Social Entrepreneurship

Wellness Wordworks self-funding mental health Founder Corinna West at Poetry for Personal Power in Cape Girardeau

Wellness Wordworks self-funding mental health Founder Corinna West at Poetry for Personal Power in Cape Girardeau

Defining a Mental Health Social Entrepreneurship (from Wikipedia)

Social entrepreneurs are people who have noticed a need in their community or somewhere in the world, and have come up with a way of remedying that issue. The remedy could be creative, innovative, “out of the box,” etc… since most entrepreneurs tend to think in this manner. In general, social entrepreneurs did not start out with the goal of making money, but in the long run, switch to a for-profit business. Also, the majority of social entrepreneurs are faced with an issue in their youth that motivate them to do something about it in adulthood, such as poverty, sanitation, etc…

Social entrepreneurships have the goal of solving a problem. Our businesses generate the most social benefit possible instead of the the most income for shareholders that is possible. It turns out that some models of business are more effective at solving social problems than other, and having a business that supports all its own expenses allows for much faster growth and expansion. Here is our explanation of how Wellness Wordworks fits all 12 design principles for mental health social entrepreneurship.

Examples of Mental Health Social Entrepreneurs

Mental health social entrepreneurs can be found all over the world, in most industries, and where the need is the most pressing. Some social entrepreneurs promote older disease model thinking, but most are very up to date and show current empowering approaches.

  • Colon Cristobal founded La Fageda, a dairy in Italy that provides housing, work, and peer support opprtunities for 280 workers, of which 160 have been labeled with some form of “mental illness” or handicap.  They can become shareholders and live in residential situations on the farm.
  • Kedar Ranjan Banerjee founded the National Institute of Behavioral Sciences in India to reduce the fear of people with mental health labels. Kedar believes this high rate of illicit drug use in his country  provides an excellent entry point to develop and build understanding for his non-custodial, involving approaches.
  • Adalberto Barreto in Brazil founded a Community Therapy approach that questions whether health professionals really should be the primary resource to tap into to treat diseases. Many diseases in developing countries are a consequence of marginalization and poverty and can be treated by the community itself.
  • Vicki Bernadet founded FADA (in Catalan means Fairy Godmother)—the only organization in Spain that provides support to adults sexual abused during their childhoods. FADA helps renew self-esteem and psychological stability to those still recovering from traumatic experiences and teaches how to prevent sexual abuse to children.
  • Ricardo Lopez De la Vega- In his community-based therapy model in Bolivia, Ricardo brings family, medical staff, patients, and former patients together in joint musical activity.  The therapy breaks down existing vertical relationships, opens patients up to other therapies to facilitate recovery, and better prepares patients for reintegration into their families and society. The social-leveling effect of making music together is empowering for patients and builds self-esteem and hope for rejoining their communities.
  • Paul Rieckhoff – Through Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Paul uses social messaging and nonpartisan help to mobilize veterans and bridge the disconnect with the general population. The result is not just better care for veterans, but a population that is more thoughtful about future military conflicts because it better understands the causes and consequences of war.
  • Jerry White – Survivor Corps works with the 80% of the victims of war who are civilians, it is essential that civilians stand up in the effort to end war. Jerry created the Survivor Corps network, which utilizes the power of partnerships, community, and leadership to bring issues of justice, human security, reconciliation, and inclusive development to the forefront of international decision-making.

Why why need profit based businesses as mental health social entrepreneurships:

  • Innovation: Any profitable business, including mental health social entrepreneurships, thrives on innovation and creating new choices all the time, particularly in changing legal and cultural environments. Because the Google Gigabit fiber we are working to use is so new, it requires active imagination. 100 times faster internet means your 40 hour work week would go by in 24 minutes.
  • Emotion: The entrepreneurial spirit is an active process, which is in and of itself healing. A profitable business model creates an environment of excitement, empowerment. This is especially important to people who might be undergoing an emotional and mental crisis. Clients who are also customers get to contribute very actively towards the self-funding mental health approach, and know that the business would not work without them.  We are building something great and seeing it come to fruition.
  • Investment: Services that are paid for are taken much more seriously; users are more likely to follow up and follow through when they have invested some form of payment or their own labor is invested into it.
  • Sustainability: Free services/charity services are limited by budget constraints; often that means government funding, private donations, or grants. Fee-for-service or other for-profit models can be scaled and most of what drives the scale with for-profit models is simply demand.

Quotes from potential Wellness Wordworks’ customers

These are people who have responded to our feasibility surveys about the ability or need to pay directly for mental health services via cash or a barter system trading volunteer work:

  • I think for the people who need it, paying for it may be a burden. The culture of how people with mental illness commit to paying for services would have to change
  • For the people who are homeless whom I work with, any fee other than nominal would be too much. They do not have money or just enough to buy a pack of cigarettes or some food to eat. But many would gladly offer their services to pay back; their skills are many and varied.
  • Organize local volunteer days where people can come and pick from a menu of volunteer choices, do a days work, get 6-months free access. Charge providers to offer peer suport which takes burden off their Crisis Lines…
  • I haven’t had much time to think this out. Except I know I feel better paying for something of value. Talking can keep emotions from escalating to the point where there has to be police intervention. THAT is worth a lot of money!
  • I think people need to pay something although initially it may be difficult, until they feel more in charge of their lives. It is one way to really value giving service if one volunteers. Since volunteering is work, one is utilizing skills and can feel good about further developing such skills and paying in this way.
  • Be sure you lay the rules or guidelines out and those guidelines must pertain to each person the same. Then make an exception guideline that allows for individual by individual basis before starting this program.
  • Great idea. What it is worth is immeasurable. What folks can afford to pay varies greatly according to specific circumstances and moments in time. There needs to be supplemental donations from businesses, donors, or those recipients who can afford it so that no one is turned away if at all possible.
  • For consumers able to pay, this could give a sense of dignity/self-sufficiency instead of the patronized feeling that could come from being a charity recipient. People with self-respect and a work ethic don’t want to be charity recipients and might be depressed about having to be.
  • If you could generate enough revenue you would indeed remain free to say/do what you wanted to.
  • People like me, who have overall been disillusioned and/or mistreated by the “medical model” system could really respect and gravitate to your philosophies and services, seeing it as a potential source of hope and healing that might not exist elsewhere.
  • Volunteering to your cause (especially as peer specialists) could help mobilize consumers who aren’t doing much.  This also could send the message to society that people can and do recover from mental illness; said message increases societal understanding and decreases stigma.
  • I do worry a bit that the concept of making peer support a “business” could make it seem cold and commercialistic (if it’s marketed heavily enough to become a well-known service); that could be a turnoff to people used to seeing free peer support services at drop-in centers, who use other funding to pay their staff.
  • People with mental illness labels are often the most resistant to any sort of paradigm change, so it might really take some time for anyone able to pay to think this is a good concept; then, perhaps embrace it.
  • Interesting. I like the “sweat equity” approach, especially if people move into the supporting role through it, creating relationships of mutuality. Consider, also, barter in the form of products, art, etc. that people receiving support can offer. I can think of times in my life when I could only offer poems, but they were darn good poems.
  • Great idea, especially to help people understand their worth, get them used to being around others in a work setting, and getting them out of the house (something I struggle with still!)
  • Some skills are worth more than others and some require use of tools and other capital investment which must be compensated for, including depreciation, maintenance, expendable supplies, and upgrades. It ain’t all just the labor, the infrastructure counts too.

After reading this, tell us what you think about a mental health social entrepreneurship?