By Katy Snyder
JVA Consulting Communications/Resource Development Associate
One of the recurring themes at the recent Social Enterprise Summit in New Orleans was the perception that the U.K. and other Commonwealth countries such as Australia have a much more developed social enterprise sector than the U.S. does.
Unlike in England and in Scotland, the U.S. does not yet have a government agency that coordinates and organizes social enterprise on a federal level. In Scotland, the government has gone so far as to establish a Social Entrepreneurs Fund, which recently handed out its first round of grants to help start-up social enterprise businesses that help the unemployed get jobs.
Although there are many great organizations nonprofit and for-profit organizations in the U.S. that are dedicated to social entrepreneurs, such as the National Center for Social Entrepreneurs (NCSE) and Ashoka, social enterprise is not yet viewed as an essential part of the economy as it is in other countries. Recent developments, however, such as the passage of the Serve America Act, an act that includes a Social Innovation Fund to seed new social enterprises and expand existing ones, and President Barack Obama’s commitment to establishing an office of Social Innovation, seems to suggest the U.S. is on the verge of more closely integrating social enterprise into public and economic policy (check out socialedge.org to read a social enterprise report card for Obama’s first 100 days).
One good model of how the government can work with nonprofits and for-profits to create jobs and address the needs of its citizens is the Louisiana Office of Social Entrepreneurship, whose mission is to advance social innovation by supporting the creation and growth of the most innovative, measurable and sustainable solutions to the social problems affecting Louisiana’s citizens. The Office of Social Entrepreneurship has been instrumental in the state’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina and could be a model for the federal government of how to make social entrepreneurs a key part of the country’s economic recovery.
We’d like you to weigh on this issue—do you think the government should get involved in social enterprise? Can social enterprise help the U.S. recover from the depression we have entered? Let us know by clicking on the comment button below. If you are interested in continuing the conversation about social enterprise on Twitter, click here to join the social enterprise group that JVA has created.