Groupe Convex incubates and manages social enterprises. Their 9 social enterprises employ local residents who face employment challenges and provides them with meaningful jobs. These enterprises generate over $4 million in annual sales and employ 120 people. Groupe Convex can boast to its credit a network of prestigious clients who do business with their companies not only for the noble cause that they defend, but primarily because they offer quality products and services.
Groupe Convex is based in Prescott-Russell, an economically challenged rural francophone community in Eastern Ontario where it makes a major economic and social contribution.
The idea for Groupe Convex was triggered by an institution named Valoris. Back in the early 2000s, there was a discrepancy between Valoris’ capacity to fulfill the needs of unemployed individuals and the increased number of people in need. The inflow of vulnerable people coming out of the school systems and out of institutions following the closures of centres (MCSS, n.d.) resulted in the increased outflows of expenses and a lack of capacity at Valoris to assist people in obtaining employment. The “State of the System’’ (Meadows, 1999, p.6) was therefore one leverage point leading to the implementation of a new structure.
Valoris reunited community actors in 2001 to investigate their views about the chronic unemployment phenomenon. There was a willingness from Valoris’ leaders to solve chronic unemployment issues by being congruent (Minztberg, in Boleman and Deals, 2008) with social role valorization theory (Wolfensberger, 2000).
Social role valorization (SRV) is the application of what science can tell us about the attribution of normalized and valued roles (Osburn, 1998) for vulnerable people. Acknowledging that most people in adulthood are valued through a worker’s role, as defined by the prerogatives of our Western society (Weber, 1978), a new structure was needed to reinforce that people are only considered normal if they act like everybody else in the same age group (Herrmann, 1989) within a normal setting (Wolfensberger, 2000) and that they would be valued through significant relationships they would maintain with valued people from their community. Transcended mindset and paradigm (Meadows, 1999) of SRV was the other leverage point.
Community actors also acknowledged that there was a need to combine social planning, locality development and strategic alliances, (Fawcett, n.d.), all of which are aligned with the key features of a comprehensive community initiative (Torjman & Leviten-Reid, 2003). When applied within the realm of human services, SRV seeks to identify the extent to which an initiative behaves like and is comparable to a culturally valued analogue, thus an ordinary business. If employment was the outcome, a social services agency could not launch nor manage businesses to employ its own clients, as this function is not part of its original mandate (Meadows, 1999, p.21). The community actors therefore concluded that Valoris could not be a social services provider and an employer of their own vulnerable clients at the same time.
The cross-sector discussions led to a breakthrough and created momentum (Torjman & Leviten-Reid, 2003) around the importance of challenging traditional practices in the employment of people with disabilities. The idea of utilizing an employment approach through social enterprise was considered a worthy option, bearing in mind the notions of SRV.
As an example, by not strictly employing marginalized people, Groupe Convex would favour the social inclusion of challenged individuals through the interactions (Trevino, 2001) they could develop with ordinary people, who constitute 30% of the workforce. Additionally, instead of creating only one enterprise employing numerous people with disabilities under one roof, various micro-businesses would be implemented across the rural region in order to employ people closer to their hometowns with the aim for the businesses and workers to become active engines in the local economy (CCEDNet, n.d.).
Since this new structure would not be governed by the State, stakeholders came to operate within certain constraints of formal and informal agreements and goodwill. They were in a position to make their own choices about how to interact with each other within their environment (Ferdig, 2007, p.27). One agreement is that Valoris will reimburse to social businesses a portion of the social costs related in employing less productive people. Additionally, Valoris accepted to pay the salary of an Executive Director, as a safeguard for their clientele’s prioritization over the sole financial benchmarks. Another agreement with Valoris is that 50% of Groupe Convex’s board of directors would consist of Valoris representatives, again to safeguard the interests of vulnerable people over the superficial business aspects of the initiative. In conclusion, both the practice of leadership and the context in which it takes place are a relational manifestation (Kirk & Shutte, 2004).
The origin of the name is also aligned with SRV: From perspective of geometry, convex refers to the simplest type of polytope with multiple faces, thus referring to Groupe Convex’s small scale, simple organization that embraces diversity. Through the lens of symbolic leadership (Boleman & Deals, 2008), convex refers to the long-term and developmental goal of increasing the self-image of vulnerable people, much like the effect of looking into a convex mirror. In 2004, Groupe Convex was officially incorporated with community actors becoming its first constituents.
Caroline Arcand, is the Co-founder and Executive Director of Groupe Convex, howeverCVX now belongs to the entire community (Barabasi, 2002, p. 18), instead of solely to the concerned instigator of the initiative.
The Social Enterprises
As of 2014, Group Convex owns and operates nine social enterprises:
Antiques Hawkesbury specializes in the restoration and repair of antique furniture and other wooden antique items. Their workshop is located in Hawkesbury, 45 minutes from Montréal and 60 minutes from Ottawa. They offer their services to antique dealers and individuals across Ontario and Québec. Antiques Hawkesbury will bring out the beauty of your old furniture and antiques, while preserving the traces and clues of the past by choosing wisely the colours and finishes.
Recycle- Action is a leader in recycling and recovery in Eastern Ontario. As its name suggests, Recycle- Action acts to protect the environment. Its mandate is to help communities of Prescott-Russell to manage their recyclable material. Recycle- Action is a depot and sorting centre for recyclable materials, including content from blue box programs. It handles paper, cardboard, glass, plastic, white Styrofoam, ferrous metals and aluminum. Recycle- Action also provides related services such as the destruction of confidential documents and the rental of containers to businesses and industries.
Express Net offers interior cleaning services and housekeeping, exterior cleaning and grounds keeping, lawn mowing and snow removal. They also offer professional moving services and painting.
Café Le Plateau
Café Le Plateau is located in downtown Hawkesbury. It’s the perfect place for breakfast, a coffee break or lunch. Their inventive cuisine features seasonal inspired dishes and hearty portions. On the menu: specialty coffees, soups and sandwiches, full course meals, desserts and many healthy choices. Café Le Plateau also offers a catering service.
Café Bistro is located in Rockland, near Morris Village, a new residential development, and close to Jean-Marc Lalonde Arena and a Park O Bus. It’s the perfect place for breakfast, a coffee break or lunch. Their inventive cuisine features seasonal inspired dishes and hearty portions. On the menu: specialty coffees, soups and sandwiches, full course meals, desserts and many healthy choices. Café Bistro also offers a catering service.
Café entre 2 barreaux
Café entre 2 barreaux is located in the village of L’Orignal, within the building complex encompassing L’Orignal Old Jail, the Ontario Court of Justice and the United Counties of Prescott-Russell administrative offices. Their chef, Clément Paquette, and his team members are awaiting with a smile. Clément is a native of L’Orignal and has several years of experience in the food service industry. Trained by the General Governor of Canada’s chef at Rideau Hall, he also worked at Auberge Viceroy in Montpellier, Le Falot in the Eastern Townships and Le Chandelier in Montréal. Their inventive cuisine features seasonal inspired dishes and hearty portions. On the menu: specialty coffees, soups and sandwiches, full course meals, desserts and many healthy choices. Café entre 2 barreaux also offers a catering service.
The Harvesters is a worker co-operative for agricultural and horticultural businesses in Eastern Ontario and Western Québec. They offer many services related to farming: sowing and planting, pruning and cutting wood, picking fruits and vegetables, harvesting, animal care and cow milking. They cultivate their own gardens and sell their fresh produce in seasonal stands. The Harvesters also supply the Green Food Box program. Their services are available seven days a week and their teams travel from farm to farm as needed. The Harvesters accept seasonal, casual or annual contracts. Their experienced employees take their jobs to heart! They can help you during intense periods of planting and harvest or replace your staff while they’re away on vacation.
Menuiserie Woodshop Casselman
Menuiserie Woodshop Casselman is a manufacturer of garden furniture, small furniture and doors, and are in the ornamental wooden products processing industry. They also manufacture pallets certified for export. They are proud to say that their products are made in Canada. Their Adirondack and Muskoka style chairs are made with top quality Western Red Cedar. Their chairs and other products are sold wholesale to hardware stores, retailers and manufacturers. Their workshop is located in the Casselman Industrial Park in Eastern Ontario. They are 20 minutes from Ottawa and Cornwall and close to the U.S. border. Highway 417 eases the fast transportation of goods.
Prescott-Russell Packaging offers bagging and packing services of various products such as electronic components, screws and cleaning products. They also perform the insertion and assembly of documents, labeling, handling and finishing for packaging. The Prescott-Russell Packaging factory is located in Rockland industrial park. They are 20 minutes east of Ottawa, 60 minutes west of Montréal and 60 minutes from the U.S. border. Their services are offered to industries and businesses in the greater region of Eastern Ontario and Western Québec. They offer packaging solutions suited for the products and their shipping conditions. For manual packaging, shrink-wrap or vacuum pack, their services are fast and efficient and their rates are competitive.
Group Convex is a federally incorporated nonprofit organization, which allows them to do business across the Ontario border. The proximity to Quebec and the States is a competitive advantage. Groupe Convex’s social enterprises are provincially registered as businesses and each has its own business license.
Groupe Convex utilized an employment based approach (Alter, 2000) to address chronic unemployment among people living with an intellectual disability. It acts as the parent organization of the nine social enterprises under its umbrella (Fruchterman, 2011). The businesses are income tax-exempted, however, they pay for property taxes, water taxes and business licences. Each business pays rent to a landlord, who may come from the private or nonprofit sector.
Impacts & Outcomes Objectives
People with intellectual disabilities and those who face employment challenges in Prescott-Russell are employed in meaningful jobs.
Groupe Convex believes that as a society, we must reinvent how we deliver the necessary support to create strong and inclusive communities. Convex may, jointly with its partners, guide entrepreneurship forces to solve social problems.
Their social enterprises offer immediate hope for people of Prescott-Russell and are an indication of the potential for long term prosperity, by combining business and social for a citizen cause. Because of innovative business projects which responds to the market’s needs, Groupe Convex contribute to the community economic development. And thus, Groupe Convex’s companies are part of the economic engine of their region. They are part of building a more cohesive local economy.
At Groupe Convex, working is the key toward social inclusion. They support skills development and assist their employees to acquire an active role within the business and within the community.
To learn more about impacts, please read chapter 5 in Quarter (2014)
A Social Enterprise Pioneer in the Region
Groupe Convex is often asked to share its expertise in order to inspire and assist other communities who want to create wealth, wealth that is measured far beyond the dollar sign.
Groupe Convex, through its approach towards economic development, builds on the following actions:
- A continuous and progressive development of companies and business projects that are integrated and aligned within the business world;
- The carrying on of operations or acquiring existing businesses to turn them into social enterprises;
- Products and services that meet community needs;
- Encouraging local consuming and business partnerships in the local area;
- Strengthening the network’s capacity in its contribution to social economy.
*The reference list for the citations mentioned in this story to be published soon
519 Main Street East Hawkesbury ON K6A 2Y2
Last Year's Revenue was 3,516,381
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