The Single Question that Launched a Movement

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Guest column by Alex Hussain (BA ’16)

The global movement of social enterprise has made its way into the streets of Fresno, and it is starting to make a lasting difference. For the latest happenings, check out #SoEnt17, “Social Entrepreneurship for the Common Good,” Thursday, April 6, 2017, from 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in Butler Church, 4884 E. Butler Ave., Fresno. Join students, business professionals, church people and entrepreneurs to explore opportunities and meet people who are changing our community. Register at Event Brite

But what exactly is social enterprise? And why is Fresno a great city for it to take root in? Leaders from Fresno Pacific University have started paving the way for this emerging strategy to take hold.

Five years ago, then-mayor Ashley Swearengin asked a number of faith leaders a very pointed question: “Given Fresno’s level of concentrated poverty, what is the role of the faith institutions in the economic well-being of our neighbors?” This led to a year-long research process, and from that, dozens of examples of social enterprise models from across the country were collected. These models addressed community problems but in a format that maintains three bottom lines: profitability, social impact and environmental stewardship. This would enable faith institutions to use their assets and skills with social enterprise formats as an effective and sustainable tool for lasting change. A local movement was born, and now many of these models have been catalyzed in our city.

A social enterprise is an organization that uses creative and sustainable solutions through business to address social, cultural and environmental issues. It is an entirely new way of thinking that combines the sustainability and potential for growth of a for-profit company with the positive social impact and heart of a nonprofit or community benefit organization. This can be a challenging new idea, since the only choice often seems to be between making an impact on people’s lives or making enough money to support our family.

As leaders in our community, social entrepreneurs create, fund and implement solutions to community issues. Fresno is a great city for this new concept to take root in, not because of the many challenges that our city faces, but rather because of the many great people here who believe in our city and who are willing to do something to see their neighbors’ lives improved. A great example is Tree of Life Cafe in Fresno, which serves delicious food while employing people coming out of drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Another encouraging example includes Rock Pile Yard Service, which employs formerly incarcerated men to do water-wise landscaping.

But how does this creative movement grow? The Center for Community Transformation is collaborating with the School of Business and many other community leaders, such as Jake Soberal, co-founder/CEO of Bitwise Industries, and Tim Goetz, co-founder/CEO of Aplos Software, to make it happen. You’ll find these leaders stimulating ideas for starting something new on April 6 at #SoEnt17.

Come and be a part of this global movement, right here in our city.

To grab your ticket for this event: Event Brite

To find the event on Facebook: Facebook event

Alex Hussain earned a B.A. in contemporary Christian ministries and business administration management, winning the Harold H. Haak Award for Academic Achievement and Leadership. He is currently an intern with the FPU Center for Community Transformation.