One of the major aspects of social enterprise is the collaboration with stakeholders. While being focused on profits, social enterprises value the connection to the people that this initiative involves and impacts. This priority of valuing stakeholders oftentimes leads to the community building a solution alongside the initiative efforts.
When you get the community to participate, they get to see how much impact they can have in changing the world around them. Community-led solutions empower stakeholders to communicate their needs, concerns, and ideas proactively. Community members get to exercise their influence and take ownership of developing a better life for themselves and people around them.
Let’s take a look at examples of what can happen with community-led solutions that boost social impact. These examples are not limited to social enterprise, but include initiatives that made an extra effort to include stakeholders.
Example 1: Blackbaud’s bbdevdays
The social enterprise Blackbaud provides software for powering social impact through tech solutions and nonprofit software. This article talks about Blackbaud’s bbdevdays, an annual developers’ conference showcasing technical innovation alongside customer and partner achievements. Mike Gianoni, president and CEO of Blackbaud, talks about the virtual conference highlighting the creativity of customer developers, partners, and independent technologists.
Blackbaud uses conference sessions to explore upcoming plans and possibilities of what the developer community (from professionals to hobbyists) can do with the platform. Mostly, the focus is around supporting customer-identified initiatives and promoting early-stage software companies to accelerate innovation in the social impact technology space. Blackbaud brings to life with multiple programs that will develop beyond bbdevdays, such as:
Off The Grid: Blackbaud staff, partners, businesses, and customers collaboratively code to bring an original idea to reality, which features a special accelerator, in partnership with Microsoft, for Generative AI fundraising projects.
Blackbaud’s Social Good Startup program: a technology incubator for diverse, early-stage software companies focused on solving problems that matter to the social impact community.
Blackbaud Marketplace: A growing marketplace that offers free and paid tech solutions created by stakeholders to help organizations within social impact.
Example 2: MacArthur’s New Communities Program
The MacArthur Foundation provides funding for creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks. In this article, MacArthur reflects on the moment they changed their approach towards “community-driven” solutions in Chicago, IL.
Tawa Mitchell, Senior Program Officer for MachArthur’s Chicago Commitment, describes the strategy of the foundation’s Vital Communities initiative. The original purpose was to “respond to identified needs and emerging ideas from existing community networks.” She explains that MacArthur has a long history of building impact in the city, such as investing over $1.3 billion in the city during the 40 years of engaging the community. Still, some Chicagoans felt the foundation had no interest in ideas that came from the community.
To gain perspective, MacArthur decided to speak to people beyond their usual former grantees and peer funders. Tawa says they sought input from faith leaders, community residents, grassroots organizations, and young people by holding listening sessions through the city. The initiative was also mindful to give attention to the community by recognizing the differences in neighborhoods, instead of stopping at a general, overall view of the community.
“…residents asked that we respond to local initiatives and show respect for residents’ approaches to community development.”
In response, MacArthur supported the New Communities Program (NCP), which incentivized 16 “communities” within Chicago to try community and economic development that addressed local issues by using initiatives developed by, for, and with Chicago’s communities. MacArthur built an initiative at that time to amplify local initiatives and local voices through local partnership networks. The focus was to have direct contact with the efforts taking place on the neighborhood level.
Example 3: The Prospect KC & REDF
Startland News is a digital daily business news publication covering entrepreneurship and innovation stories in the Greater Kansas City region.
This article covers the story of Shanita McAfee-Bryant who is considered a Kansas City culinary icon that will “help lead the way among socially-engaged entrepreneurs creating a more inclusive economy that helps overlooked individuals move workforce barriers to the back burner.”
McAfee-Bryant is a chef and founder of the 16-week culinary job training program The Prospect KC. She is among 18 employment social enterprise leaders from across the country chosen by leading venture philanthropy REDF (the Roberts Enterprise Development Fund) to participate in its second cohort of the 2023 REDF Accelerator.
McAfee-Bryant shares her excitement towards empowering the community, “Brilliance is not dictated by your circumstance but by your environment. If you invest equally in the community, then everyone will thrive. The Prospect KC is a social enterprise focused on trying to raise the tide to lift all boats.”
This is a double-fold example of impact as REDF is empowering social enterprises to lead the direct communication and problem solving of community efforts. On top of this, the Prospect KC takes things a step further by offering extended support for services related to food assistance, housing, childcare, and transportation through a network of social service partnerships. Similar to pay-it-forward, the initiatives give their resources to empower not only their efforts, but the social impact adjacent to their work.
Show the Community You’re Listening
Show the communities you work with that you are listening to their input and that you value the contributions they have to offer. It’s okay if there needs to be guidance or if there needs to be an advisory. The main point is to allow stakeholders to take ownership of the solutions that improve their quality of life.
Have you discussed solutions with your stakeholders lately?