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A Step Forward
Social Enterprise Ecosystems in the U.S.
Social enterprise is no longer the promise of tomorrow. Over the past year, it’s clear the field has taken a step forward. Some of the top performing companies, like Beyond Meat and their record-breaking IPO this year, are social enterprises. Universities are rushing to add programs to support the growing wave of students demanding social entrepreneurship programming. Cities are rapidly expanding their support systems for founders.
This year’s Social Enterprise Ecosystems Report examines the ecosystems that build, develop, and catalyze these ventures. We’ve surveyed 624 social enterprise actors from around the country to understand what makes a great ecosystem. Our hope is that this report illuminates the opportunities and challenges in building a great ecosystem and serves as a tool for cities and regions across the country.
Using the four pillar framework, these top 21 responding cities are ranked based on the strength of their social enterprise ecosystems. Click on the below cities for a more detailed look at the data, including the scores and ranks for each city across the four different pillars.
The Four Pillars Explained
The fuel of the ecosystem: the capital that makes impact possible. Sources of capital include seed funding, grants, and philanthropic and venture capital (representing both public and private sources). For the purposes of this report, we divided funding into the following three categories to capture the many ways social enterprises raise funds: public spending, private investment, and charitable giving.
The engine of the ecosystem: the people that turn ideas into action. People who drive social enterprises as team members, mentors, employees, and advisors. To grow, scale, and thrive, social enterprises rely on attracting top talent. This pillar is divided into university presence, talent, and civic engagement.
The fabric of the ecosystem: the unique characteristics of a region that help shape the experience of growing a business there. This includes everything from cost of living to how walkable a city is. Starting a social enterprise is one of the hardest things a person can do, but living in a city that affords its residents a high quality of life can make it a little easier. For the purposes of this report, we divided the quality of life pillar into economic and social mobility, affordability, health, and transportation.
The glue of the ecosystem: the networks, organizations, and public entities that provide and connect entrepreneurs to the resources they need. It is virtually impossible for social entrepreneurs to establish and sustain a business alone. To capture all of the entities that make social entrepreneurship possible, we divided the pillar into entrepreneurial activity; policy and regulations; intermediaries and networks; and arts and culture.