Social Entrepreneurship, Social Enterprises and Social Ventures: Working to Put Others to Work

What are Social Enterprises, Social Entrepreneurship and Social VenturesFew would argue that job creation is essential to solving many of our world’s problems. When heads of households go from being unemployed to having reliable, decent wages, families find dignity and self-sufficiency, transforming lives and impacting future generations.

But finding meaningful, sustainable employment is not a given. Employers might be hesitant to hire candidates with little education or experience, language barriers, or a record of past offenses. Social entrepreneurship, social enterprises and social ventures – all terms meaning essentially the same thing - might hold the solution to putting these job seekers to work.

Put simply, these terms speak to profitable business ventures that deliver goods and services to better the community.

Last week a group of Community Foundation donors gathered to discuss social enterprises at our Donor-to-Donor event to hear from Steve O’Neill, vice president of the Curry Family Foundation, Father Justin Mathews, executive director at Reconciliation Services, and Ken Williams, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas. The Curry Foundation is a leader in funding social ventures, and Father Justin and Ken are both leading organizations that use social enterprises to serve their communities in new ways.

Specifically, these two nonprofit organizations have created separate for-profit businesses under their umbrella. These businesses are doing two things:

  • Creating jobs in the communities they serve.  
  • Generating revenue streams that funnel back into the nonprofit organization’s programs.

On the Kansas side, Catholic Charities’ TurnStyle thrift store sells deeply discounted clothing and household items, and their Aspire Cleaning Service employs resettled refugees, paying above-market wages, and providing transportation and benefits. Ken proudly stated that Aspire’s employees are “the most thorough, happiest cleaning crews” he’s ever seen.

On the Missouri side, Reconciliation Services’ Resolve Staffing and Resolve Packaging have provided more than 300 above-minimum-wage jobs to people from the neighborhoods they serve, from cook preps to cashiers, working at Kauffman Stadium and throughout the city.

There are many more organizations in and around Kansas City that are creating social ventures to serve the community (Bishop Sullivan Center, Cultivate KC, The Grooming Project, to name only a few), and these groups meet regularly to collaborate and share resources to find common solutions that will provide a greater impact. But, they know they can do more. They want to foster more public-private partnerships and have more conversations with business leaders, donors and thinkers who can help them create new social enterprises and ultimately put more Kansas Citians to work.

That’s where donors come in. But beyond financial support, sometimes, the greatest gift a donor can provide is an idea and a relationship that can nurture that idea and create the next social venture to employ those who were once considered unemployable.

Community Foundation Communications Director Leanne Breiby


Authored by: Leanne Breiby, Director of Communications


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