Chicago’s Social Innovations, Social Enterprises, and Public Private Partnerships

Posted by Social Innovations Lab on May 21, 2018

Across the globe and in the Greater Chicago Region, there has been a rapid rise in the number of social sector innovators and entrepreneurs who want to find innovative ways to solve or move the needle on society’s problems, and increasingly they are deploying the methods of business and private capital to help them do so.

This edition, titled: Chicago’s Social Innovations, Social Enterprises, and Public Private Partnerships, demonstrates how Chicago, the third largest city in the United States, is leading the international social impact and social policy movement. The Greater Chicago Social Sector Region has learned that creating social impact is not bound by tax status. New vehicles for social enterprise and social investing are spurring innovation and bringing new resources to the sector.

Forefront, Illinois’ statewide association of nonprofits, grantmaking foundations, advisors, public agencies, and social impact sector allies, is leading this movement by convening leaders in this field to grow investments and build the sector’s capacity to work in new and innovative ways. Forefront is focused on achieving the goal of a thriving and innovative social enterprise sector in Illinois which utilizes the power of the marketplace to fund social change. Since 2015, Forefront convenes a Social Enterprise Roundtable comprised of funders, social entrepreneurs, universities, incubators, businesses, and others to discuss the current state of social enterprise in Illinois and how to better align organizations with the funding and resources they need to succeed. The Social Enterprise Roundtable evolved into a research study, funded by Dunham Fund and Delta Institute, that concluded with three key findings:

  • Social enterprises seek a community of practice with their peers to share sector-based knowledge concerning evaluation, finances, funding and sponsors, hiring and diversity, and mentorship from enterprises that have already achieved scale.
  • Social enterprises seek reliable, multi-year sources of funding, matching grants, and/or low-interest loans.
  • Social enterprises seek funds for securing consulting sources, such as strategic planning assistance, market research, feasibility studies, critical strategy decisions, accounting, financial planning, branding and marketing, and administrative structure.

More recently, actors in the social innovation and enterprise industry have concluded that although social innovation organizations and social enterprises are achieving better social impact goals, there continues to be a need for them to engage more directly in the world of public policy and systems change. Although social innovation and enterprise are sparking change, large-scale change can only be achieved through national, state, and local policy changes that embrace innovation and new social sector models. Nonprofits and social enterprises are Social Capital Agents, as such they are motivated by social good and are focused on long-term change. They foster, formulate, perform, and evaluate society’s policies to advance public good.

The current status is evident, and though difficult, a path forward has been laid out. By creating spaces of encounter for academia, state, the private sector, and civil society the next steps towards more sustainable and innovative models and necessary policy change are crystal clear.

We hope you read the articles (summarized below) of this publication to gain a sense of the promise that innovation holds for the future of Greater Chicago’s Social Sector.

More in "New Resources"

Stay Current in Philly's Higher Education and Nonprofit Sector

We compile a weekly email with local events, resources, national conferences, calls for proposals, grant, volunteer and job opportunities in the higher education and nonprofit sectors.