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Flywheel Social Enterprise Hub Delivers Practical “Social Enterprise” for Greater Cincinnati Non-profit Organizations
Can social enterprise improve economic growth? Flywheel survey reveals that every local social enterprise could generate $240,000 annually to the economy.
Cincinnati, OH – Economic development in Cincinnati is getting a boost this week with today’s announcement that Cincinnati’s first social enterprise hub, named Flywheel, is formed and already focused on building and sustaining nonprofit organizations throughout Cincinnati, northern Kentucky and southeast Indiana.
The organization estimates that the average social enterprise located in the Cincinnati and the northern Kentucky areas could add $240,000 annually to the local economy, based on a Flywheel survey of 40 local social enterprise organizations. The survey was conducted in January 2011.
“Only 30 percent of nonprofits in Greater Cincinnati are social enterprises, whereas the United States average is 50 percent,” said Suzanne Smith, lead partner at Flywheel. “We believe this region can be a primary engine of social enterprise nationally as we help nonprofits identify ways to start new businesses, generate sustainable revenue and extend their community reach.”
A social enterprise is an organization or venture that achieves its primary social or environmental mission using business methods. The social needs addressed by social enterprises and the business models they use are as diverse as human ingenuity. Social enterprises build a more just, sustainable world by applying market-based strategies to today’s social problems.
Flywheel, located at 1650 Russell Street, Covington, Ky., is already “high speed,” said Smith, adding that Flywheel is working on completing one pilot program, and starting another. It also reports that the average social enterprise in Greater Cincinnati and northern Kentucky has three employees and annual revenues of $137,000, meaning no organization is too small or large to be a social enterprise. Flywheel is currently funded through support by The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Haile Foundation, United Way, and the Schmidlapp Trusts at Fifth Third Bank.
“Our mission is to help nonprofits navigate toward business success, which means they become more focused, agile and intent on long-term success while reducing their dependence on charitable donations and grants,” said Smith. “Flywheel exists to advance the mutual interests of success and sustainability among the private and public sectors, and doing it with a hands-on approach. What that really means is that we’re connecting communities and companies so they all succeed, socially and financially.”
One practical example of social enterprise at work is the Easter Seals Work Resource Center in Cincinnati, which sought sustainable funding that did not depend on charitable giving alone. Easter Seals created the Easter Seals Work Resource Center, a skills training and re-training approach for their constituents.
“We created a great way for practical job training skills at the workforce center where men and women are being training or re-trained in construction retail, shipping and receiving and front-desk skills,” said Lisa J. FitzGibbon, president and chief executive officer of the Easter Seals Work Resource Center. In addition, the center has created a building materials store with materials gleaned from construction sites and the local landfill, giving buyers access to discounted yet valuable building materials.
“So, not only have we gained greatly in our work as a social enterprise, but we now have a sustainable funding source that adds to our efforts to serve the community,” said FitzGibbon. “Plus, we’re proud to give more back to the community and to local businesses. We’re proof that a practical, hands-on approach to social enterprise really does work.”
Smith says the concept of social enterprise isn’t new, but finding a social-enterprise approach that extends from education to implementation is hard to find.
“In 2009, we began thinking about how we could help local nonprofits in our region, said Smith. “At that point, we hadn’t developed the social enterprise hub concept, we just knew our vision was much richer than a typical social-enterprise education approach. What we could accomplish had to be more.” The “more” was Flywheel’s customized business approach and step-by-step process for social enterprise success, and organizational leadership.
“Flywheel is a social enterprise hub that extends itself to really being a business incubator,” said Smith. “The approach we take is deep, methodical, market driven and intent on quantifying business efforts and business results that add societal and financial value. It’s really a model for any organization considering a move toward social enterprise. Of course, all of this revolves around the tremendous talent that leads Flywheel. I’m proud to be working with these experts in social enterprise formation.”
Flywheel’s founding partners include Suzanne Smith, Flywheel lead partner, and executive director of the Leadership Council for Human Service Executives in Covington, Ky. She is also founder and managing director of Social Impact Architects, a consulting firm for social enterprise; Andy McCreanor, Flywheel executive director, and CEO of the Executive Service Corps of Cincinnati; Dr. Brett Smith, Flywheel founding director, and head of the Center for Social Entrepreneurship at the Farmer School of Business at Miami University, Miami; and Andy Park, a Flywheel founding partner, and partner at Centric Consulting, a business management and IT consulting services firm in Cincinnati.
Flywheel is a social enterprise hub serving the Greater Cincinnati and northern Kentucky region. Formed in October 2010, the organization helps non-profit organizations identify ways to create and sustain funding that supports their missions. Flywheel applies its customized approach to social enterprise formation, then works with companies and other organizations to create results that benefit society, the community and the bottom line.