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Aug 17, 2016

Social Enterprise Making Major Advances

While businesses that create social impact are still a minor part of the Central Ohio economy, the amount of activity and engagement in this business sector expanded significantly in the past year.  Summarized in the recently released report State of Social Enterprise in Central Ohio (available by download at, progress occurred in three areas:
●    More players are participating in, trying out, and producing social impact through enterprise;
●    Awareness of social enterprise is expanding through increased media coverage and a growing number of community events; and
●    The local business community is devoting more time and more money to make social enterprise a successful and significant business sector in our region.

Says Craig Marshall, Managing Partner of Ernst & Young LLP, “Making a positive difference in the world is not a side activity.  We can all make the biggest contribution to our communities when we take our collective skills and competencies and apply them to helping solve some of our communities’ most pressing challenges.”

Over the past year, 20 new social enterprises were identified and five faded away, bringing to 85 the number of social enterprises currently operating in our community.  Columbus’ emerging social enterprises were doubly honored by the prestigious Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award program.  Central Ohio’s own Bill Hardy, President & CEO of Equitas Health (formerly known as AIDS Resource Center Ohio) was recognized as the 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year in the category of Health Care and Technical Services.  This is first time in the nation that the program recognized a social enterprise as a frontrunner in entrepreneurship.

Social enterprise is distinctive only to the extent that it creates impact.  Over the past year data on impact has been collected for 31 of our region’s social enterprises.  The data show that these social enterprises have created 1,333 jobs that would not otherwise have existed.  The $16.3 million they generate in payroll gives taxes to state and local government and hope of financial stability to their workers.  Their $29.9 million in revenue is nothing to sneeze at – and this sum comes from just one-third of our local social enterprises. Measuring social impact is still at an early stage but some measures are easier to aggregate, such as bringing education to 7,500 people or providing over 18,000 meals to the hungry.

The next step is summarized by Lisa Courtice, Executive Vice President of The Columbus Foundation: “In a few short years, the Central Ohio community has moved from a small and relatively unknown social enterprise community to a breadth of social enterprises that are gaining in popularity.  As a next step, documenting the positive benefits of these organizations will help sustain and grow this valuable sector of our local economy.”

Cardinal Health is taking the first step in this direction by devoting two global teams this Fall to conduct a needs analysis of Central Ohio government, corporate, and philanthropic stakeholders’ desire for better data and analysis of social impact and to assess the technology necessary to make that information readily accessible to the community.

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Allen J. Proctor, President & CEO

Center for Social Enterprise Development.