Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Tuesday at the Gathering

The Board Meeting

The board meeting went well. I met Kris Prendergast, the new CEO of the Social Enterprise Alliance, as well as new board members for the first time. I'm looking forward to my last year (out of 8!) on the board, feeling that we're going in good directions. I think Kris comes with the knowledge and the ambition to grow this movement.

Kris Prendergast at a podium
The Hybrid Form session

This was jointly hosted with the Aspen Institute. Last year's Gathering had really indicated our members were interested in a new organizational form that might better serve social enterprise rather than bending the for-profit or charity forms to our purposes (since we aren't really either). This meeting moved the conversation forward. One new initiative that I got to hear about was the L3C proposed in North Carolina. It's a low profit LLC specifically structured so that private foundations can invest in it and not have to go to the IRS for a letter ruling to approve this form of PRI (program related investment). North Carolina is interested, because they see it as a way to buy unused industrial properties and make them available to businesses that could resume making furniture (since NC has been losing these jobs to Asia). The investments would essentially lower the cost of doing business.

My main contribution was to push for a matrix of all of the options that have been used or proposed, from the standpoint of a practitioner. Why would someone creating a social enterprise pick one of another form?

Gonna Take You on a SEA Cruise
Harbor scene with people on a boat in the foreground and the Queen Mary ocean liner in the background
The Social Enterprise Institute took us on a cruise tour of the Long Beach harbor, which features the Queen Mary, a Russian sub, lots of cargo ships and a few "islands" that are really disguised oil drilling rigs. It was fun, and quite windy!

The Marketplace

The evening wrapped up with the Social Enterprise Marketplace, where social enterprises vied for awards and generally spread the word about their venture. The room was mobbed as attendees swarmed around the different groups (and ate loads of ice cream).
Crowded exhibit hall with dozens of people

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