Category Archives: Blog

Transforming Communities through Business

Are you interested in how to use business for good in your community, but not quite ready to participate in the Great Social Enterprise Pitch?  Are you a small business owner who wants to create a stronger and more sustainable local economy? Please join us as we network and learn with other businesses interested in being part of a local movement to impact Lancaster for good.

This breakfast series is hosted by ASSETS Lancaster, in conjunction with the Susquehanna Sustainable Business Network (SSBN.) Assets creates economic opportunity and cultivates entrepreneurial leadership in order to alleviate poverty and build vibrant, sustainable communities. SSBN advocates for the triple bottom line – People, Planet and Profit – through business networking, advocacy and education.

These monthly 90-minute programs feature a range of solutions and opportunities to grow a stronger, more profitable and more equitable local economy. This is an opportunity to be a part of a supportive network that is interested in joining an emerging local movement around Triple Bottom Line Businesses to impact Lancaster for good. Each month, our keynote address will focus on topic related to increasing the impact of small business within our community. There will be significant time for discussion and networking at each session.

The topics are based on the “Stepping Stones to Prosperity” of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economics(BALLE.) The schedule is listed below.

Each session will be held at Southern Market Center on the first Tuesday of the month from 7:30 am to 9:00 am. The breakfasts will be catered by Upohar Ethnic Cuisines, a Triple Bottom Line Social Enterprise and SSBN member. The cost for each session is $15.

May 5 – Local First
June 2 – Shared Ownership
July 7 – Opportunity for All
August 4 – Innovation for Good
September 1 – Soil and Nature
October 6 – Community Capital
November 3 – Localist Policies

For more information or to register for a session, contact or 717-393-6089 ext 223.

Choosing the 12

Last week, representatives from ASSETS Lancaster and the Lancaster County Community Foundation got together to choose the social enterprise ideas for the 2015 Great Social Enterprise Pitch.

This was a long and painful process.

We received 33 applications, which needed to be narrowed down to 10 participants.  Some ideas had great potential for impact, others great potential for profit.  We were looking for those 10 ideas that fit both criteria.  Some ideas were (in our opinions) realistically going to be traditional non-profits and others traditional businesses—those ideas had to go.  We were looking for the best SOCIAL ENTERPRISE ideas.

Choosing the top 5 ideas was simple, these very quickly rose to the top.  The next 4 were more difficult, but eventually agreed upon by the group.  That left us with 1 spot open, yet we had 3 remaining ideas that merited consideration.  After an extra hour of debate, we finally decided that we had created the rules to the competition, so we were entitled to break them!  We increased our participants to 12 and called it a day.

So, 21 prospective social entrepreneurs had to receive a disappointing email stating that they would not be joining us for the 2015 program.  However, there is still hope.  This is part of the message they received:

Please know that we had a large number of outstanding applications which made the decision process VERY difficult.  It should be noted that several of the ideas accepted into the 2015 Pitch actually applied last year as well, but were not chosen at that time.  These applicants used the year to further refine their idea so as to submit a better application this year.  We were very happy to see that these rejuvenated ideas again and we sincerely hope to see an application from you in the future.

We fully expect to see many of these 21 applicants again in future renditions of The Pitch.

For 2015, however, we move forward with these 12 social enterprise ideas.  Some (maybe most) of these ideas will not come to fruition.  THAT IS OK.  The purpose of this competition is to motivate creative people to generate creative ideas, then guide them through the process of forming and testing those ideas.   We have full confidence that, in due time, a number of these social enterprise ideas will take off, creating substantial impact in our community while also inspiring even creative ideas.

Why I’m Excited About Social Enterprise

The first 5 years of my career were spent working for an international non-profit which operated very much from the traditional charity mindset. The organization raised funds from wealthy Americans to run child-focused programs, such as schools and orphanages, in poor countries around the world. The needs we met were stark and the work was rewarding. However, as I gained more experience in this field, I began to realize the limitations of this type of intervention. The programs being implemented were addressing the symptoms of enormous problems, rather than the causes of those problems. Also, there simply was not enough donor money to build and run schools for every uneducated child in the world. Assessing these frustrations led me to ask some serious questions. Is there another way beyond the age-old charity model for addressing issues of poverty and injustice? How can I be a part of promoting solutions which had the ability to scale at such a level that the structures of oppression and poverty would be shaken at their core? Finally, is there a way to grow impact without spending all my time seeking more donor dollars?

The search for the answers to these questions led me to Social Enterprise. Lack of economic opportunity is a primary cause of many social issues, therefore, market-based solutions with a clear focus on specific societal problems work from the inside-out in positively impacting these issues. Additionally, while charity dollars are always limited, consumer dollars have create infinite possibilities for growth and scale.

This is not to say that the charity-model is unnecessary, at ASSETS Lancaster, we use donor dollars to subsidize a majority of our educational and lending programs because they would otherwise be too expensive for our target market to access. However, we do strongly believe in creating space for Social Enterprise as a “3rd way” to operate, outside of traditional for-profit/non-profit structures. Our involvement in social enterprise is meant to catalyze excitement and innovation around business ideas which help address some of the stark social and economic problems present in our community. That makes me very excited indeed.

— by Jonathan Coleman the Director of Programs at ASSETS Lancaster

Why I’m Excited About Social Enterprise

There is a two-fold way of looking at social enterprise that really motivates me. One part is the reality that the systems and structures that exist aren’t up to the tasks at hand around social inequality and environmental degradation. The other, more hopeful part is the vast opportunity to employ creative solutions and new approaches inside business and civil society toward meeting those needs in new ways. I’m thrilled that ASSETS and the Lancaster County Community Foundation are have launched The Great Social Enterprise Pitch because Lancaster is a perfect laboratory for this with its deep and successful business history. I’m excited to see what new ideas gain some traction through this process toward a better future!

— by Jessica King the Executive Director at ASSETS Lancaster