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Mar '14

What is “Social Enterprise”?

As we’ve mentioned, we are currently in Colorado so that Aaron can pursue his MBA at Colorado State University in Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise (GSSE). We realized that we’ve never quite explained what this program is all about and a large part of that is that we’re still trying to wrap our heads around it.

story time

Story Time with Abby

I think the best way to explain this is through the story of how we ended up here. So, gather round kids, get your popcorn and let Auntie Abby take you back in time…

During our trip abroad in the Spring of 2012, there came a point about half-way through that Aaron and I had to make a very important decision: Do we return home to the US or try to find a way to stay in South America long-term? We had an opportunity back home (that ultimately fell through, a small blessing in disguise as it turns out) and had only a few days to decide whether to return home for that or to try to remain in South America.

Decision making

Decision making: Day 3…

After many days talking through the various scenarios, the pros and cons and the consequences of each choice (we did not take our lesson on Brevity to heart yet…), we ultimately decided to return home.

The issue that finally made the decision crystal clear to us was when we asked ourselves what we would do tomorrow if we decided to stay in South America. While we had lots of ideas and knew that we wanted to center our lives on poverty alleviation, we realized that we were very, very unprepared to actually start something in South America.

Through this, we became increasingly aware that what we needed were some skills. So, we decided to return home and Aaron would go to school and gain the necessary skills to allow us to return to South America and actually make a difference.

But, what program should Aaron pursue? Non-profit management seemed a logical choice since we knew we wanted to work on poverty alleviation.  However, Aaron has always been interested in Business and specifically, entrepreneurship, as we have dreamed of owning our own business someday.

We felt like our interests and our long term goals were completely at odds until one day it hit us: “Why can’t we run a non-profit that is self-sustaining in itself? Or, put another way: “Why can’t we run a business that also helps people?” Light Bulb! Why not?! Crazier things have happened in this world.

Aaron began researching this and eventually, stumbled upon the idea of a “Social Enterprise” and the GSSE program in particular.

Alleviating poverty never looked so good

Alleviating poverty never looked so good.

Social Enterprises are typically for-profit businesses that center on solving social issues.  One of the most prevalent examples would be the Buy-One, Give-One Model that has been best exemplified in TOMS shoes.

But, it goes so much further than that.  Social enterprises find ways to solve some of the most pressing issues facing the poor around the world through Business solutions. Business is by far the most efficient system on Earth, so why not apply those practices to solving some of the most stubborn issues facing the Earth and its people as well?

Unlike traditional business, in Social Enterprises profit is important, but it is not the only goal. Instead, social entrepreneurs focus on the triple bottom line: Profit, People and Planet, striking a balance between the three and finding ways to run a business that is both profitable and sustainable to the Earth and the people affected by it.

Thus far, the GSSE program has been an incredible experience, providing Aaron with a crash course mixture of Business, poverty alleviation theory and environmental sustainability, combining many of Aaron’s passions and interests.  It is a very hands-on program centered around a Summer venture that Aaron and his team will embark on in just a few months to put into practice much of what he has been learning.  We’re very excited about his venture–it looks like they will be heading to Nicaragua to work on developing a micro-leasing program. Details of that coming in the next post–Stay tuned!


7 comments to “What is “Social Enterprise”?”

  1. kathy Says:

    Thanks! Even a blonde like me can see this is a very purposeful achievement you are striving for. How exciting! God’s richest Blessings on you both and all the people around the world that will benefit from your knowledge and giving.

  2. Abby Says:

    Thanks Kathy! We are so excited about the opportunities and can’t wait to see where we end up!

  3. Greg Says:

    I am excited to read about the enterprize that Aaron’s team will pursue. The concept of sustainable micro leasing really has my interest.

  4. Elaine Olson Says:

    Thank you for updating us on you new life. We are so proud of you both and it sounds like you live a very interesting and full life. Keep us posted!
    Aunt Elaine and Uncle Wayne

  5. Abby Says:

    Thanks Greg! We would love to chat with you about it sometime!

  6. Abby Says:

    Thanks Elaine! It’s been quite an awesome journey so far and we can’t wait to see where it leads!

  7. Shelley Says:

    ‘Love hearing what you and Aaron are doing, Abby! Want to hear more!!

    How’s your year of teaching going?

    God’s blessings to you both!

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