Guest blogger Danielle Byrne writes….

Everything I ever wanted in social enterprise was in Anne Wunderli’s talk at the Irish Social Enterprise Network last Tuesday. Anne works for Pine Street Inn, a large homelessness charity in Boston. They provide all sorts of services including “permanent supportive housing, job training and placement, emergency shelter and street outreach to more than 1,600 homeless men and women each day.” They feed their clients 700,000 meals a year through their social enterprise Icater which also sells mass catering services to other social purpose organisations, for example a pre-release program (sic) for prisoners and to corporate clients. They provide employment training in food services. Here’s the website. The menu looks great!

Anne Wunderli is a natural and inspiring speaker. Her audience on Tuesday was rapt. I took home two points in particular.annewunderli in clontarf

The first was the multiplicity of community benefit from Icater : homeless people are well fed, unemployed people are trained in marketable skills, income is generated to support the work of the charity, services are supplied to other non-profits, food donations are extensively used and so food waste is avoided. And all this fits entirely within their overall mission and ethos.

Second was the emphasis Anne ruefully put on costing as a part of business planning and, in the non-profit world of box-and-cox budgeting, the need to understand the full costs of delivering any service. One day I will write on “how I learnt to cost a service and came to love the spreadsheet”. But for now, I observe how so third sector organisations in Ireland seem to be indifferent to (or daunted by) costing out their different activities and services – but this is fundamental to operating a social enterprise successfully

Anne Wunderli was in Dublin as part of Boston College’s Irish Institute program on social enterprise, a sort of exchange visit. I participated a few years ago in their Philanthropy and Community Development program. Do look out on their website for future programs.

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