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Apr. 25, 2013 11:40 am

These four organizations are leading social entrepreneurship in Philly

One year after a broad stakeholder came together to push on how to push Philadelphia's social entrepreneurship conversation, the idea had a more public airing by hearing the latest from a few of the big players in the space.

Nearly 150 attended a 'Philly as the Social Enterprise Hub' lunchtime event during Philly Tech Week at Quorum Wednesday.

Full Disclosure: This event was organized by Technically Philly for Philly Tech Week.

One year after a broad stakeholder came together to push on how to push Philadelphia’s social entrepreneurship conversation, the idea had a more public airing by hearing the latest from a few of the big players in the space.

The central point: Philadelphia has a surging entrepreneurial ecosystem and deep urban problems, so they should come together to create a true regional distinction. That can get done by making business more socially responsible and nonprofits more fiscally successful, as highlighted Wednesday during the Philly Tech Week Presented by AT&T lunchtime conversation at Quorum.

On the heels of the city’s new $1 million Philadelphia Social Enterprise Partnership, Karen Kulp of Home Care Associates, a social entrepreneurship company, Heather Van Dusen of B Lab, which certifies ‘triple-bottom-line’ businesses, John Moore of Investors’ Circle, which invests in mission ventures, Garrett Melby, who has been a champion of the conversation since 2008, of GoodCompany Accelerator, Zoe Selzer of GoodCompany Group and Jeff Friedman of the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics shared what the latest in their efforts and their vision for the future is.

“The first three years we had this event, there were the same 30 or so faces each year. This year I see so many new faces,” said Melby as he looked out on the standing-room only crowd of more than 120.

Here are a few updates on the work of each organization featured:

  • Home Care Associates, with the mission to “create economic growth engines to create jobs,” has hired 250 full-time workers to take care of low-income elderly and disabled. Its workers can earn ownership in the for-profit, which is part of the effort to create upward mobility.

Home Care investors can buy a share in the organization for $500, and all 250 investors are limited to a single share. Kulp credits the model’s transparency — based on a model developed in the South Bronx — with fostering employee-employer trust and limiting worker’s comp claims over the years.

  • The national arm of Investors’ Circle, an angel investment group with a chapter here, has put $170 million into many mission-orientated ventures since its founding in 1992. Philadelphia marked the organization’s first local chapter, which has invested over $1 million in eight companies over two years. As reported, Investors’ Circle has pledged at least $500,000 to the next round of companies in Good Company, the social enterprise-focused accelerator.

  • B Lab, the global engine for certifying businesses that meet certain social, environmental and transparency-driven criteria as ‘socially responsible.’ Companies can take the B Impact Assessment tool to measure their social impact.

B Lab’s current focuses include “moving from a business movement to consumer movement” to encourage ethical consumer behavior, while also taking aim at corporate law standards that discourage companies from making ethical decisions that may affect the bottom lines’ of shareholders.

Thus far, laws have been passed in 12 states to free up companies to make more socially responsible decisions. B Lab has spent 18 months on an effort to turn Delaware, imperative to their efforts due to the sheer volume of companies incorporated in The First State, and it remains at the top of their agenda.

  • GoodCompany Group, the City of Philadelphia and Wharton outlined a five-step process for the GoodCompany incubator, which will use its summer session to prepare to commence the full PSEP opening call next Fall.

1. Problem definition – Pinpointing issues the enterprise will attack.

2. Call for applicants – Open to folks all over the world.

3. Good Company Accelerator Program – All chosen companies will participate.

4. Pilot and test the business solutions within city government.

5. Scale the solutions in Philadelphia & spread the solutions to cities across the country.

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Cary Betagole

Cary Betagole is Technical.ly's Engagement Coordinator, responsible for strengthening relationships with readers, event attendees,and sponsors. A graduate of Boston University's College of Communication, he has previously worked at Nextdoor and SEO firm SEER Interactive, in addition to experience with a few (failed) startups of his own. Originally from Cincinnati, he is very interested in exploring how financially sustainable journalism can help build stronger communities.

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