ME 2.0 49th Session - The Impact of Social Businesses on Economic and Social Development: Exploring the World of Social Businesses in Tel Aviv

The 49th session of the ME 2.0, Palestinian-Israeli Business Leaders’ Forum dealt with the impact of social businesses on economic and social development.

For this means the Palestinian and Israeli forum members traveled in mid of March 2017 to Tel Aviv to explore the world of social businesses in the metropolis known for its innovative spirit. The first “station” was the social business A.I.R. (Art Inspire Restore) in South Tel Aviv. From the founder of A.I.R., Mr. Matthias Oppliger - the participants learned that the business produces furniture made of used wooden pallets, imported from Europe, as well as hand bags and other accessories made of used kite sails and other recycled material collected from the city. The employees – producers of A.I.R, are men and women who were subject of human trafficking and sexual abuse. A.I.R works in cooperation with NGOs who connect his staff of social workers with the employees which work in the place as part of their rehabilitation process. The employees receive training and skills that can then help them work in other places in the future. Mr. Oppliger explained about the production processes and the business efforts to create a safe and protective working place for their workers, who have been victims of the sex industry in Israel in the past, and have recently found their way out with the help of professional social workers and the employment at A.I.R..

After the tour and discussion at A.I.R the members enjoyed a comprehensive presentation by and discussion with Ms. Jackie Goren, who is an investment manager at IVN. Ms. Goren told about her personal experience and about the concept of “social businesses”. According to Ms. Goren “social businesses” are the most effective means to support a social cause. In her perspective, NGOs do not have the structural mechanism to develop themselves since they only receive funds for projects and not for organizational development. On the other hand, businesses and business schools do not teach the concept of “social” revenue, even as a potential bottom line in addition to funds. Therefore, Jackie sought to teach and promote the concept of a social business that aims to achieve both goals – funds and a social cause. She is doing it through teaching in Tel Aviv University’s MBA program and through the IVN network that provides mentors and guidance and funds to social businesses. According to Jackie it is difficult to clearly define a social business and many definitions exist in the field. The most common definition talks about a double bottom line – social and financial. There are several types of social businesses such as e.g. a business that employs in-need population. Another type of social business is the one supporting communal economic development.

The study tour ended with a joint lunch and discussion at the Liliyot restaurant, which is also a social business, employing 5-10 “youth in danger” as kitchen employees. They assist the chef and receive skills and training that can help them in their future lives. The restaurant has been working for many years and supported many young people, and some of them have made it to the top of renowned restaurants in Israel and the world.

In a future session the members will be able to explore social businesses in Jerusalem and also on the Palestinian side.