By: Keyron Smith
Chief Operating Officer, OEF and CTI
“Keyron, why would you leave your good position and secure job to go work for a nonprofit on a family island? You realize they get their money from donations, right!?”
Many people asked me these questions when I decided to move back to Eleuthera and work for the One Eleuthera Foundation (OEF) and Centre for Training and Innovation (CTI). Some called it “risky,” but I saw an opportunity to return home and join locally grown nonprofit organizations invested in creating sustainable development and driving new ideas that spark change and innovative solutions.
I also came to the realization that many people support the social causes of nonprofits; however, many question the sector’s viability in creating meaningful and job security and economic opportunities for employees and the communities they serve. In some cases, this might be some people’s genuine experience in working with nonprofits.
Nevertheless, I hope to shed light on how nonprofits and social enterprises can create long-term sustainable development and demonstrate some powerful ways OEF and CTI serve as living examples of these possibilities.
OEF was founded in April 2012 as a nonprofit community development organization with five key focus areas: economic development, education, environment, health, and heritage. CTI was established as a nonprofit tertiary training institution in 2016 to provide training and education to people so that they would be better prepared to find employment while furthering the island’s economic, environmental, agricultural, and social development through vocational and technical training.
I was intrigued by OEF and CTI’s unique interconnected model of programs designed to improve the quality of life for locals while strengthening its people and communities to become more self-sufficient. These sister organizations work collectively to strategically address the needs of various communities across the island. Historically, OEF has operated as the engine, and central administrative facility powering the programs and projects being administered across Eleuthera, while CTI has provided much of the infrastructure and program delivery.
The Rock Sound campus also known as the CTI training campus is the nucleus of the operation. Nestled on 50-acres, you’ll find the administrative offices for OEF but also a triad of nonprofit social enterprises which function primarily as training centers.
Our nonprofit social enterprises are centers that utilize revenue-generating services to fund and address critical social challenges like unemployment. OEF/CTI’s social enterprises help to provide job opportunities for at-risk communities. In the case of nonprofit social enterprises, profit maximization is never the primary goal like a “for-profit business,” and as a result, there are no paid shareholders. Instead, any earned revenues are used to support the social programs.
Our Campus Social Enterprises
On the campus of OEF/CTI our social enterprises include The Retreat, a quaint 16-room bungalow-style hotel which happens to be the country’s only training hotel. We also have the Farmer’s Table restaurant which serves as a center for culinary training. The restaurant also offers an affordable farm-to-table experience for residents and visitors to the island using the produce grown on our farm. The farm itself is the third social enterprise. It plays an important
role in providing access to healthy produce for our communities and agricultural training. Through its focus on social enterprise and community development, OEF and CTI have grown to be one of the largest employers in South Eleuthera and currently employ over forty-five (45) persons in Eleuthera.
Our social enterprises provide students with practical training opportunities through immersion courses that also create employment opportunities and business training. For example, CTI’s signature “Learn and Earn” program provides a weekly stipend to students while they study and work on practical projects related to their trade on campus. CTI’s farm is focused on addressing some of the food security and health challenges faced by the community.
The farm also operates as a “live lab” for local farmers and students to learn and gain valuable hands-on training in sustainable farming techniques and technologies. The Retreat Hotel is critical in addressing the need for hospitality training, but it also provides employment for the community and contributes to Eleuthera’s agritourism offerings with the farm.
The Farmer’s Table Restaurant is vital to educating our students and customers about how fresh produce and greens can be prepared in healthy but tasteful ways to help reduce our island’s high incidence of diet-related diseases. It also provides additional employment opportunities.
Learn and Earn Program
Our “Learn and Earn” training program in South Eleuthera, has experienced a 97% graduation rate, with 75% of our alums gainfully employed and 64% engaged in a field related to their course of study. In addition, many of these students were able to gain job opportunities in CTI’s various nonprofit social enterprises on our campus.
In 2019 we launched CTI’s Harbour Island Trade School (CTI-HITS) in the North where we also provide vocational and technical training. CTI-HITS maintains a 95% graduation rate, with 95% of our graduates employed and 85% of them working in a related field. Overall, we have trained over two hundred and fifty students across Eleuthera.
While we are still building capacity and strengthening our model, this remains a prime example of how nonprofits and social enterprises can be integrated to help drive sustainable development across family islands. While most nonprofits rely mainly on donations, the social enterprise aspect helps to create a source of income and operational sustainability in between fundraising cycles. At OEF/CTI, we are consistently working on improving this balanced model of funding.
There is no blueprint, but we see the value in diversifying funding resources so that we can continue to provide these opportunities. Our long-term goal at OEF/CTI is to achieve long-term sustainability by focusing on the “triple bottom line” of social impact, environmental sustainability, and revenue generation.
In hindsight, I never would have dreamed that I would work for a nonprofit in Eleuthera. Yes, some may still call it risky, but OEF and CTI’s work shows that with the right resources, out of the box thinking and strategic partnerships, communities can grow and thrive one person at a time. I am glad that I took the step to return to the island where I spent many of my childhood days to join an organization and team that is working diligently to cultivate a replicable model for community development across The Bahamas and other Small Islands Developing States.
About One Eleuthera Foundation
Founded in 2012, One Eleuthera Foundation is a community-based non-profit organization dedicated to transforming our local island communities into thriving, self-sufficient ecosystems. We do this by focusing on five key areas: economic ownership, meaningful educational advancement, pathways to wellness, and environmentally sustainable communities centered around our island’s unique cultural identity. We run a number of social enterprises, including CTI, our vocational school; the Retreat Hotel, a training hotel for hospitality students; and our farm and Cooling House, which trains future farmers in the best sustainability and food production practices. Through OEF’s consistent dedicated efforts, the tenacity and resourcefulness of our legacy community, and the support of donors and partners, we are creating change in Eleuthera.