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Nov 19, 2015

Now Is the Time To Encourage Multiple Efforts in Social Enterprise Support

Now is an exciting time in Central Ohio as multiple, diverse efforts are fostering and encouraging social impact-focused business.  It is far too soon to consider this diversity as duplicative.  Quite the contrary, by encouraging multiple efforts addressing diverse audiences, approaches, and goals our community will be able to “experiment” to find the mix that works best in our community.

As momentum builds locally, outside organizations are considering bringing their programs to Columbus.  I hope our community does not conclude that their arrival makes our home-grown programs duplicative, redundant, or possibly inferior.

Columbus sometimes tends to favor outside or national programs over local ones.  I hope that will not be the case now.  Local organizations with local boards serving local needs will always provide a more local emphasis than outside programs that may have statewide, national, or global ambitions.  Indeed, cities around the country have seen that when a company moves its headquarters elsewhere, its local focus becomes diluted as it competes with the needs and demands of other cities.

Let us celebrate the following, multiple efforts to support social impact going on in our community.

Networking:  The Center for Social Enterprise Development (CSED) launched its bi-monthly PLUG-IN networking series for local social entrepreneurs.  The OSU student organization Alleviating Poverty Through Entrepreneurship (APTE) also launched its networking series Unsectored to introduce OSU students to local social enterprises.

Training: CivicHacks recently launched its B-celerator program to train existing businesses in how to re-orient their focus toward social impact and become Certified B Corporations™.  CSED launched a new series of workshops for nonprofits and emerging social enterprises in key start-up skills.  Pipeline Angels will make Columbus the 21st city to host its bootcamp that will train women about angel investing in social enterprise start-ups.  Focused on a more general start-up audience, Sundown Rundown has launched its six-session Business Building Seminar Series.  And ECDI continues its four-session primer series Small Enterprise Education Development.

RecognitionColumbus SOUP recently featured five local social enterprises in its quarterly fundraising/recognition program for local social impact organizations.  And Columbus Metropreneur/Rotary District continued their ASPIRE program to recognize the local Social Entrepreneur of the Year.  Other programs that give regular public exposure to a broad range of emerging companies through public pitch events are WakeUp StartUp, Business Builders, and Sundown Rundown.

Prize Competitions:  APTE has refocused its annual February prize competition to feature only local student social entrepreneurs, an exciting change from its past, more global focus.  SEA Change of Cleveland is in discussions to bring its accelerator program to Columbus that will culminate in an August award competition.  CSED is currently building support to host an immersion program and prize competition focused on nonprofit-led start-up social enterprises.

Investment Capital:  Start-up businesses have relied on the Columbus Foundation, Tony Wells Foundation, and ECDI for start-up and early stage capital.  Joining them will be two out of town investment programs.  Pipeline Angels will begin an annual investment competition in June for women-led social enterprises.  Spearheaded by Forge Columbus, Kiva Cities will be bringing its zero-interest micro-loan program to town.

These efforts are all trying to fill gaps in the current local economic development environment.  I hope we will encourage many more efforts, and view this multiplication positively as a grand experiment to discover new ways to build the better community we all want.

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Yours in Linking Mission to Money,

Allen Proctor, President & CEO, Center for Social Enterprise Development