The Social Enterprises of CWS combine entrepreneurship and social mission to address community needs through market-based initiatives. While these enterprises have much in common with traditional, commercial businesses, their greater goal is social wealth rather than private profit.
Creative Work Systems was one of first organizations in the country to develop a social enterprise model that provides adults with intellectual disabilities valuable training and competitive employment. It’s a simple idea: at CWS, we want to further the understanding that all people have a valuable contribution to make to each other and to society.
According to the 2014 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium, Maine adults with disabilities are two and one-half times more likely to be unemployed and three times more likely to live in poverty than Mainers without disabilities. These disparities were greater in Maine than anywhere else in the United States.
CWS has proved to be a pioneer in delivering the ‘triple bottom line’ of three vital measures of sustainability: social mission (serving Maine adults with disabilities); environmental health (producing eco-friendly products from local resources); and financial benefit (generating income for program participants).
Maine Woodworks: A Made-to-Order Woodshop with a Mission
Since 1988, Maine Woodworks has produced affordable bench-crafted, Maine cottage-style furniture made from sustainable hardwood harvested in North America. Coatings are water-based and extremely low-VOC (volatile organic compound). MWW sells 3,000 pieces of furniture each year to East Coast retailers and was recently praised in Furniture Today for representing “the highest quality, construction and durability.”
Maine Woodworks remains committed to the CWS mission by maintaining an integrated work force and opportunities for employment and on-the-job training for individuals with disabilities. In addition, all proceeds from MWW sales are reinvested in CWS to provide support for adults in Maine with disabilities.
YES Art Works: Supporting and Inspiring Artists with Disabilities
At YES Art Works, the art studios of Creative Work Systems, we provide an array of creative opportunities where unique talents can flourish, cultivating pride, confidence, and independence as working artists. YES Art Works supports them in their quest to become working artists, and promotes their work as an emerging and increasingly important contribution to the contemporary art world. Exhibits throughout Southern Maine frequently offer artists the opportunity to exhibit their work in public, and sales of art support both the artist and the program.
Culinary Works: Mastering Essential Kitchen Skills
The Culinary Works program is the newest CWS social enterprise, offering people with disabilities the opportunity to enhance independence by developing essential kitchen skills. Program participants learn to plan nutritionally balanced meals, shop for ingredients, follow recipes and present appealing meals, in addition to mastering kitchen safety. The program also will soon offer more rigorous training with the goal selling prepared foods, which will generate opportunities for individuals to earn income.
Cultivation Works: Cultivating Soil, Minds and Community
Participants in the Cultivation Works program learn basic life skills and develop an understanding of food production by growing seedlings, vegetables, herbs, flowers, and tending gardens and greenhouses. The goal of the Cultivation Works program is to enhance individuals’ connection to sustainable agriculture, and to learn farming and cultivation techniques that lead to healthy diets, increased life skills, and employment opportunities. Proceeds from sales are reinvested in the program and divided among participants, providing them with the opportunity to increase independence, health and well-being.