Don't know much about Social Enterprise?


Social Enterprise, say what?!

Anyone who knows me knows that I am all about social and environmental justice. Seriously. Talk to me about any social or environmental issue, and I won’t stop talking.

While brainstorming grand solutions to these issues, I quickly learned that economics matter. You can’t separate the economy from society and the environment. The three need to team up and work together. If businesses place equal value on people, place and profit, communities will thrive and good things will happen. Cue the social enterprise model!

I first heard about social enterprise when I began my master’s program at Ohio University and started working as a graduate assistant for a local nonprofit, Rural Action. Throughout the office I heard the term “social enterprise” everywhere. I could tell that people were really jazzed about this concept. My first reaction was, “Umm, what? What is that?”

Well, let me tell you.

Social enterprise provides novel solutions to societal problems.

Social entrepreneurs are innovative and creative. They use business to face the world’s social and environmental problems — encouraging economic advancement while promoting positive change.

Social enterprise generates a responsible economy.

A business’ goal doesn’t solely have to be turning a profit. The social enterprise model promotes a dynamic economy that focuses on revenue but also places emphasis on people and place.

Social enterprise combines social purpose with commercial activity.

Commerce and consumerism are two prominent pillars in society today, both in the United States and globally. Businesses that have a social mission attract consumers who care about the impact that their purchases have on the world. The social-enterprise model encourages conscious consumerism.

Social enterprise uses business to directly address a social need.

Social entrepreneurs identify what their communities need and adapt their business practices to address those needs.

Social enterprise depends on communities to help make change.

A social enterprise cannot succeed without the support of the community it serves. In order to make a profit, social entrepreneurs need to ensure that their business’ mission supports the best interests of consumers and the place in which they live.

Now, doesn’t that get you super excited about social enterprise and your possible role in its development?

Well, just know:

Many young people are involved in this movement, and examples of social enterprises are everywhere … even in your closet. (Go check out your Patagonia coat.) You can start a social enterprise anywhere, making a profit while doing good in the world.

Social enterprise has the potential to attract young people to Central Appalachia and keep them here for good. If you’re feeling jazzed about this movement, join me at the Appalachian Conference on Social Enterprise (ACOSE) at West Virginia University in Morgantown on May 19-20. The event is hosted by Rural Action. Learn more by visiting Rural Action’s Facebook page.

Let’s meet up and work together to find innovative solutions to longstanding issues in an economically sustainable way!

Katie Norman is a master’s candidate in the International Development Studies program at Ohio University. She works as a graduate assistant with Rural Action, a nonprofit that aims to foster social, environmental, and economic justice in Appalachian Ohio. Katie received her Bachelor’s of Arts in Sociology and Spanish from the University of Dayton in May 2016. Katie hopes to continue her work in sustainable community development and dreams of starting her own social enterprise one day.

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