Social Enterprise Approach to Eco-Tourism

Pinelands Creative Workshop "Social Enterprise Approach to Eco Tourism Project" with funding support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme (SGP) implemented by UNDP - March 2020
Published: 09 August 2021
Last edited: 09 August 2021
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The Blue Economy concept seeks to promote economic growth, social inclusion, and the preservation or improvement of livelihoods while at the same time ensuring environmental sustainability of the ocean and coastal areas.

To realize this, Non-Governmental Organisations were introduced to the social enterprise concept to enable the creation of sustainable and innovative enterprises/businesses that can positively impact sustainable livelihoods, specifically the most vulnerable. In addition, this was recognized as a further way of examining alternative funding modalities to attend to organisational sustainability and at the same time promote an inclusive or whole of society approach to the growth and development of the Blue Economy and the eco-tourism sub sectors.


Scale of implementation
Coral reef
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Disaster risk reduction
Erosion prevention
Food security
Indigenous people
Standards/ certification
Sustainable livelihoods
Traditional knowledge
Waste management
Urban and Disaster Risk Management
Resilience and disaster risk management
Pollution (incl. eutrophication and litter)
Lack of access to long-term funding
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Lack of food security
Unemployment / poverty
Sustainable development goals
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 14 – Life below water
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 6: Sustainable management of aquatic living resources
Target 7: Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry
Target 8: Pollution reduced
Business engagement approach
Direct engagement with associations




  • Little eco-tourism operations
  • Lack of understanding of civil society in issues of business development
  • Weak financial position of NGO’s
  • Dependency on funding from donors
  • Sustainability of social initiatives
  • Threat of cessation of NGO operations
  • Consistent support to beneficiaries
  • Unemployment



  • Civil society organizations interested in eco-tourism
  • Eco-tourism industry
  • Wider society

How do the building blocks interact?

Considering that the concept of Social Enterprise is relatively new as well as the Blue Economy portfolio, a phased approach was applied.  As such the development of the modules or the design phase chose to divide the training module into two (2) core components - social and business, which allowed for clarity of each and at the same time shared the functionality or co-existance of both within the NGO space. As part of the testing phase, the module incorporated familiar examples as well as utilised the ideas and projects already conceptualised  by participating NGO's which was seen as one way to create relatability to the concept and ownership of the process.

This approach, from design to testing provided a solid framework for the further development into the formal course which was expanded by the expert committee and the UWI-OC, Barbados team.


  • Eight (8) NGO’s trained and better equipped to develop socially responsible business to support the Blue economy
  • A 12 module/ thirty (30) contact hour Continuing and Professional Education (CPE) course of study in Social Entrepreneurship (SE) for Caribbean Transformation developed with the University of the West Indies – Open Campus, Barbados
  • Two businesses legally registered and additional training, small grant support and national implementation through support from Government.
  • The training provided the opportunity to build awareness of the SDG’s with specific reference to SDG 14 – Life Below Water.
  • New knowledge gained that can be shared within participating organizations on new a form of income generation to improve organizational sustainability.
  • The training provided in Blue Economy and Social Enterprise allowed for the start of the hybridization process from which future initiatives or organisational design could be built around the concept of social enterprise resulting in the proliferation of socially esponsible businesses. 
  • Behavioral change occurred where there is a shift from a linear or economic model which focuses on the take, make and dispose mentality; to a more circular model which is a fundamental shift in how we behave and consume – a more regenerative and restorative design and thinking


The programme’s resilience was tested during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, participant numbers remained high and training was effectively transitioned to an online platform with an additional seven days offered to the participants during the COVID-19 lockdown. Important factors to the success in the training delivery was having the appropriate trainer and support team that was able to use their experience and knowledge; ability to draw on the social partners of the implementing organization to effectively create the ideal learning environment and respond to the varied needs of participants. This inclusive process, despite the varied social and economic threats created as a result of COVID-19,  lent to commitment to participation. Furthermore, the level of discussion and knowledge sharing in sessions was a further indicator of the satisfaction with the instruction and content which was reflective of expressed interest.


Additionally, given the discomfort with technology among participating organisations, as a response, technical support was provided to assist with ICT challenges and use of online platforms; one on one and group sessions were introduced to afford improved use and comfort with new technologies and confidence in the program, faciliatators and the implementing organisation.  This challenge and the response also highlighted the importance of communication, flexibility and the application of human centered approaches to project implementation and management.


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Sophia Greaves Pinelands Creative Workshop