The diverse landscape of social enterprise is always somewhat surprising to me. Perhaps it shouldn’t be. There are businesses out there that do everything one can possibly imagine. It should be no surprise that social enterprise, which at the end of the day is just a different kind of business, is the same.
For this episode I interviewed Alec Weir from Spruce Carpets. The organisation first started in 2005 to provide high quality flooring at competitive prices. The services that they provide for consumers is no different to the services any of any other flooring company.. It is what they do behind the scene that makes them different, and it is this work that makes them a social enterprise.
Spruce Carpets provide training, employability services and work experience to people that have, for one reason or another, found themselves excluded from the job market. I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating – having a job not only helps one earn an income to “live” in modern society, but it helps build social networks and has a huge impact on one’s mental health. Many people who have found themselves excluded from the world of work can sometimes struggle with these kinds of issues, so demonstrating to them that they are employable and that their labour is valued can give people immense empowerment and a sense of purpose.
As Alec discusses in this interview, there are many social enterprises out there which offer work experience and employability services in industries such as hospitality, or in offices, but there those which offer experience in a manual handling environment are few and far between. A friend of mine once said that after spending years working in sedentary office jobs, he missed the sense of purpose and feeling of doing a “hard day’s work” that only comes with manual labour. Perhaps it appeals to the more practical side of our psyche, or maybe the feeling of aching muscles and the way hours of physical exertion can lull one into a natural sleep, satiates the bit in the brain which makes us seek out tasks that help us feel useful. In any event, that kind of working is, in Alec’s opinion, sorely lacking in the social enterprise landscape. Scotland is very much a country with a history of communities that exist either solely because, or on the back of massive labouring jobs. Entire towns in this country were founded with the express purpose of housing those that dedicated their lives to this kind of work, and such unskilled work is the backbone of any nation.
Perhaps Alec is onto something with this. There’s a need to bring those back into the workforce who simply want to use their hands to make money, and learn skills which will always find them a job (unlike say, someone like me, a podcaster, whose entire modus operandi could at any time be rendered obsolete if people choose to stop consuming audio online). Spruce Carpets offer that and more.
I hope you enjoy the episode.
Links to follow shortly.