine a collaborative community solution of a school guided by a cradle to career strategy–with a Family Resource Center embedded in a state of the art early learning Educare site, an after school program at the school, ESL for parents, homework help for youth, and neighborhood organizing. That’s the Franklin-McKinley Children’s Initiative.

What if we could disrupt the cycle of generational poverty by creating a neighborhood free from fear where every child can learn from cradle to career, where families live in safe, decent, affordable housing, learn English and find work to make ends meet? What if we developed a collective impact approach that encompasses 2-Generation anti-poverty strategies? What if by making these things happen we were able to meet individual and community needs?

Martha’s Choice Marketplace
Catholic Social Services of Philadelphia, PA

Martha’s Choice Marketplace has developed into a client-choice pantry with a leadership co-op made up of users of the service. The co-op members meet once a month and pay membership dues. The leadership group has an active voice with staff in making decisions about how the pantry is run – hours of operation, types of food to be sourced for the pantry; cooking classes that they would like to see the pantry offer and overall flow of the pantry. Members put $2 in the pot each time they meet.  These funds are then distributed back into the community or back into the pantry. Coop members also volunteer two hours a month to help run the pantry.

What if we treated clients with dignity and respect, so that they had say over the policies in our pantries? What if there is at least increased participant input? What if we had a client recipe book, client based projects and clients as volunteers? What if we added client voice into all programming, while building trusting and authentic relationships with clients? What if we combine “Common Earth Gardens” and “Martha’s Choice Marketplace?”

Common Earth Gardens
Catholic Charities of Louisville, KY

Common Earth Gardens is dedicated to the empowerment and improved quality of life of refugee families and Louisville communities through agricultural opportunities. This is accomplished through supporting community gardens with multi-lingual training and leadership development, facilitating the Incubator Farm Business Training Program, and connecting growers to land opportunities in the Louisville, KY region. These opportunities contribute to improved mental and physical health, community integration, access to healthy food, and increased family income through farm sales.

What if we found ways to establish client-run farms in rural areas and client-run gardens in urban areas? What if empty big-box stores were turned into greenhouses? What if we built fish farms and turned the waste into organic fertilizer? What if parishes with excess land used it for crop development? What if we operate a farmers market to connect with community gardens? What if we partner with small and large scale growers? What if we use the roof or empty lot for growing vegetables? What if we incubate farming cooperatives? What if we plant sustainable gardens at all agency sites?

Rebuilding Homes. Rebuilding Lives.
Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri

Because many survivors of natural disasters do not have adequate insurance or personal funds to restore their homes, survivors often live in unsafe conditions. Catholic Charities began its Rebuilding Homes, Rebuilding Lives program in the wake of the Joplin tornado and has worked with thousands of volunteers to repair and rebuild the homes of survivors, both in the Joplin area and in south central and southeastern Missouri. The agency has grown this work and now functions a general contractor for housing development.

What if a community moved from tragedy to opportunity? What if housing was the cornerstone of that movement? What if it included a training program for repairing and building homes? What if that led to developing a social enterprise through building construction as an income stream, and what if that led to becoming a general contractor and building neighborhoods?

Refuge Coffee and Café
Catholic Charities Community Services – Phoenix, AZ

The Refuge Café is a gathering place where people from all walks of life can meet and talk over a meal or cup of coffee. Proceeds fund much needed nonprofit services in the community. The Refuge Café is a social enterprise of Catholic Charities Community Services (CCCS). All of the profits go to the programs of CCCS to support refugees, foster children, veterans and domestic violence survivors with a focus on health and education. The private label coffee called Refuge Coffee is single-origin, ethically sourced 100% Arabica beans that are locally roasted, packaged and distributed by veterans in the coffee roaster located inside CCCS’s temporary living facility for veterans – M.A.N.A. House.

What if we create a great product/experience and with that we could compete with the “big-boy” for-profits? What if Refuge Coffee or any food-preparation program builds profit, increases skills and supports families? What if a coffee shop business plan is replicated or improved at other Catholic Charities’ agencies? What if the network built a chain of Refuge Coffee and Café locations? What if we connect “Common Earth Gardens” to food-preparation training programs that provide healthy meals for health systems?

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innovator are you?

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