Social Inclusion of Young People in the Labor Market. The Case of La TOHU in Montreal
Études de cas
Wilfredo Angulo Baudin
Centre de recherche sur les innovations sociales
Saint-Michel belongs to the group of Montreal neighbourhoods affected by the negative impacts of economic globalization and the decline of Fordism, namely greater inequality and territorial and social divides. These neighbourhoods, as spaces on the margins of economic growth and victims of disintegrating social cohesion, are “orphan neighbourhoods” (Fontan et al., 2003), in other words, they are left to their own devices in times of profound social and economic changes, leading to their devitalization (Trudelle et al., 2011). To combat this loss of quality of life, actors are mobilizing to find answers and solutions, giving rise to local redevelopment initiatives. One such initiative is La Tohu, an open, social economy cultural institution in the Saint-Michel neighbourhood of Montreal. Established in in 2004, its mission was to contributed to urban revitalization of this marginalized community by creating an innovative cultural space. To achieve its goal of urban renewal, La Tohu developed a number of employment and social inclusion programs for youth, a strategy that, widely used in Quebec and in Canada, has tangible socioeconomic benefits for society. Researchers are exploring the “social return on investment” of social economy enterprises in a variety of ways using different methodologies. Our study is part of a pan-Canadian project funded by the SSHRC, and similar studies on the social return on investment have been conducted across the country. This study was carried out in a partnership between La Tohu and Concordia University. The research objectives, parameters and methodolology were defined with La Tohu. This study is based on qualitative methodology and involved 18 semi-structured interviews. The research results validated our hypotheses, namely: a) The cultural project of La Tohu and its implementation, together with good governance practices, has had structural impacts on the urban revitalization in the Saint-Michel neighbourhood; b) The young people who participated in the integration programs acquired sufficient skills to improve their situation and currently hold a job or are students or student employees; c) The social return on investment of youth employment programs established at La Tohu extends beyond the direct beneficiaries and has significanat impact on the managers, the organization, the neighbourhood and society as a whole; and d) La Tohu is an organization capable of establishing the conditions to stimulate creativity among its employees and to fulfill its mission. This research identifies indicators of the social return on investment of youth employment programs. We observed that these programs have direct benefits for the young participants as well as positive effects on society and the urban revitalization of Saint-Michel neighbourhood. Our calculation of the socioeconomic impact and social return on investment demonstrates that the resources invested by the government in employment integration programs for young people, far from representing a tax burden for the various levels of government, on the contrary contribute to economic growth and to improving citizens’ quality of life. Government support for this type of program is an investment in the future of Quebec society.