Social Entrepreneurs for Economic Development (SEED)
The SDRCC’s current economic development and entrepreneurship initiative is the Social Entrepreneurs for Economic Development (SEED) program. SEED, an initiative funded by the state of California, aims to serve vulnerable communities facing significant challenges to gainful employment through entrepreneurial opportunities. In collaboration with LISC San Diego, the San Diego Refugee Communities Coalition (SDRCC) has received a $1 million grant to implement the SEED program in San Diego.
The Refugee Health Unit (RHU) within the University of California San Diego (UCSD) – Altman Clinical & Translational Research Institute (ACTRI) Center for Community Health (CCH) plays a critical role in supporting training efforts for the members of the coalition and serving as a bridge between local partner organizations and key stakeholders. Local Initiatives Support Corp (LISC) plays a role in disbursing the grant funding, preparing contracts, and deals with overall fiscal aspects of the program.
The micro-grant opportunity is one of the first initiatives that specifically targets refugee communities and has been praised as a model for emerging programs by state officials
Opportunities for micro-grants for refugee and immigrant entrepreneurs
In order to receive micro-grant funding, entrepreneurs must complete a business training curriculum, develop a business plan and are responsible for providing receipts for their business-related purchases to receive a 2nd disbursement of their award. This is a unique opportunity, one of the first initiatives that specifically targets refugee communities and has been praised as a model for emerging programs by state officials. This is even more relevant because the majority of those who participated in the business training programs and received grants for their start up business were women. Following the success of the pilot program, SEED has been funded for another 2 years!
The SEED program employs a “train-the-trainer” model where staff members from eight Ethnic Community-Based Organization (ECBOs) that are part of the SDRCC are prepared to provide entrepreneurial training as business coaches to at least one cohort of 15-20 entrepreneurs from a particular refugee population, using their preferred language. Business training is provided in the following 10 languages: Amharic, Arabic, Burmese, English, Haitian, Karen, Nuer, Somali, Swahili and Tigrinya.
The business coaches are essential to the success of the program, they serve their communities by providing tailored guidance to each entrepreneur, providing business and entrepreneurship training, language interpretation services and working tirelessly to realize their clients’ visions. The coaches also engaged in outreach efforts to recruit participants. The number of participants that each coach trained ranged from 9 to 40 participants. SEED supports refugee communities by removing some educational, lingual, and financial barriers to achieving their potential.
A more personal note of SDRCC collaboration is the safe space provided during weekly workshops and other gatherings.