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What are facilities?

Facilities are the physical spaces where an employment social enterprise operates its business and program. The facility could be customer facing (like a retail store) or meant only for participant workers (for job coaching and placement services, for example). In all cases, an enterprise’s facilities should be selected, designed, maintained, and renovated with intention and purpose.

Why is it important?

Facilities are important for an employment social enterprise because they:

  • Are important to safety and security: Inevitably, at least some employment social enterprise team members work at or visit a facility during the work day, and some facilities may even be visited by clients, customers, or community members. It is important to ensure that the facilities are safe and free from hazards.
  • Are important to business continuity and program success: When facilities are designed with participant workers and staff needs in mind, and outfitted to meet operational requirements, workers feel safe, comfortable, and supported, and the social enterprise runs efficiently.
  • Can be a major expense (if rented) or an asset (if purchased): Facilities require active management to minimize costs and maximize value. 
  • Are an important factor for growth: Facilities can be a limitation on growth, as a growing organization often needs a larger workforce and more space. This requires strategic decisions about whether and how to expand facilities.

Self-assessment checklist

Consider reviewing how you are managing your facilities if:
  • There are hazards or safety concerns to address in your facilities
  • You want to explore how facility design can help you better meet the needs of your team members
  • You want to better manage how facilities impact your financials
  • Your organization is growing or planning on growing soon

Best practices   

  • Ensure that facilities meet your social enterprise’s needs from a business and program perspective
    • It is critical to understand how you will use your facilities – a manufacturer of products may need a large warehouse, but if you only use your space as a hub for a staffing business and to host program activities, a small office may suffice. 
    • Think about what your organization needs in a facility, including its location and transportation access, amount of interior space and layout, fit with your operational requirements and design plans, allowance for growth, exterior appearance (particularly for retail businesses), condition and maintainability, and features such as parking or loading docks.
  • Design your space with an audience in mind
    • When designing your facility’s aesthetic and feel, consider the messages you hope to convey: your mission, impact, and/or value to participant workers and customers.   
    • Configure layouts to meet your employee and participant worker needs, provide safe and comfortable surroundings, and promote efficient operations.
      • Cubicles with high walls can feel closed off and isolated. Meanwhile, open floor plans may be great for collaboration, but can sacrifice privacy and productivity. Some organizations designate silent spaces where employees can focus on work, as well as communal areas for socializing. 
      • Use a trauma-informed lens when designing spaces for participant workers. Some organizations operate in spaces with high ceilings and lots of windows that let in natural light to create a feeling of openness and tranquility. Arranging rooms so that occupants have clear paths to exits and creating signage for exits also contribute to feelings of safety and comfort. 
  • Manage your facility with an eye toward optimizing your space
    • Track your facility’s capacity and utilization. Think about alternate layouts of physical space that could allow for increased output.
    • Consider adopting facilities management practices that could lower your energy and other operating costs, promote preventative maintenance, leverage technology, and more.
    • Solicit feedback on your physical site from employees, participant workers, and customers (for retail spaces), and optimize for their experiences based on trauma-informed practices and consumer psychology.
  • Make sure that facilities account for growth, or develop a plan to upgrade facilities
  • If your organization anticipates growth, understand the rate of growth and the timing of when you expect to outgrow your current facilities. 
  • Assess your options, from renovating your existing facilities to moving to a new location. Consider what can be modified in a leased vs. owned space and whether there are any permit, zoning, or building code requirements.
  • Gather employee input and feedback for a facility upgrade or renovation, negotiate lease and purchasing terms, and plan a successful move or renovation based on the anticipated timeline for your organization’s growth.

Additional Resources

About Emerging Market Enterprises

Emerging Market Enterprises (EME) is an advisory firm based in Washington, DC, that works with startups, scaleups, and intermediaries in the impact ecosystem. EME provides a variety of services to its clients and partners to include market strategy, operations improvement, and leadership coaching.