How to Change Lives & Communities

So, How Does a Social Enterprise Work?   Well, let’s start with a semi related story that I came across. First, if I called out for some help to my extended community and social network,  would you come help?  What if I said, “Tomorrow, there will be a minga.”  You’re probably saying, what the heck is a minga?

To better answer what an actual minga is, there’s a fabulous story which did not begin in the US, but in a mountain village in Ecuador (read the entire story!).   To summarize, there was a huge need to get a very big task done by these two guys – build a school in less than 48 hours.   And, it was n’t happening. So the chief put the call out that there will be a minga the very next day.  She explained to the two guys that a minga was a call to action, to EVERYONE.  Roughly translated, it means: “a community coming together to work for the benefit of all.”

Once a minga is called children are sent as runners to neighboring villages (there are no phones).  They all understand that by helping others in another village they helped their collective future. Someday the people of this village—and their children—will return the favor.

So, let’s take this minga story a step further. What is a social enterprise and what does social enterprise do?  In short, it’s a business whose sole existence is to make a direct positive social and/or environmental impact on a community.

Around the world, and here in the United States more and more companies are choosing to use and partner with businesses to create social good. It is innovative and unique because:

  • A social enterprise aims to make a profit, and then use the profits to support its charitable, social and/or environmental goals to accomplish good for the community.
  • A social enterprise also provides products and services that further the charitable, social and/or environmental goals.
  • When a consumer purchases a product or a service from a social enterprise, he or she makes a tangible, positive impact on a community.

Social enterprises differ from for-profit businesses which only promote social responsibility. While these businesses often support social change through their policies of corporate social responsibility, the company’s first goal remains to make a profit.

A social enterprise, on the other hand, takes social change as its primary goal, and uses its profits to reach it.  Social enterprises also differ from traditional charities, which ask you to make a donation of money and/or time. People have only a finite amount of both.   A social enterprise unlocks other ways to make a difference through consumer choices and actions.

Below are a few examples of others who are enacting their own tribal call, “Tomorrow we will have a minga!”

  1. Detroit has many complex social needs. And, Romy Gingras is telling stories via a new podcast about people starting and running social enterprises. Take a listen to some inspiring stories of change @  podcast.  In her latest story,  Romy shares a great discussion with Chef Josh Stockton and one of the owner/partners April Boyle of Gold Cash Gold, a Detroit restaurant that opened up in what was a vacant pawn shop in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood.
  2. Airbnb launched an innovative campaign to raise awareness about the Big Apple’s growing homeless population on the popular house-sharing platform.  On any given night in the United States, there are 578,424 people without homes, according to a homeless population count conducted by cities in January 2014 and reported to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. About 15 percent of the homeless population – 84,291 people – are considered “chronically homeless.” Over 200,000 homeless people are in families, including children.
  3. Outpost Natural Foods, is the fourth largest  consumer food cooperative in the US. 
  4. 22 Awesome Social Enterprise Models
  5. Entities are providing information on how to fund a social enterprise
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