Business

'Cancer, other charities not sexy enough for corporate Jamaica'

Friday, May 02, 2014    

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CORPORATE Jamaica views the support of cancer initiatives as unsexy, which results in reduced project funding, according to the charity group, Jamaica Cancer Society.

"Cancer is not glamorous or fun," declared Yulit Gordon executive director at the Jamaica Cancer Society at the Social Enterprise Boost Initiative (SEBI) discussion held at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston on Wednesday. "So when we go into corporate organisations and ask for support of your programmes (by nature of what we do at the Jamaica Cancer Society and the product that we sell which is the fight against cancer) you find that there are companies out there (but not all) that would not want to align their brand with a cancer-fighting initiative because when they look at it they do not see the returns.

"It's not something that their customers will embrace."

Gordon added that ethical considerations also eliminate some large companies from being approached.

"You may think that it's only the tobacco companies but there is also alcohol, there are certain foods that when you look at the labelling it's a good cause for cancer diagnosis. So there are a lot of things working against us because of what we are about," she said of the organsiation established in 1955.

Dr K'adawame K'nife, a director of the office of social entrepreneurship at the University of the West Indies, Mona, urged the social enterprises to monetise their services by placing a value on their volunteerism.

"When I ask, 'where is your business plan', you hear, 'we do not operate a business'. But you are in the business of life, which is the most important business," said K'nife, who argued that replacing their services would come at a cost.

"People tend to undervalue your own worth. What if you were not doing the things you were doing, what would have been the situation." If you truly apply the counter-factual then you recognise just how much value you have created from the activities you are doing despite the fact that you do not have the resources you need to do it."

K'nife pointed out that monetising services would allow social enterprises to reduce the need for "begging" international donor support.

The discussion entitled 'Lets Talk-Social Economy Matters' was the first in a series of discussions to be hosted by SEBI, which is part of the JN Foundation. SEBI is designed to create an enabling business environment for non-governmental organisations.

"Many of these organisations do not position themselves as businesses," said Saffrey Brown, general manager at JN Foundation. "They undervalue themselves and are, in turn, hampered by their lack of positioning as viable entrepreneurs. While their focus is welfare-driven, without applying business approaches to their operations, they will not witness the potential social and economic gains that will help them to expand the community-based services they provide."

Participants acknowledged that the international funding model has shifted significantly since the last decade.

"We used to call USAID and others like us donors. We now call them international development partners. It means that we are not coming to give handouts...We are looking to build a partnership, we are looking for an investment and a return on that investment," said Jeannette Vail supervisory programme officer at USAID.

"We have shrinking revenues from government budgets and also we need to recognise the political implications that after September 11 a good amount of development aid got channelled to different geographies. But there are still opportunities (in Jamaica)."

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