FO-Aarhus - a social enterprise
A "social enterprise" is a charitable, philanthropic enterprise (from the Greek "philanthropia": benevolence). By virtue of its ancient, constitutional freedom of assembly, Denmark is known for a wide range of societies, unions and organizations, among them the co-operative movement, co-operative societies, and political, religious and ecclesiastical societies which have resulted in social enterprises.
Legally speaking, a social enterprise is usually a non-profit foundation or an independent institution, although profit is of course prerequisite for running a business. However, the purpose is to benefit society, especially the weak and disadvantaged groups - in other words, the goal is to strengthen the social economy and not the monetary economy. Supply of services and exchange of knowledge are crucial in achieving this.
Profit follows the purpose
Profits are reinvested openly and transparently in the business, which is for the public good. Responsibility, legitimacy, credibility and conscientiousness are characteristic of the activities. For best results, the social enterprise is run professionally. A social enterprise seeks to convert the potential resources in underprivileged society into active, social capital.
Implementing new ideas requires innovation and social engineering - the keen eye for where to make a difference with your ideas and visions. A social enterprise acts as "the R & D department of the welfare society", contributing social innovation and new solutions to society, including involvement of new technology. The social enterprise continuously follows up on the initiatives of itself and others.
Through development of greater diversity in the range of social offerings, a social enterprise contributes to the overall social value or welfare in society.
The activities often happen in interplay and co-operation with others, either private or social enterprises, associations, organizations and the authorities. The result is often a mixed financing of the activities, which includes various types of sponsorships.
A social enterprise is expected to contribute to public debate and community visions on their own initiative. Everything comes down to commitment, and social enterprises are based on voluntary effort and the sincere, social commitment of the founders. When you learn and sense that your efforts are truly useful, your commitment becomes excitement. Social enterprises are run by enthusiasts.
These qualities are fully matched by Torben Dreier, the longtime manager of FO-Aarhus! And the enthusiasm both includes and rubs off on his staff.
FO-Aarhus and the social contribution
The great FO-Aarhus effort on popular education is known for offering opportunities for underprivileged children, young people, the elderly, immigrants, the unemployed, the sick, and slow readers and writers… In this way, FO-Aarhus contributes to supplying all social groups with additional options in the information and welfare society, thereby counteracting the continual propensity of society to split up into groups with few or no skills, and groups with many and varied skills and options.
FO-Aarhus has operating agreements with both the government and the local authority and in addition, we co-operate with a wide range of projects, associations, organizations, businesses, enthusiasts, and originators…
The purpose of the law of public education is to turn significant public matters into conversational topics for all citizens, including the weak and underprivileged. Public education should result in public debate and active citizenship.
How exactly is FO-Aarhus a social enterprise?
A social enterprise deals with the following subjects and below, we've given a range of examples of the FO-Aarhus initiatives in each area:
- working for a social, sanitary or environmental cause
FO-Aarhus runs a range of projects meant to provide jobs for the unemployed and recipients of sickness benefit. In addition, we employ more than 30 people in flexible and light jobs, and we almost constantly employ 4 or 5 persons in work capacity testing. Read the article on the homepage of the Folk high school association.
FO-Aarhus has made abuse and absence policies and provides a free fitness room for its employees. Moreover, the workplace encourages its employees to jointly participate in the DHL relay race, Let's bike to work, and others. Lectures for the staff have also been arranged on the subjects of healthy diets, working positions, avoiding stress, and more.
FO-Aarhus is a self-declared green organization, that is, we are conscious about the environmental aspects of all parts of everyday life: lighting, toilet flushing, coffee and tea, bread and butter for meetings, recyclable copying paper, and sorting of waste. In one of our buildings, we have constructed a hanging garden in the back yard on the 1st floor, above a car park.
- running a profitable business
FO-Aarhus trades in evening school courses, language CDs, licenses for teaching language, and rents out rooms.
- reinvesting the profit in the cause
All funds gained from sales and renting are channeled into running the association and invested in the development of new projects.
- creating user managed solutions
For example, FO-Aarhus annually gives grants to a wide range of activities that spark debate and are managed by the applicants themselves, like our senior folk high schools and literature circles, which are mainly managed by the participants.
- external partnering
FO-Aarhus has a wide range of partners and partnerships, like Job Growth, The Culture Swing, Student House Aarhus, Aarhus Festival, East Jutland Competence Center, Eductor, Aarhus Manufacturing School, The Woman House, The City League, Aarhus Business, and Green Guides. These are just a few of our present business partners.
- internal partnering
For a number of years, FO-Aarhus has merged with various training companies, such as The Reflexology School, ES Language Service, Adult Music Education Society, The New Evening School, LOF Senior Folk High School, Aarhus Special Education School… these schools kept their names after they joined the FO umbrella.
- awareness of our local roots
FO-Aarhus is a local division of the NETOP national association, and is based in Aarhus municipality. Therefore, our field of operations is primarily inside Aarhus municipality. However, we have partners in places like Odder, Skanderborg, and Horsens.