Social entrepreneurship as a form of rehabilitation
Social enterprise Basta uses social entrepreneurship itself as the basis of its business as it offers rehabilitation and work experience for those who have a background in alcohol or drug abuse. As part of our Baltic project exploring the social entrepreneurship ecosystems in Sweden, Latvia and Belarus, we met up with Basta’s founder Alec Carlberg to find out more about the ethos and developments of the enterprise and to get some top entrepreneurial tips.
Where did the inspiration for Basta come from?
I had the opportunity to visit the Italian social cooperative San Patrignano in 1989 and saw how ex-abusers came together to work and build the business and it inspired me to do something similar back home in Sweden. This idea of purposeful work and the opportunity to take ownership of your life was something I knew I wanted to build on and it was used as a basis for the rehabilitation philosophy for Basta when the first centre was set up in Nykvarn outside of Stockholm in 1994.
What is the philosophy you’re working from now?
Basta believes in building self-confidence though the empowerment that comes from being proud of your own achievements. Each person who comes to Basta will make the decision themselves and they will need to truly want to be there. The first year, he or she will go through rehabilitation that mainly focuses on working within the business, presenting opportunities to develop social skills, a new identity and a sense of belonging. Once the first year is finished, each person can decide to stay and help run the social enterprise for as long as they like, with most staying for three or four years.
How is the enterprise set up?
When the idea was being formed in 1994, Basta started off with five partnering municipalities that committed to working with us for five years. As it was a new concept, we needed time to develop the idea as well as the structure, so a long-term commitment was necessary. All the municipalities initially paid 500,000 SEK each year, and they all had a representative on the Board of Basta to ensure regular monitoring of the services and developments. During this process, I was also able to develop further contacts with the public and social sectors to grow my network and today we’re working with over 90 municipalities across Sweden as well as the Swedish Prison and Probation Service. But we also depend on the income we generate through services our team offers within construction, cleaning, daycare for dogs, and catering.
What has it been like working with municipalities?
Over the years, our activities have been very well received by municipalities, but it took time for them to understand that what I was trying to do wasn’t just a ‘normal’ rehabilitation centre. I’ve had to educate them and the discussions we’ve had around the philosophy behind Basta as well as the concept of a social business have been necessary to ensure their acceptance and support. But throughout the years, we’ve kept our commitment to our values and beliefs and we’ve had to in some cases, turn down suggestions from municipalities on how to structure the business. One example was when it was suggested that we should hire an external Managing Director to run the company. But as we have always allowed our staff to take responsibility for team leadership and finances, we wanted to do so on this occasion too. So, we decided to hire from within and give further responsibility to existing staff, which definitely proved to be the right decision over time.
What other advice would you give fellow entrepreneurs and business leaders?
I would definitely highlight the importance of not changing principles and values of your organisation, even if processes and structures change as your business grows. But it’s also important to remember that you are running a company – it needs to be financially sustainable and people should be able to build a career within your company. For a business like Basta, working within the rehabilitation sector, people also need to want to join the business to be able to create change in their own lives.
Another thing I would highlight is to not be afraid to admit that you don’t know everything. At Basta, we have hired consultants that have supported the team to put processes in place and to train the team members to then carry on with the work themselves. This has meant that instead of hiring external people to do the job, we’ve been able to stay true to our values by allowing our existing team members to develop new skills, gain responsibility, and gain confidence to run the business and take control of their lives.
Photo credit: Basta