The “miracle animal”: Social Enterprise Alliance launches Colorado Chapter!

JVAers Guadalupe Torres and Janine Vanderburg joined a group of 30 social entrepreneurs at the Women’s Bean Project on Friday, November 12 to launch the Colorado chapter of the Social Enterprise Alliance (SEA), the 700-member organization that brings together the diverse field of social enterprise in North America.

New SEA President Lisa Nitze flew into Colorado to address the group, which included a unique mix of for-profit and nonprofit social enterprises, consultants and trainers, microfinance groups, and potential investors.

SEA Alliance President Lisa Nitze

Key points Lisa made:

  • “As we face increasing need and decreased resources to meet those needs, there is a clear gap, and who is stepping in is all of you—the social enterprises.”
  • Social enterprise is the “miracle animal” because it taps into the resources of the public, nonprofit and private sectors, leveraging the resources of each to create business models that both make money and employ people who might otherwise not have jobs.
  • We need to be better at telling the story of social enterprise as a vehicle for economic development. Once we do tell the story, companies get it, and it makes sense for them to invest money in social enterprise.
  • She also pointed out a key distinction between much of the private sector and social enterprise: “In social enterprise, you are thrilled when someone takes your business model—that’s the whole point of it!” And that’s why this sector is exploding.

Among those who helped brainstorm what we might do in Colorado were Patricia Foley Hinnen of Capital Sisters International, Stephanie Madsen-Pixler of the Murphy Center (JVA is currently working with them on developing a social enterprise), Sally Spencer Thomas and Joy Knox of the Carson J Spencer Foundation, and Eric Lombardi of Eco-Cycle.

After the presentation, attendees had a great opportunity to experience social enterprise in action at the Women’s Bean Project, where shopping opportunities included a range of food options as well as its new line of handmade jewelry.

Matt Nathan picks out piece of jewelry with help of Tamra Ryan

JVA Business Planning/Research Analyst Guadalupe Torres shopping!

Thanks to Rolfe Larson and Michael Whitehead-Bust for convening the group, to Tamra Ryan of Women’s Bean Project for hosting, and to all who are committed to volunteering their time to strengthen the field of social enterprise. It’s an inspiring group to be part of. Stay tuned for more!

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