Leadership and The Workplace

Nonprofit Spark

Renee McGivern

Nonprofit Spark – What’s happening with the business of doing good? Social enterprise models – 02/13/12

Almost every day, we read about passionate people who want to solve a big problem and they do so in myriad ways. We hear about social entrepreneurs, social enterprises, and for-profits and non-profits, all working toward social change. Clearly, we are long past the days when non-profits are the only do-gooders in the world.

In 2008, a student at Stanford University designed a machine that punches holes in plastic tubing. His idea has turned into the company Driptech, which makes affordable drip irrigation systems for small farms. Three partners in a New York design firm founded Hello Rewind, a company that makes custom sleeves for laptops out of old t-shirts. Its mission is to help sex trafficking victims prepare for jobs and the partners work closely with a non-profit to hire workers. Then there’s the example of the Pennsylvania environmental non-profit which spun off a for-profit, BlackGold Biofuels. That company knows how to chemically turn sewer grease into biofuel.

What are we talking about? Why does one person start a for-profit and another a non-profit? What models are being used to solve world problems? For that matter, why the heck are for-profits operating in what has been traditionally the non-profit do-good domain?

On this week’s show, I speak with Jon Carson, a social entrepreneur and CEO of BiddingforGood who describes why some people start companies while others start non-profits. He also gives examples of the types of organizations that are being created. Any way you look at it, according to Jon, they are being founded by social entrepreneurs with the intention of doing good.

A great companion to this show is my interview with Dan Pallotta, author of Uncharitable. He talks about the constraints we place on non-profits that prevent them from “growing to scale” and therefore, from solving world problems. That interview took place the week of September 5, 2011.