Join the movement
Michigan SEA is a statewide chapter of the national Social Enterprise Alliance (SEA) which is the largest membership organization for the diverse and rapidly growing social enterprise sector in North America, a chamber of commerce for social enterprise.
Our national goal - change the world for the common good. The list of seemingly insurmountable social, environmental and human concerns is growing far more quickly than the ability of traditional sectors to systemically address them. We envision a world where we can overcome these vexing concerns. We strongly believe social enterprise is one of the single most hopeful vehicles for changing the game and solving these critical issues.
Our national mission - produce massive social value via successful social enterprises. At the core of everything we do is our understanding that the direct social impact we seek is delivered daily by social enterprise practitioners of every shape and size.
SEA serves it's membership of social enterprises, service providers, investors, corporations, public servants, academics and researchers by: Providing information, research, best practices and building capacity; telling the stories and aggregating the impact of social enterprises; creating a fertile social enterprise ecosystem via advocacy and awareness building; building thriving local social enterprise communities and national networks.
Ultimately, the national SEA organizational and all of its regional chapters are committed and focused to helping practitioners go forth and change the world through the dazzling array of business models they are inventing and perfecting.
What's a Social Enterprise?
We are so glad you asked!
Social enterprises are businesses whose primary purpose is the common good. They use the methods and disciplines of business and the power of the marketplace to advance their social, environmental and human justice agendas.
Three characteristics distinguish a social enterprise from other types of businesses, nonprofits and government agencies:
It directly addresses an intractable social need and serves the common good, either through its products and services or through the number of disadvantaged people it employs.
Its commercial activity is a strong revenue driver, whether a significant earned income stream within a nonprofit’s mixed revenue portfolio, or a for profit enterprise.
The common good is its primary purpose, literally “baked into” the organization’s DNA, and trumping all others.
In its early days, the social enterprise movement was identified mainly with nonprofits that used business models and earned income strategies to pursue their mission. Today, it also encompasses for-profits whose driving purpose is social. Mission is primary and fundamental; organizational form is a strategic question of what will best advance the social mission.
The social needs addressed by social enterprises are as diverse as human ingenuity. In our 2009 Field Study, the top five mission foci of social enterprises were workforce development, housing, community and economic development, education, and health.
Social enterprise business models are equally diverse, including: retail, service and manufacturing businesses; contracted providers of social and human services; fee-based consulting and research services; community development and financing operations; food service and catering operations; arts organizations; and even technology enterprises. Chances are you already do business with social enterprises without even knowing it.
The Missing Middle
As a country and global community, we stand at a unique inflection point. It appears that the world’s problems are outstripping our ability to address them, but what may be more accurate is simply that traditional institutions are no longer sufficient.
Social enterprise is emerging as the “missing middle” sector between the traditional worlds of government, nonprofits and business. It addresses social concerns,
more efficiently than government, which no longer has the mandate or resources to solve every social problem;
more sustainably and creatively than the nonprofit sector, which faces declining funding streams and increased demands for innovation, proof of what works and collaboration; and
more generously than business, which is mandated to place pre-eminence on shareholder returns, but is also realizing it can’t succeed in a decaying world.
As social needs continue to spike in light of shrinking government budgets, employment rolls, and social safety nets, social enterprise is emerging as a self-sustaining, market-based, business-like and highly effective method of meeting social needs.
Social Enterprise Leverage
Social enterprises produce higher social returns on investment than other models.
On one hand, they produce direct, measurable public benefits. A classic employment-focused social enterprise, for example, might serve at least four public aims:
Fiscal responsibility — It reduces the myriad costs of public supports for people facing barriers, by providing a pathway to economic self-sufficiency for those it employs.
Public safety — It makes the community in which it operates safer, by disrupting cycles of poverty, crime, incarceration, chemical dependency and homelessness.
Economic opportunity — It improves our pool of human capital and creates jobs in communities in need of economic renewal.
Social justice — It gives a chance to those most in need.
Yet, almost magically, social enterprises produce these benefits while reducing the draw on public and philanthropic funds. Their earned income streams supplant or replace grants and donations to produce a dramatically higher ROI. For example, a nonprofit that earns 50% of its budget through its social enterprise is effectively matching every dollar of “public income” with a dollar of “marketplace income”, doubling the social return on investment of those public dollars.
Social Enterprise Alliance (SEA) is the champion for social enterprise in the United States. Our aim is for social enterprise to reach its full potential as a force for positive social change, in service to the common good. To achieve this purpose, we provide social enterprises with the tools and resources they need to succeed, and work on building an optimal environment in which they can thrive.
We carry out our work through four strategies:
We spread knowledge + build capacity — We are the go to source for the intellectual capital that fuels social enterprise. Our content includes: Our Mentorship Program, Webinars, Impact Labs, Working Groups, Knowledge Center, Jobs, Marketplace, Events, Discounts, News and Blog.
We build social enterprise communities + networks — We have rapidly built out a network of local social enterprise communities with 17 SEA chapters, we are working in 42 states. Together with our national convening power, we help social enterprisers find, learn from and support each other.
We tell the stories + aggregate the impact of social enterprise — We vigorously promote the amazing narratives of our members, accumulate the evidence of field impact, and are the voice of the sector in numerous collaborations and partnerships.
We advocate + promote supportive public policy — We seek to create a public environment in which social enterprise can maximize its leverage. Our State and Local Policy Toolkit helps our chapters and local members build this ecosystem locally, while at a national level we work on issues including social innovation initiatives, social impact bonds, government procurement, SBA lending and technical support for social enterprise and federal workforce programs and policies.
Our signature event, the Social Enterprise Summit, is a key offering that cuts across all four strategy areas. For the last dozen years, this three-day national event has been the gathering of social enterprise, with a typical attendance of 500 to 700 participants and dozens of engaging, inspiring speakers.
SEA brings several assets to bear in carrying out its work. These include a 18-year history of field leadership, a national network of over 900 members, and a local footprint through our chapters. Among our members we count the top practitioners of social enterprise, the leading thinkers, investors, public policy leaders and a wide range of service providers.