This post is part of a weekly column by the Social Innovation Research Group (SIRG) – Taiwan.
The Garden of Hope is a foundation focused on helping women recover from sexual abuse, human trafficking, and domestic violence. Among a variety of other programs, Garden of Hope emphasizes both job creation and training, helping women reintegrate into society with a set of marketable skills.
While job training organizations are common in Taiwan, Garden of Hope is the only foundation that works with marginalized women. The majority of SIRG’s conversation with Garden of Hope focused on the foundation’s attempts to become financially sustainable.
Like many other foundations in Taiwan, the Garden of Hope has incorporated elements of social enterprise into day-to-day operations. Both financial sustainability and the ability to weather poor market conditions were cited as reasons for the shift, though the Director General Daniel Chen admitted that it would be some time before Garden of Hope could fulfill the requirements necessary to consider itself a social enterprise.
Revenue Generating Projects
Right now, Garden of Hope’s Revenue generating projects cover about 2% of total operating costs. Several brands exist under the umbrella project that is Garden of Hope.
The Sweetheart chocolate workshop teaches women how to make handmade chocolates, preparing them for positions as chefs or in the service industry. Cristall Ball teaches abuse survivors how to work as domestic help in the tourism industry. Cristall Ball is paired with a Taidong bed and breakfast, where women are given the opportunity to access paid work.
These programs are developed to ensure that women have access to counseling, daycare, and paid employment that will help them transition effectively into a service industry position. Because of its commitment to provide each woman participating in a Garden of Hope program a high level of individual support and mentorship, the foundation has yet to scale its revenue-generating projects. Though income generation is important, Chen maintained that the Foundation’s core fidelity was to its social mission.
Garden of Hope is also noteworthy because it maintains innovation and performance focused evaluation, differing from typical non-profits, which tend to either measure financial accountability or a wide range of different and random donor-driven measurements.
Chen explained that Garden of Hope relies on Balanced Scorecards, which use different priorities depending on the program being evaluated. For example, revenue-generating programs are not only evaluated on their social returns, but also on profits. These are performance driven metrics, measured by how well different programs adhere to Garden of Hope’s overall mission.
Chen added that while there was occasionally tension between financially and socially focused groups within Garden of Hope, both were able to make decisions and prioritize based on and understanding that Garden of Hope’s mission was primarily socially driven. Because donors often set the evaluation priorities for charities and non-profits, evaluation processes are not always aligned with an organization’s mission – they might focus on keeping track of dollars and cents, or adhering to other poorly fit metrics.
While these evaluations might be useful for the donor, they provide the organization with relatively little information on improvement. Garden of Hope is large enough to set its own evaluation criteria, ensuring that it is applicable.
Though it started in 1988, Garden of Hope has grown to be one of the larger non-profits in Taiwan’s social landscape. Whether it transitions fully to become a social enterprise remains a question mark. However, an eye for financial sustainability and strong evaluation processes certainly make it a model non-profit organization.
Over the course of her undergraduate degree, Remi co-founded Just Rights Radio and the INDePth conference, two organizations that encourage students to explore challenges of access and marginalization. She has conducted fieldwork in Indonesia and has previously visited Taiwan as a documentary filmmaker and researcher on the impact of popular film on nationalist sentiment. Her thesis project involved creating a map to track social innovation across the developing world.
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