Sustainable Organizations Making Sustainable Change
A growing number of entrepreneurs are applying their know-how to help support social issues in the nonprofit sector by using the business model of the for-profit sector. This important topic was the basis for a recent Foundation presentation by Foundation trustee Adlai Wertman, a professor of clinical management and organization at USC’s Marshall School of Business. These new hybrid organizations “look and smell like businesses” but have a social mission, first and foremost. Instead of working to maximize monetary returns like traditional for-profit companies, they’re run by businesspeople that seek to maximize a social return on investment, in areas such as the environment and health.
Wertman, a member of The Foundation’s Cutting Edge Grants Committee, spoke about several successful examples of social enterprises, including recent Foundation Cutting Edge Grant recipient, Beit T’Shuvah, a substance-abuse recovery organization. Their innovative program, BTS Communications, is run like a business, and provides custom-designed marketing communications services to Jewish nonprofits. At the same time, the program addresses the important social issue of training those in recovery with skills to get a job. The agency itself is set up as an internship program whereby the interns — all Beit T’Shuvah residents — are trained in practical skills to enter a new career, while maintaining sobriety.
Wertman encouraged the audience to move towards becoming social entrepreneurs themselves. “Think about the problem you’re here to solve and bring your whole self—your business and life experience, your education—in creative, new ways to address the problem you’re looking to solve,” he said.