Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Is Santa Fe Complex a Social Enterprise? If Yes, Please Explain.

Yes! A social enterprise, or social entrepreneurship, is an organization whose activities result in both revenues to the organization and benefits to society. A social enterprise can benefit society through direct services to the community, or by reallocating some of its profits to public purposes. The fullest measure of a social enterprise, beyond services and philanthropy, is an organization that benefits society through the manner of its operations, for example a business that employs the handicapped, or makes an otherwise polluting waste stream into a useful product.

Social enterprises range from very mainstream businesses with exemplary employee and environmental policies, to activist organizations with an explicit world-changing mandate. A for-profit company can become a social enterprise by making commitments to social equity and environmental sustainability in its corporate charter. Currently, the B Corporation process is the most carefully structured and widely accepted certification for social enterprises, or “triple-bottom-line” businesses, but there are many other ways to make your commitments public.

A not-for-profit organization, like Santa Fe Complex, has a commitment to certain public benefits built into its corporate structure, and its activities must be “mission-driven” -- they must further the mission of the organization. A ‘non-profit’ can, and should, earn revenues; the limitation in the name is only that any profits must be cycled back into the work of the organization. The public purpose the Complex serves is “scientific and educational” and includes “creating economic opportunities”.

You would think that with all that public purpose built in, non-profits would have a big head start in becoming social enterprises. My view is that the majority of non-profits, while effectively delivering social benefits, are relatively static elements in our economy. They draw on government and philanthropic funding sources, and they employ a fairly small and homogeneous group of professionals. They just aren’t engaged in a great number of people’s livelihoods the way a social enterprise could be. They deliver public benefits as outcomes of their activities, but not through the manner of their operation.

Santa Fe Complex is positioned to fulfil the whole package of social enterprise -- we provide direct services to the community, like our educational programs, but we also create a million dollars a year (and growing) of high-wage employment in the Santa Fe area. And the manner of our operations delivers significant additional public benefits: we train workers, we engage students and interns, we contribute to open-source technologies and knowledge banks, we expand local partner’s capacities, we buy local, we engage and educate the public, and we build networks of collaboration and interdependence... all in the course of completing revenue-producing projects at the highest level of professionalism.

Santa Fe Complex is expanding the areas of expertise of our members. We’re expanding the types of project we can take on, and we are expanding our community partnerships. We’re expanding our impact on the Santa Fe economy, increasing the creative capacity and everyday livelihoods of more, and more diverse, Santa Feans. We are doing this intentionally, and as a matter of principle -- our public purpose is enshrined in our incorporation papers and in the social contract that bound our founding members. Yes, Santa Fe Complex is a social enterprise. I think it it is an exemplary social enterprise, with a big role to play in building a stable and equitable future for our community.

Now you know some of the values and motivations that inspire the Complex founders and our supporters in the community. If you share these or similar beliefs and enthusiasms, I hope you’ll come in and become a member, a donor, a partner, or a client. We need your participation -- we need you to be part of the ‘we’.

Roy Wroth, Executive Director.