Social enterprise, Gold speaks to BusinessToday on their commitment to change perspectives and lives for many in the society
Social enterprise, GOLD (Generating Opportunities for Learning Disabilities) is a vocational training centre based in Bandar Sunway for secondary school graduates with special needs. Its core activities are producing baked goods, ceramics, cards, and handmade packaging for corporate or event gifts as well as ornaments.
Through providing a supportive setting for young people with special needs, the measuring, sorting, collating, labeling, mailing and hand packaging among others, the social enterprise is able to generate an income from contractual services for local corporate entities, alongside philanthropic organisations’ financial support.
Founder, Hjh. Juairiah Hj. Johari told BusinessToday that it was the challenge of teaching special education that inspired her to start GOLD.
“I have mapped a transition programe for young adults with learning difficulties to paid employment. My agenda has always been to change academia to one based on pre-vocational training instead of academic performance,” she says.
The non-governmental organisation is committed to helping individuals diagnosed with learning disabilities to realise and nurture their full potential. “These individuals are unequipped with the same levels of physical and mental functionalities as others but with GOLD’s guidance and help, these very special young adults can become contributing members of society.”
How can organisations help?
“Corporations are ideal benefactors of the Kindness Cookies project because its objectives correspond directly with their core themes of corporate social responsibility,” Juairiah says.
The Kindness Cookies project was kickstarted by GOLD through a collaboration with Sunway Group and the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation. Both organisations pledged RM100,000 that helped fund and develop the social enterprise model for students with learning disabilities.
Sunway University provided the culinary and art classes for GOLD’s young adults followed by an exhibition held at Sunway Pyramid. The Group also practices social tendering with GOLD by buying all their products for most of the events that take place under the Group.
The social enterprise founder says GOLD’s aim to provide vocational education extends via the Kindness Cookies project to include training in basic accounting and inventory management needed to run small businesses.
Some of her students are classified as being part of low-income households, and therefore GOLD’s vocational education is invaluable to participating youths and their families.
“Just like CSR, we understand that social investments need to derive returns that are not just impactful but also sustainable. The Kindness Cookies is one such project that closes the loop and achieves those precise goals,” she highlights.
“All partnership requires a minimum commitment period depending on the duration of delivery intervals. GOLD is not a professional baker and we do not have the capacity to produce baked goods in large quantities unlike those of industrial-scale confectionaries.
However, as a training centre with extensive experience, GOLD can produce a steady supply of delicious and high-quality cookies for regular clients on a contractual basis,” Juairiah tells BusinessToday.
By committing to a one, three or a six-month package, it will help the social enterprise manage demand bi-annually as well as effectively manage staff hiring and training.
To date, some 128 young adults have completed the transition programme are employed by companies.
Covid-19 and the future
“We had to shut operations down and transform ourselves into a home business. Some of our staff members are able to adapt to the changes involved, while others are struggling,” she says. The founder further highlights that while her students’ skills are diverse, some do not have baking equipment at home to keep practicing.
The social enterprise’s projected sales target has also been greatly affected.
While she welcomes the government aid during the movement restriction periods, Juairiah says support can also come in technical assistance, aligned with the government’s priorities for its sustainable development goals.
She further urges local councils to provide rental discounts for their premises and for government departments to practice social tendering for the purchase of GOLD’s products. “The government ought to also provide matching grants based on NGOs’ annual sales.”
As for the social enterprise’s future strategies, Juairiah’s roadmap from 2019 to 2021 is to expand GOLD’s core product range, offer high tea catering services, develop digital projects, improve their marketing efforts and provide training in skills useful in the future.