Learning Social Enterprise from Local Changemakers

August 24, 2015 at 12:33 pm Leave a comment

It’s both relieving and scary to see there isn’t a playbook for this kind of thing,” one student reflected during a tour of social enterprises in Portland, OR. She was one of seventeen students who spent the summer of 2015 studying operational excellence as part of Portland State University’s Business of Social Innovation Certificate.

As a part of the summer class, students traveled to six sites around Portland to meet with local social entrepreneurs and learn firsthand about their experiences. Their reflections from each site visit show that the perspectives on social innovation were at once personal and universal for entrepreneurs tackling social and environmental problems.

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Scott encouraged us to know the existing systems we’re working on, so we can challenge them and create new ones.

Led by Scott Davison, Vocoform helps young adults facing poverty, addiction, and racial injustice identify and pursue jobs through skill development, life coaching, and enterprise operation/ownership. Launched in 2014, the ½ acre Arbor Lodge Urban Farm in North Portland is an enterprise training lab for Vocoform. The farm facilitates 20-25 internships each summer for youth 18-25.

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SEI’s model [is] focused on building human relationships and supporting children in every aspect of their lives to help them succeed.”

Self Enhancement Inc. (SEI) recently launched The Pathways to Prosperity Initiative, an intrapreneurial program of SEI that provides at-risk urban youth and their families in the Portland area with the knowledge, skills and support needed to leverage economic opportunities and increase financial capability. SEI Academy is the only Title I model school in Portland, ranking in the top 5% statewide among schools that serve high-poverty student populations.

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Breaker Project and Construct Foundation exemplified the importance of metrics and assessment to understand the impact of the work you’re doing.”

Construct Foundation is building a portfolio of partners and education initiatives to identify and support new models for teaching and learning, prioritizing K-12 students. Construct Foundation partnered with Breaker Project, an alternative learning model that combines design thinking and challenge based learning, in an entrepreneur boot camp that connects participants to real world problems.

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“Ryan Saari just had this sense of unstoppable of optimism and purpose.”

The Oregon Public House, where students had lunch, is the nation’s first nonprofit pub. The pub pledges to donate its profits to charity, and customers select the charity their purchase supports. The Board of Directors and Staff are also committed to creating a space that’s accessible and “diverse as the neighborhood that surrounds it.” In two years the Oregon Public House has donated more than $50,000 to mission-driven nonprofits and charities.

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“The lean systems strategies at Plywerk are eliminating wasted resources and time inefficiencies.”

Plywerk is an eco-conscious photo mounting and art panel company that is committed to a triple bottom line operating philosophy, and that utilizes the four systems conditions of the “Natural Step Framework” to assess the lifecycle of every aspect of the business. Plywerk is a lean manufacturer that strives to avoid and eliminate waste to add value to the product.

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“Ecotrust was able to identify what it is they do really well, and keep that a part of the business model as they grew.”

The Redd is a 1918 industrial ironworks and contemporary warehouse that Ecotrust has purchased and is transforming into a working urban ecosystem for the regional food economy. It aims to incubate young businesses and connect them to Oregon resources. The Ecotrust website states: “The Redd will serve “ag in the middle,” mid-size rural farmers, ranchers, and fishers who have outgrown direct-to-consumer channels, such as CSAs and farmers’ markets, and are looking to scale their business.”

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The students experienced social entrepreneurship in real life, in a local context, alongside their peers. They asked difficult questions, and debriefed each visit while traveling on a the bus from one site to another. Some people say you have to view social entrepreneurship in action to understand it. The summer 2015 class jumped in.

Entry filed under: Changemakers, Design Thinking, Events, Personal Leadership, Social Entrepreneurship. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

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