Ending the Prison Cycle with Social Enterprises

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Social enterprises

After an individual has paid their debt to society, all there’s left to do is get a job and get on with life, right? Sounds easy enough.

Then how come so many people who’ve been to prison once keep going back?

Some may be surprised by this but as it turns out around 60% of employers, upon initial consideration would not hire an individual released from prison or jail. This doesn’t bode well for recent inmates in a time when even those with college degrees and unscathed backgrounds are having trouble finding employment. In California, between 60-80% of parolees were still unemployed after a release from prison and over 89% of parole violators were unemployed at the time. Just in California the annual cost of re-incarcerating individuals on parole is around $2 billion. Not million, BILLION. That’s a solid chunk of change to have to do something over again. Reincarcerating individuals is costing us all a lot of money. It seems to me that employment would solve a lot of these problems and cut costs. But where to begin?

This is where social enterprises come in. Several social enterprises will focus on hiring those who have recently come out of incarceration, teach them job and some life skills during employment, so eventually they will become more “hire-able” to other employers, ultimately be able to create more sustainable lives for themselves and break the prison cycle. The state of New York is a big proponent of this, using social enterprises to cut down the number of inmates by 9,000 over the last ten years and cutting re-incarceration rates by 40% (while inmate populations in most other states continue to increase).

Helping Hand Rewards partner The Enterprising Kitchen (TEK) is a social enterprise with the same sort of mission as the ones mentioned above. They give recently incarcerated women employment opportunities while teaching them job/life skills and producing high quality soap and spa products along the way.

Among individuals interviewed two years after hire into a social enterprise, 74% were working and 12 percent more were in vocational education. Just as many people have stayed out of jail through social enterprise employment as people going back into prison while being unemployed. Corporations and individuals can support these causes by doing business with these different social enterprises. For example, an individual can purchase soap and spa products from a company like TEK, brownies from Greyston Bakery, or even eco-friendly candles from Bright Endeavors. Corporations can use these social enterprise groups when assembling corporate gifts to clients and/or employees. Most of these types of items are purchased normally, why not do it and help someone in need along the way?

Doing business with these companies and supporting their efforts keeps everything growing and helps break this costly prison cycle. Can you think of any social enterprises like these in your area?

Socially Responsible YouTube Channel: HHR

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There’s just something about being able to put a face with a name. It’s also good to hear the stories that make our work totally worth it every time.

We have a home website, a Twitter handle, and even a Facebook fan page but now we’ve kicked things up a notch with our brand new YouTube channel. This channel is an opportunity for us to share more of the stories from our social enterprise partners on how lives are being changed. It’s one thing to read about them here on our blog or home website. However, it’s an even more personal experience to see and hear from the participants and partners first hand.

Our first (and only…so far…) video is of Heather, a woman who had her life turn around as a result of HHR partner Women Helping Other Women (WHOWomen). It’s a great story and shows the impact WHOWomen’s socially responsible goods have helped Heather create a new start for herself.

Click here to check out our new channel!

Harry Potter and the Fair Trade Chocolate

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Harry Potter Chocolate Frogs

The title of this blog isn’t likely to become the title of a new post-addition to the Harry Potter series. However, what does the world’s most famous wizard this side of Merlin and chocolate have in common?

The Harry Potter name, along with books and movies, is branded on countless forms of merchandise including chocolate frogs, fudge flies, and cockroach clusters (treats also used in the stories). Chocolate used in these merchandise items most likely comes from Africa’s Ivory Coast, the epicenter of a large debate over fair trade chocolate. The company producing the chocolate for these Harry Potter items is part of the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), an organization who’s mission statement includes “promotes a sustainable cocoa economy through economic and social development and environmental conservation in cocoa growing communities.” It sounds like a great organization, however other large brands associated with this foundation have pending lawsuits involving child labor laws.

So how can Harry Potter help improve Fair Trade practices in the chocolate industry?

Using its astronomically huge fan base, Harry Potter fans have formed a group called “The Harry Potter Alliance” that is using that fan base to promote social change. One change is the usage of Fair Trade chocolates within the merchandising efforts of the Harry Potter brand. The theory is that if enough voices are raised (and there are plenty of voices in the Harry Potter fandom) that real social change could be enacted.

A good example of a company involved in the fair trade of chocolate is Helping Hand Rewards partner Divine Chocolate. The mission of Divine Chocolate is to improve the livelihood of smallholder cocoa producers in West Africa by establishing their own  chocolate brand, putting farmers higher up the value chain. These cocoa farmers receive a Fair Trade price for their cocoa and use that money to be able to reinvest in their own communities. Divine Chocolate also seeks to raise awareness of Fair Trade issues to retailers and consumers of all types. 

Can Harry wave his wand and help increase Fair Trade practices even further? What do you think?

Michael Arkes Talks CSR

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In the latest edition of IMI Media’s magazine, Hinda CEO and Helping Hand Rewards founder Michael Arkes discusses how corporate social responsiblity is becoming more and more prevalent in meeting planning and and incentive programs. He mentions how products from various HHR partner organizations have been successfully used as corporate gifts and promotional items. Recipientes liked the quality but especially liked the cause it helped as a result of giving/receiving those gifts.

The full article is listed here. Check it out!

World Water Day

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Today marks the 17th observance of World Water Day. Why a day for water? At a United Nations meeting in 1992, it was suggested that there be an international day to celebrate fresh water. Over the years, there has been a different theme for World Water Day, focusing on a different aspect or issue regarding fresh water.

It is estimated that there are nearly a BILLION people in the world that do not have access to potable water sources and an estimated extra 2.5 billion that lack the proper water sanitation. Why do these figures raise alarm? Improper sanitation is a leading cause of several types of illness and disease. Because water has such an impact on human necessity and health in almost all aspects of life, access to clean water can affect other things like wealth and educational levels.

So what is being done about this issue other than having a UN-sponsored international awareness day?

Other than some legislation, a small social enterprise has taken measures to change the world in this area. Water For Humans is a non-profit social venture who’s goal is to “bring sanitation and clean water to communities in need through partnerships with local communities, NGOs, social entrepreneurs, universities and governments. These partnerships ensure clean drinking water, create local jobs and protect local water assets.”  

Water For Humans began as a graduate school project by Stan Brown and Rick McKenney and officially launched this past July, serving two communities in Oaxaca, Mexico. They bring low-cost drinking water to these communities which ultimately helps families, schools, restaurants and health institutions have access to better quality water and teaching them how to install water purification systems in their towns. Stan Brown says in this article:

“Over a billion people don’t have access to clean drinking water. It’s one of the leading causes of illness worldwide…our goal is to address this issue watershed by watershed delivering low-cost, clean water technology while creating jobs and a self-supporting social enterprise.”

Learn more about World Water Day or Water For Humans. To learn about other social enterprises that are using business models to help out the world outside of water, check this out.

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Rosario: A Success Story from Mercado Global

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Twenty-six year-old Rosario Gonzalez taught herself to sew as a young girl when she had to make clothes for herself and her younger sisters. She became a seamstress to support her family, but work was inconsistent, low-paying, and har d to find. One day a friend told her about an opportunity to join a women’s sewing cooperative which partners with Mercado Global. Today, Rosario earns a fair-wage and supports herself and her three-year-old daughter. As a single working mother Rosario can attest to the difficulties that life can bring, but she is hopeful that one day she will be able to afford her own house in which raise her daughter.

Learn about our other Helping Hand Rewards partners by clicking here

A New Video From TEK (and other YouTube Additions)

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Over at the Helping Hand Rewards YouTube channel, we’ve had a few recent additions!

In the last week we have added another participant testimonial story from The Enterprising Kitchen (shown above). In addition to the new story, we have also tagged several other videos from our partner organizations on our channel’s home page. There is a really good one for the Women’s Bean Project that you should definitely check out.

Click here to see our channel and what’s new!

Minimum Advertised Price Agreement

Please be advised that effective immediately, HHP/helping hand partners (HHP) is hereby instituting a channel policy regarding Amazon’s fulfilled-by-Amazon (FBA) 3rd party logistics services. Pursuant to this new channel policy, HHP current sellers are not authorized to use Amazon’s FBA 3rd party logistics services for sale of any and all HHP branded products. We reserve the right to authorize a future Amazon FBA reseller of HHP branded products.

We continue to support all other Amazon (non-FBA), online and brick-and-mortar sales and are committed to providing you with the best products and service to achieve this. In doing so, we have instituted the following Online Reseller Policy and Expectations:

Minimum Advertised Pricing (MAP): You must follow our MAP policy set forth on the following document.

Be MAP compliant: This means that HHP’s MAP policy is always followed – regardless of what any other seller in the marketplace may do with its pricing.

Provide complete business names/channel identification: You must disclose to HHP all names and channels you sell through. If you sell under new names or channels, you must notify HHP prior to listing HHP products for sale. If you expand to other online selling platforms, such as a new site, you must request authorization to sell HHP products prior to creating any listings.

Sell only to end-user consumers: You may only sell HHP products directly to end-user consumers. You may not redistribute in any manner without approval.

If you choose to sell on Amazon (and only as a non-FBA reseller) use approved Amazon ASINs: List product on the primary ASINs and do not create new or duplicate listings for HHP products.

By signing below, the retailer agrees to abide by the above terms of Online Reseller Policy and Expectations. In addition, retailer agrees to disclose all businesses under which HHP products will be sold.