Jobs Climate Encouraging Social Entrepreneurship

June 19, 2012; Source: Washington Post

A Washington Post article suggests that the current jobs climate may be spurring a new crop of social entrepreneurs. Struggling with either job loss or increased hours in the wake of permanent layoffs at their company, a greater number of people are trying to bring their work and social community life together, according to David Hodgson of the private equity outfit General Atlantic and Echoing Green, one of many foundations offering fellowships to new social entrepreneurs trying to launch new hybrid ventures.

In addition to Echoing Green, the new crop of hybrid organizations is being pushed by a variety of different groups, including George Soros’ Open Society Foundations and USAID’s recent partnership with the Skoll Foundation. What we don’t know is if, as Hodgson suggests, there will be a continuum of social enterprises, with some being profitable enough to attract venture capital, or if, as Muhammad Yunus has argued, social enterprises are best left as social businesses with little expectation for financial return on investment and greater focus on the social mission of the business. In either case, what seems certain is that the lines between nonprofit and for-profit organizations will continue to be blurred. –Michelle Shumate

  • Liz Field

    I work for a nonprofit in Ithaca, NY that offers fiscal sponsorship to innovative social change makers in NY State. We have been around since 1971. Social entrepreneurship may seem like a new thing, but mission-driven organizations have been around for a long time. I agree the lines are becoming more and more blurred between nonprofit and for-profit organizations. Some of our projects have a for-profit venture as part of their nonprofit, while others started as a for-profit mission driven organization and then created a nonprofit educational outpost that falls under us. Also in NY we now have B-corporations, which further blur the lines.

    In September we will be hosting the first annual Finger Lakes Social Entrepreneurship Institute at Cornell University and downtown Ithaca. We will guide participants who have social ventures–whether nonprofit or for-profit–through generating a business model specific to their organization. Anyone who is interested in learning more can read about it here: Thanks.