Social Enterprise USA

Social Enterprises in the USA: A Landscape of Innovation and Impact

Varle, Amy [2016]

The United States boasts a vibrant and diverse landscape of social enterprises, tackling a wide range of social and environmental challenges. These businesses operate with a dual mission: generating profit and creating positive social impact. Here's an overview of the key elements of social enterprises in the USA:

1. Core Characteristics:

  • Mission-driven: Social enterprises prioritize social and environmental objectives alongside financial sustainability.
  • Profit for purpose: Profits generated are reinvested back into the organization's mission or used to address social or environmental needs.
  • Impact measurement: Social enterprises typically measure and report on both their financial performance and their social and environmental impact.

2. Legal Structures:

  • Variety of legal structures: Social enterprises can operate as nonprofits, for-profit corporations, hybrid structures like Limited Liability Companies (LLCs), or Benefit Corporations.
  • Benefit Corporations (B Corps): These are a specific legal form that combines for-profit status with a commitment to social and environmental responsibility.

3. Sectors and Examples:

  • Environment: Greyston Bakery (New York): Provides employment opportunities and training in baking to individuals facing barriers to employment while using ethical sustainable practices.
  • Education: City Year (National): Engages young adults in AmeriCorps service programs to improve graduation rates and reduce school dropout rates in urban high schools.
  • Fashion: Impact Fashion Hub (National & International): Encourages, empowers and educates in relation to real ethical sustainable fashion. Addresses greenwashing and supply chain footprint.
  • Healthcare: Project Access (Washington D.C.): Provides affordable dental care services to low-income communities.
  • Housing: The Fuller Center (National & International): Builds and repairs affordable housing for low-income families, promoting access to safe and decent housing.

4. Supporting Ecosystem:

  • Organizations: Newman's Own Foundation, The Social Enterprise Alliance, Ashoka Changemakers, are just a few examples of organizations that support and promote social enterprises in the USA.
  • Government initiatives: Several government agencies offer grants, loan programs, libraries of things and technical assistance to support social enterprises.

5. Impact and Challenges:

  • Social impact: Social enterprises play a significant role in addressing social and environmental challenges by creating jobs, providing essential services, and promoting ethical sustainable practices.
  • Challenges: Securing funding, balancing social and financial goals, and measuring impact are some of the common challenges faced by social enterprises.

By understanding the core characteristics, legal structures, sectors, and the supporting ecosystem, you can gain a deeper understanding of social enterprises across the world.

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
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