Jibin Joy, Jithu Thomas and Anil Baby, Founders of Bridge social innovations
Bridge is a social enterprise to equip employ and empower people with intellectual disability. We have conducted an interview with Mr Jibin Joy, co founder of Bridge social Innovations on Dec 15th and here is the description of the session through his words.
“To empower people with intellectual disability economically and socially by creating employment opportunities and also by building brands exclusively for the products produced by this section of the society and their dependents.” At Bridge we build a platform where the employability of intellectually disabled (ID) is possible. Our initiatives are directed to equip | Employ | empower the intellectually disabled to the mainstream of the society. We believe that economic independence can add comfort to the lives of intellectually disabled and their families. Our initiatives are towards creating employment opportunities for the ID. We also brand and market the products made by the intellectually disabled community ensuring its quality and market standards.
The idea of this social enterprise was conceived during our Post graduation in Social work at K.E College, Mannanam, Kottayam. An all Kerala cultural fest and exhibition for intellectually disabled people, AWAKE (2012&2013) which was conducted by the students of social work was our inspiration. We understood the capabilities of these people and their ability in being employed. But our attitude has always kept them aside of the main stream. Later we were also a part in conducting few other programs for their promotion. Though it was virtually formed in 2013 it came into physical existence on January 1st, 2015. The approach used in our initiative is “social business model” were a pressing social problem is solved through a business model.
Our approach | Social business
Social business is a cause-driven business. In a social business, the investors/owners can gradually recoup the money invested, but cannot take any dividend beyond that point. A social business always address a social problem and the business methods formulated is for the solution of the addressing social problem.
The problem we address
According to the 2001 census, 3% of the Indian population is people with intellectual disability. Intellectual disabilities are poorly understood in India. It is commonly thought, even among educators, that anyone with an IQ of less than 80 cannot participate in mainstream activities, least of all join the workforce. This limits the economic opportunities available to the cognitively challenged, leaving them marginalized and dis empowered. Most special schools accept and patronize this community up until the age of 14, following which they are entertained through non-earning vocational practices till the age of 16. And after that they lead a life of alienation and some even survive on charity.
Dependency has made them a burden to their families and to the community, creating several social problems. Bridge believes that empowering them financially by creating employment opportunities can solve this social problem to a great extent. Today there are several institutions that provide vocational training and jobs for people with intellectual disability. But the products made by them is unable to compete with the market standards due to several factors. Therefore these institutions is unable to remunerate them as required.
Kerala State Government appointed, M.K Jayaraj Commission report which studied the challenges faced by the people with intellectual disability in Kerala, stated that 80% of the people with intellectual disability are having mild and moderate disability who could be employed in day to day repetitive jobs requiring skills. But social stigma prevents them from entering the mainstream workforce.
The solution we provide
At Bridge we try to solve this dependency and alienation problem by creating employment opportunity. We are keen in researching and developing employment opportunities that suits to the working nature of this people. We equip vocational units with machineries that are easy to use, provide training to help them equip and adapt to the machineries and the production process. Through employment they are remunerated and thereby they can live a life of acceptance.
Bridge finds the opportunity here; we study the employment opportunities that matches the skillset of these people and implement them in already existing vocational centers and also build new vocational units. We ensure that the products manufactured by these units meet the market standards and provide every support required for the production unit’s to bring out quality products. We also brand these products under a single brand to keep an identity. Branding and marketing has been one of the main challenges faced by the existing vocational centers which Bridge Social Innovation tries to solve. We design profit making business models that can be replicated. The vocational units also employs their parents who understands them and thereby create a supportive environment. In many cases, one or both the parents are out of their job to take care of their special kid.
This is what we do:
Equipping vocational centers with the latest machinery and technology.
Equipping the differently abled by providing vocational training.
Creating employment opportunity by establishing vocational units and by helping them get employed in organizations.
Branding products manufactured by the special people.
Marketing products made by the special people.
Researching on new job opportunities for the special people.
Providing sustainable solutions to problems faced by people with intellectual disability.
EDUCRAFT notebooks is the first initiative of Bridge Social Innovations in creating an employment opportunity for people with intellectual disability. Bridge in association with Mithram Employability center has been able to set up a Notebook Manufacturing unit that produce quality notebooks meeting the market standards. This is a model of our first initiative which we are planning to replicate to other vocational centers in Kerala, providing employment opportunity for more people with intellectual disability and their parents. Since many of these institutions have had experience in book binding in the past, notebook making is a good starting point. EDUCRAFT is a brand for all stationary materials that we are planning to launch in the near future.
EDUCRAFT notebook is different from that which is available in the market. The book is one proving the vocational abilities of these people. The inner cover of the book is motivational and is one creating awareness about these section of the society to the common people who are least aware. Employment Opportunity/remuneration created through this model. EDUCRAFT notebook manufacturing unit employs 9 people with intellectual disability and 4 of their parents. The unit is set to produce 1000 books per day with a labour charge of Rs.3/book.
Our replication model
Bridge is researching on more employment opportunities that can provide a sustainable solution to the problems faced by people with intellectual disability. Apart from stationary material production we are looking forward to establish ourselves into fields like Agriculture, Food Industry, Manufacturing, Handicraft, Textile industry and other industries. We are also in the pilot study to start placement cell for people with intellectual disability. Through this we look forward to refer people with intellectual disability in the open employment by providing training and timely assistance.
Our sole concern through these projects is to equip, employ and empower people with intellectual disability. The profit generated from the business is reinvested for the sustainability of the project and also in initiating new such business models.
Know more about us: www.bridgeinnovates.com