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Jan 7, 2016

Who Do You Want to Be the Social Impact City?

Jeff Cherry of the Conscious Venture Lab directed me to an article in Dallas Innovates, a program of the Dallas Regional Chamber, which threw Dallas’ hat into the ring to become “the center of the world” for developing solutions to the social challenges of our communities. In other words, to become THE Social Impact City.

The author, Salah Boukadoum, puts it bluntly: “when a dedicated, passionate social entrepreneur comes up with an amazing new process to solve a pressing social problem…where should that person go for a deeply connected and efficient hub of resources?”  His answer:  Dallas.  If Columbus focuses, I think Columbus could give Dallas a good run.

Here is his checklist where I think Columbus is on equal or superior ground.
Blank Canvas  He notes that Dallas does not have a 21st century global identity and its leadership “yearn” to rally around a vision and purpose.  Ditto Columbus.

Smart Generosity  He brags about Dallas’ high per capita giving.  Generosity is tough to measure.  Blackbaud’s survey based on 2009 IRS data ranks Dallas at #44 compared with Columbus at #197.  But in comparing community foundation giving, more recent data from The Foundation Center place The Columbus Foundation in the top 25 while the Dallas Foundation doesn’t make the list.

Thriving Economy  He claims Dallas is a “diverse, resilient, thriving economy.”  So is Columbus.

Central Location  While Dallas is 3.5 hours by plane from the coasts, Columbus is closer, and more central to where people live.

Leading Industry  Dallas does have 23 company headquarters in the Fortune 1000.  Central Ohio has 15, which I would call pretty close.  These are the companies that would benefit from the talent, engagement, and purpose which millennials bring and are looking for in their locational decisions.

Deep Capacity for Growth  He notes that Dallas has broad availability of land, water, and transportation.  I would give Columbus the advantage on these criteria.

Well-developed sustainable social businesses  He lists two.  The online social enterprise directory of Columbus’ Center for Social Enterprise Development lists over 85.  The Center’s Facebook page provides a good sense of the enormous range of activities in social enterprise going on in Central Ohio.

But there are several areas in which Columbus needs to play some catch up.

Ideal Airport  No argument, Dallas wins on this one.

University social entrepreneurship programs  He claims Dallas has this covered.  Ohio State University and Otterbein have classes devoted to entrepreneurship and social enterprise, but we would be more competitive if each could coordinate its courses into a coherent program or major in social entrepreneurship that would serve as a magnet for the best students.

Resource Hubs  The United Way of Dallas has formed a million-dollar investment fund and accelerator called Ground Floor which coordinates with The Grove Dallas, a 10,000 square foot common working space for over 100 social businesses.  Columbus has a number of emerging, small efforts but this is a critical success factor that our community needs to address if we are to beat Dallas to the punch.

Let’s focus and give Dallas a run for its money.  Let’s make 2016 the year in which we can say “Dallas, Bring It On!”


Allen Proctor, President & CEO

Center for Social Enterprise Development