When living and studying in Sweden I was lucky enough to spend some time in Copenhagen. One of the most exciting things about the city was exploring by bicycle and the sense of exhilaration and freedom that comes from riding among the hoards of people cruising around by bike.
My first stop was to rent a bike, so I headed over to Baisikeli, which is Swahili for bicycle. In Copenhagen Baisikeli is a great place to rent a bike, get your bike repaired, or grab a coffee/snack at the bicycle café.
Baisikeli is more than just a rental business in Copenhagen. They are a social enterprise, which means they are a business owned by a non-profit whose mission is to generate profit AND to achieve a social, cultural, and/or environmental aim. (Learn more about social enterprises at Social Enterprise Canada )
So what makes Baisikeli so different? Sales and income generated at the Copenhagen bike store go directly to support a bicycle workshop in Chimoio, Mozambique. Baisikeli in Denmark collects and sends unwanted bike parts to Mozambique and Sierra Leone where they are repaired and sold; breathing new life into a previously wasted resource.
The workshop in Mozambique builds bicycles for small businesses to help them expand and reach new customers. The workshop also offers employment opportunities and skills training for local residents. To boost the workshop’s reach, Baisikeli in Copenhagen regularly sends skilled staff to educate, train and exchange knowledge with members in partner countries about bike mechanics and repairs. Learn more about Baisikeli’s work here .
Social enterprises do not have to be about international development. There are many social enterprises here in Canada working to address social and environmental needs in innovative ways. Here on Vancouver Island you can check out Social Enterprise Catalyst’s Gala event, on April 2 2014, in Victoria, BC; meet social entrepreneurs and learn more about what they are doing in this region.
As government, and more traditional resources and grants diminish, how do you think the organizational model of a social enterprise can help the non-profit sector? In what ways have you seen social enterprises working to achieve a social and environmental mission?
Guest Author Bio
Sarah Rose Robert
Sarah Rose Robert is Co-Organizer, with Lorne Daniel, of The Places Project. She is interested in creative community engagement and collaboration for sustainability. She has a Masters degree in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability from Blekinge Institute of Technology (Sweden). Sarah Rose received the Vancity Youth Leadership Award from Leadership Victoria in February 2014. You can find her riding her bike around Victoria, BC.
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