Welcome to the Inspired Giving podcast. In this first episode, your Community Foundation of Tampa Bay hosts Wilma Norton & Matt Spence welcome Kila Englebrook of the Social Enterprise Alliance. Kila came to St. Pete from her headquarters in Nashville for Tampa Bay Start-up Week's Social Enterprise track. She joins Matt & Wilma in the studio to talk all things social enterprise. From the transformative future of social enterprise, to how enthusiasts can get started, to St. Pete's scene is doing, Englebrook shares her expertise and experience with both the Alliance and her previous work at Ashoka.
"I was looking internationally, but it applied here in our own country. And that became pretty important to me, to say, ‘What are we doing in our own backyards and how can we catalyze this movement for the people who are in need here?’
"There’s a really interesting moment that the US is facing, which is the renaissance of cities and the urbanization that’s happening, and I think what’s exciting about that is it’s aligning in this time where people are becoming more aware of how social enterprise fits into the fabric or the DNA of our communities."
Table of Contents
(0:00 – 1:30) Introduction
(1:30 – 8:28) What is the Social Enterprise?
(8:28 – 11:19) Worries about the Social Enterprise Movement
(11:19 – 13:51) The National Social Enterprise Alliance
(13:51 – 16:38) The Value that Social Enterprise Brings in a Community
(16:38 – 18:16) What is Exciting About the Social Enterprise Field?
(18:16 – 21:40) Success Stories
(21:40 – 25:24) Advice for Who Wants to Be a Part of the Movement
(25:24 – 29:55) Kila’s Personal Inspiration
(29:55 – 32:53) Surprising Things about the Social Enterprise Industry
(32:53 – 37:03) Social Return on Investment
(37:03 – 38:46) Thoughts on the St. Petersburg Community
(38:46 – 40:46) Conclusion
Wilma: We’re so excited today to have Kila Englebrook with us, who is the CEO of the Social Enterprise Alliance, and she’s in town for Startup Week Tampa Bay. Kila, could you give us a little introduction and tell us about yourself and what you do?
Kila: Sure, of course. Thank you both for having me today. As Wilma said, my name is Kila Engelbrook, I am the CEO of Social Enterprise Alliance, which is a national network of social enterprises across the US. We have 17 chapters, Tampa Bay being one of those wonderful chapters and so I am here this week…
Matt: With a really wonderful vice-chair of that chapter, right?
Kila: Yes, yeah – named Matt Spence. So I am here this week on behalf of the chapter’s invitation to join Startup Week, share with the community here about social enterprise and get people involved in the Alliance.
Wilma: Can you give us just a quick definition of what social enterprise is?
Kila: Yes. So, social enterprises are organizations that use a market-based approach solving a social problem or meeting a basic unmet need. And so we have these examples all throughout our communities, I’m sure many of you have interacted with social enterprises in your time. It’s not a new concept, it’s one that’s been around for over 100 years, it’s gaining popularity and a lot of prestige, which is really exciting for our movement. There are a couple of models if that’s helpful to share…
Matt: Yeah, absolutely. I think we talk about it informally as the gray space between pure charity or non-profit and pure market-driven business, but I think the modeling idea that is really helpful, I know you guys have a really good definition of what that looks like – I’d love you to share that with us.
Kila: Sure. I’ll gladly do that and maybe you guys can compliment it with some local examples. So the first we talk about is opportunity employment and these are organizations who are really seeking to employ people who otherwise face barriers to mainstream employment. So formerly incarcerated people, people who may have been formerly trafficked, people with disabilities, refugees… many of our fellow citizens are experiencing barriers to employment, and so these organizations, these social enterprises are set up to really find an opportunity to employ them and get them a path towards a better future.
Matt: Yeah, here locally the tiny house manufacturing company that’s coming out of the Pinellas Ex-Offender Re-entry Coalition is a great example of what we see in that field. We’re very proud of it ourselves at the Community Foundation because it grew out of a grant that we awarded them to get that project started, and hopefully by the time this podcast is launched we’ll have a ribbon cutting of the first tiny homes here locally in St. Petersburg.
Kila: Yeah, that’s great. The second model we talk about is transformative products and services. These are products or services that are bringing people into markets where they are otherwise marginalized or left out. So you see a lot of examples with micro-finance models, lending, things that enable people to gain access to credit and building financial opportunity.
Matt: There’s a really great local non-profit called Project Prosper and it’s a small organization that does mighty things and they work with first generation residents and citizens to help them with small loans, everything from the cost of citizenship exams all the way up to car loans and other things like that, where there are not traditionally banked individuals that give them an opportunity to build credit, to purchase things that might be otherwise a little bit beyond their day to day means.
Kila: That’s great. And the third we talk about is donate back. And so, these are companies that are set up to really address and solve a basic unmet need or solve a social problem by contributing a portion of their profits or their product itself back to communities in need. And I know that across the private sector our business leaders are consciously thinking about corporate social responsibility and ways in which employees can gain – or engage with volunteer efforts. The companies that are in this donate-back category look a little different because it’s a bit more embedded in their DNA, they’re really thinking about their impact in line with their profit and those two things are very linked for them.
Matt: Yeah, there’s a lot of I think interest and activity around that locally and corporations are still trying to figure out if they’ve been in existence for a while, how they could add something like that in. But in the purest sense, I think we like to think of them as corporations that were built with that from the beginning as part of who they are and what they do. I think there’s some local micro-breweries that donate a percentage of their proceeds each month to a specific non-profit. There’s some organizations like WellBuilt Bikes where they – it’s a for profit bike shop run by a non-profit and they are also… they have a work station in the back in a local mall and the idea is that you can come in and earn a bike by repairing and building bikes that you can then sell at market.
Kila: Yeah, those are phenomenal examples.
Matt: I think the overarching theme that we’ve been trying to pitch to Kila and the Social Enterprise Alliance here is that there’s great energy in the Tampa and St. Pete area around social enterprise and that we’re really excited to bring her in and highlight how the social enterprise model is being implemented in a wide variety of ways. Here locally and in St. Pete, Tampa we have everything from emergency transport run by the crisis center of Tampa. The Sun Passes that you put on your car to go on toll roads are produced through an opportunity employment model employing adults with disabilities to do the production and packaging of those products, so…
Matt: There’s all sorts of things going on in the Tampa Bay area around social enterprise.
Wilma: Yeah, that’s the McDonald training center in Tampa and I forget what the number is, but they just passed some huge milestone in the number of millions of those that they have packaged over the last few years.
Matt: Yeah, it’s something like… I don’t even wanna guess, but I know it’s eight figures, it’s over ten million I believe that they produced, so…
Matt; There’s so much good energy around social enterprise and as I think has been part of the conversation all along is that this is not an evolution, but it’s really a revolution in how we as citizens, as consumers interact with the marketplace. I think everything from making choices based on the social good that goes behind what is being produced to intentionally building those companies that have that built-in – we see it all across the industry. We talked a little bit the other day about the Blackrock letter to CEOs, it’s the largest institutional investor in the world who is really calling out CEOs and for profit corporations and saying, ‘You need to understand your social impact and your social mission.’
Kila: Yeah, and I think that’s where we see the business leaders stepping in to say, ‘Okay, our companies are not just about profit, they are about benefit back to society. And what does that mean for us, how do we really make that happen and what does our company look like when we are doing that work?’
Matt: Yeah, I love that it’s destroying an old model of learn, earn and return where there were three distinct phases to life, where the first phase of your life you are learning what you needed to learn to build a life and then in the middle phase you are earning and then only once you’ve passed through those two phases you begin the return phase where you’re giving back to the community. I love that the barriers between those are broken down, and it’s not just the younger generation, it’s all across generations…
Matt: …really taking that to heart, that from college students to even middle school and high school students all the way up to senior executives are all part of the social enterprise movement.
Kila: Yes, yes.
Wilma: I hear Matt’s enthusiasm for this on a daily basis as we work together at the Community Foundation, and I’ve gotten to know you a little bit over the last couple of days. Obviously you’re very passionate about this, but as you do this work what keeps you up at night, or what worries you about the sector and how you can help this grow?
Kila: Well, we’re gonna get vulnerable I guess, that’s where we’re headed with this, which I love and appreciate. What keeps me up at night? So, I think a couple of things. Probably first and foremost is really this question of am I enough, in the way of am I being enough for the people that we serve, right? Am I enough for my team and for our board and for our members and for our leaders and for this movement largely? And I think about that in ways of am I giving enough feedback, am I giving enough direction, am I giving enough encouragement, am I giving enough energy? Just all those things. And so I think about that a lot and I hope I’m doing that really well, but I think that’s one thing that I really am constantly thinking – this is a movement and this is something we really want people to engage with and there’s a real responsibility to be a leader in that.
Matt: That really resonates with me as a father. I have three boys and all of my best and worst qualities are reflected in them and I see that very clearly as I grow. As they grow up I can see their unfiltered view of me and I think all the time about who they see as a father is who they will hopefully want to become as a young man. I know it was that way with my own father and then I want to make sure that when I pick up a briefcase and walk out the front door that doesn’t change to something that they wouldn’t be proud of and wouldn’t aspire to be and… that’s one of the things that drives me and keeps me up at night, I absolutely hear what you’re saying about being enough for those around you.
Kila: Yes, yeah – right. I think I also, in maybe a big picture way, but I can break it down probably, is – I think probably what keeps me up is the future. Because it’s unknown, right? And for us, our work is about making the future look different than today and better than today. And so probably the planner in me is like, ‘It’s so hard, you don’t know what that looks like.’ That can really be bringing you down to the ground and saying, ‘Who will our funders be? Who will our partners be? Who will our members be? How do we work with them to evolve and develop this movement? How are we really changing what our future is around people who need access to things that they currently don’t have access to and to businesses that can be doing more and better?’ And so I think that big question keeps me up, but there’s these practical implications of that day to day that I think about too.
Matt: And when I hear you talk about that I really think about what the Social Enterprise Alliance is nationally and what it can provide to chapters and to members. And so I’d love for you to elaborate a little bit on the kind of things that you do on a daily basis back in Nashville.
Kila: Yes. So we’re headquartered in Nashville and at the core of our institution, if you will, is we’re a membership organization, and so we invite social enterprise leaders and entrepreneurs to join us as they’re developing their ideas for change and we seek to support them in that process. So oftentimes people feel really isolated in that experience, they’re doing something pretty whacky and not a lot of people get it, and so having a community of support is really important, and so we seek to be that for them – we connect our members with one another, we let them share their experiences, share their knowledge, share their challenges and really work together to overcome and be better. We also host a whole series of programs that really seek to support social enterprise leaders and entrepreneurs and building their capacity and building their team’s capacity and really being more effective with the work they’re trying to do. So we have mentorship programs and a program we call Office Hours, which is for people who are struggling with maybe more operational aspects. Maybe they need someone to look over their PNL because something is just not making sense, or… So they can be connected with experts in HR, finance, legal – to just really tackle some of the challenges that rise up when you’re an entrepreneur. We also have webinars, so a lot of knowledge sharing opportunities for people and that’s something for everyone to know, that our platform is really meant to be open. There are opportunities for members exclusively, but we also want to help build the field of knowledge broadly, and so when you go to our website you can access a knowledge center, you can join webinars, you can really gain the knowledge you need to grow your business and be more effective.
Matt: Yeah. I think from a chapter perspective there’s really this critical mass question. There are so many of us locally thinking through and living out building social enterprises, seeing the value that they add to our community – but if we’re not connected, if we can’t get connected and share learning with each other and share our fears and our frustrations and our triumphs, it makes it really hard and like you said, isolating. But I feel like we’re still building to that Malcolm Gladwell tipping point and haven’t quite reached it yet, and the design of the Social Enterprise Alliance and the chapter model is helping us to feel like we’re getting there.
Wilma: Yeah. When following up on something, Matt just said about the value to the community – can you talk a little bit about the value that social enterprise brings to any community? We had a conversation earlier today about how for a non-profit it can be a way to be sustainable if they build an appropriate mission related social enterprise that makes them not as dependent on grants and those kinds of things. So if you could just talk a little bit about the value…
Wilma: …practically and I guess intrinsic.
Kila: Yeah, theoretically.
Kila: Yeah. So, I think there’s layers and layers of value. At the base line you see that there are innovations emerging from these social entrepreneurs and social enterprise leaders, that they are looking at really entrenched issues in our communities, so homelessness or people coming out of – recidivism, maybe bullying or gang experiences. They’re looking at issues that are affecting our communities negatively every day and they are trying to tackle those with innovative ideas. And so that, I think, is really exciting because it has the ability to disrupt a system that we’ve just all been watching and witnessing, and I think coupled with that is what you’re saying Wilma as far as they’re doing it through the market, and so they’re doing it in a way that ideally will become sustainable, right? So it’s not simply an innovation that could easily go away if the resources aren’t there, it’s something that because they’re building this innovation out and they’re using the market to achieve that, then there’s ways that the rest of the community can engage, whether you’re a consumer or whether you’re another business, whether you’re someone like the two of you with the Community Foundation, there are other opportunities for people to support that initiative, which I think is interesting.
Wilma: I think another example, we heard Cliff Barsi from Metropolitan Ministries yesterday talk about their Inside the Box program is a very successful social enterprise that not only trains their homeless clients for jobs, but provides a service to the community and that’s now grown and they’re gonna do something like four million dollars in social enterprise that not only funds back the work of Metropolitan Ministry, but has enabled a number of people to become well employed and contributing members and come back and even volunteer and work to help other people like them, I think that’s the exciting part when I think about it.
Kila: Yeah, this full circle experience I think is powerful.
Matt: Absolutely. And to me that’s one of the most exciting things about social enterprise, is that there is a potential for it to feed on itself and grow in a really positive virtuous spiral.
Matt: What is it about your work that gets you excited to get up in the morning, get out of bed and get going and leave that frigid Nashville there?
Kila: It’s relatively frigid to you Floridians. What wakes me up? So, I think it’s… So it’s probably the same answer as what keeps me up actually. I actually am a phenomenal sleeper, so I… My husband will tell you he just says, ‘How do you sleep through every single thing?’ So it’s actually I think the challenges I think about when the people that we interact with – again, my team, my board or my members, our leaders – I think about and I am driven by and I am inspired by showing up and being the best that they need, right? And so that I think snaps me out of bed every single morning, like let’s go get it, let’s go do this! And I’m definitely inspired by what our future can be. I’m probably a very hopeful person in that regard and think that we are all building towards something better and better and that we’re all on this Earth to do that. And I believe what I see day to day when I interact with our members and I hear the work, what Cliff’s doing… you just see evidence of that every single day. So sure, there can be really negative noise out there, but really the positive noise should be louder, could be louder and is louder if we actually paid attention to it. So I think all of that – I know we’re working towards a future where more people will have a just and fair and fulfilled life, and I think that’s all of our work going in that direction.
Matt: Share some of that positive noise with us, tell us… I think we’re helping to build an understanding of what’s going on here locally in the Tampa Bay area around social enterprise, but what can we learn from other communities that you work with around the country? Because like you said there’s 17 chapters, but really there’s social enterprise happening in every corner. So, what are some success stories that you would point to and say, ‘This is social enterprise doing good and this is what I’m excited about’?
Kila: So one story, I guess, is I think just one, to highlight how we can all see the change we create in this world. There were two gentlemen who wanted to start a company, so they’re very entrepreneurial and have that spirit and ethos, but they wanted it to be one that contributed to society and so they really looked around and were understanding what problems were out there. And they came across a challenge where homeless people, most need socks, and so this is something that’s probably pretty overlooked, maybe something we don’t really recognize or we take for granted. So they started a sock company. And it’s of course, a phenomenal product, they really thought about how can we make the best sock possible and I’ll say I really love their sock, so I think they may have succeeded in that regard.
Matt: If it’s the company I’m thinking you’re referring to, my wife stole the pair of socks that I was given at the Social Enterprise Summit.
Kila: Oh yeah, yes it is, it is Bombas Socks, yeah.
Wilma: They have great commercials too.
Kila: They do, yeah. But they did a one for one, a donate-back model, right? They said for every sock we sell we will give one back to a homeless community. And I think that’s incredible, because they could’ve simply just donated socks, right? But then to this point of the virtuous cycle you wouldn’t have this mechanism that enables that giving back in such a constant and powerful way as they have. And furthermore, I think as they grow and their resources build they have an impact mindset that I don’t doubt that they’ll continue to do way more than just giving socks, right? They’ll start to really think about the homeless challenge at a systemic level and think about what contribution can we make towards changing that? And that’s what I think it’s so incredible, this potential of getting in the weeds on problems when you have the resources because you’ve built a successful business and then thinking how do we solve these problems, right?
Matt: Yeah, in a lot of ways it makes me think of Patagonia, right? It’s a company that was built as a for profit corporation, but from the very beginning had this model of respecting and stewarding our environment, and they have had a huge impact on their supply chain, on the partners that they work with, on not just the retailer there individually, but their web presence and then with public lands and all the work around that. So it really is an opportunity for someone – if they’re just looking for a good backpack, from Patagonia is the best backpack they can buy but at the same time they’re contributing to something that is changing the world around us and making it better.
Kila: Yeah. And then there is this potential of becoming a model maker, right? And I think Patagonia is a fantastic example of that, of to say this isn’t just a one off anomaly, this is something we can all do. It’s definitely harder, there’s no question about that, but that’s okay, it’s worth it being hard because it’s for a great purpose.
Matt: The best things in life tend to be hard to accomplish, right?
Wilma: Well, what about when people come to you and say if I want to get into this or I want to learn more, what kind of advice or inspiration do you give to those who are trying to learn about either what social enterprise is all about or how I can become a social enterprise entrepreneur?
Kila: Yeah. So one, I think, again, our resources are applicable in this case. So if people look to our website, particularly if they have an idea and they’re trying to start something up we have a lot of tools and knowledge to share on really how to do that. For the enthusiasts of the world, the people who are really excited about this work and just trying to…
Wilma: For the Matt Spence’s in the world?
Matt: I don’t know why you’re looking over here.
Kila: Yeah. I would call Matt a sector champion. He gets a fancier title. Yeah, but I think there’s an amazing role for enthusiasts to play and they will become champions, right? If they’re committed to that. I think one is, of course, engage with your local chapter if there is one. So again, check our website out, you can see if there are chapters. But two, get to know those who are leading social enterprises and ask them what their challenges are, ask them what are they seeing, get to know the trends they’re following, and try to understand where you can fit, whether that’s as a consumer, whether that’s as someone who spreads the word and draws other people’s attention to it – whether that’s trying to find an opportunity if you’re in school, trying to have them come to your class and speak – there’s always a way that I think you can provide a platform for people who are doing great things in this world talk about that more than talking about the bad stuff. And then I think – again, if you’re further along in your thinking, if you’re trying to start an idea or you just want to be… you’re not the entrepreneur, but you want to engage and invest in this work, show up and offer your time, time is something everyone appreciates, but show up and offer it in a really constructive way, show that you’ve done some work and research on the social enterprise, that you have ideas that maybe they can leverage and just be an available resource for them. If you make yourself really accessible and someone who brings a lot of good energy, that’s something that people will want to leverage.
Matt: So if you’re a board member of a traditional nonprofit, somebody like that will come to you and say, ‘What do I need to know or what should I read, how do I learn more about social enterprise? How do I help imbue that into my organization that as a board member I have responsibility for?’
Kila: I think that there are a couple of books that will serve to inspire people and may even be a useful tool in giving maybe your board of directors who might have a more traditional mindset, or even as gifts to your investors if they’re again, just a profit-orientation. So there’s a booked By Lyla Jena called ‘Give Work’ and I think that’s an incredible resource if you’re thinking about the opportunity employment model. There is a book by Mohamad Eunice called ‘A World of Three Zeros’ and that’s really an incredible resource if you’re thinking about… he also looks at employment as one of the three zeros, but he also looks at zero carbon emissions, so if you’re thinking about environment that’s a great resource. But I think it’s probably looking to social enterprise leaders and seeing what resources they’ve developed and using those to inspire other people to get what’s trying to be done. You can come independent of that, but if people understand that your idea, it may sound crazy but it’s actually proven and powerful and reputable, then they may be more inclined to give you a chance.
Matt: So what about you personally? I think as the leader of the national movement for social enterprise, I’m curious to hear what inspired you, how did you end up playing the role that you do? And was there an organization or a moment or an individual that inspired you to really walk down that path?
Kila: Yes. So there were probably lots of moments and individuals along the way. I studied African studies in University, and through that experience kind of got hung up on this framing that a lot of international developments – so that was the lens through which I was looking at social change at the time – but a lot of international developments seemed to ignore or not appreciate or not consider the experiences of people who were living the challenges they were faced with. And so I saw a lot of examples where frankly outsiders were coming to a place they had no real depth of information or understanding about and dropping ideas on that particular area or culture or community. And it didn’t seem to be working, right? It just wasn’t seeing evidence that it was just and fair for those who had those experiences and it just wasn’t effective in terms of creating change. And so I didn’t know at the time what all that meant, I just knew that there was something I wasn’t seeing that was making sense. And so when I graduated I went to DC, Washington DC thinking I’d find whatever I was looking for there. And I was…
Matt: People rarely do.
Kila: Yeah. I was really lucky and so I think that’s one thing I recognize I had some privilege in my experience in that I met the founder of Ashoka, I met his executive assistant at the time, Jennifer Fry, and I was sharing with her what I was thinking about it and she said, ‘You’re talking about Ashoka, come learn about this organization.’ I said, ‘What? What is this thing?’ And it was true, it was Ashoka that I was talking about. It wasn’t as though it was my idea, but the values alignment was really there, and Ashoka is an international organization focused on social entrepreneurship and they have, they built a really amazing criteria to identify and select entrepreneurs who are tackling social issues across the world. And a lot of what they focus on is some of the things we’ve touched on today, which is are people approaching these issues with innovation, are they using empathy, have they lived the experience themselves, are they empowering people around them to address the change so it’s not just something they’re doing on their own isolated but in fact galvanizing the community in which they’re engaged, do they lead with ethical fiber? So a lot of different things that really aligned with what I was looking for. And so I spent eight years with Ashoka and in that time I moved to Nashville and I was working remotely with Ashoka, but I wanted to be engaged in really just making Nashville a community of social enterprise, and so I joined Social Enterprise Alliance’s Nashville chapter. And I was a volunteer with them, and after a couple of years of that I was invited to join the organization as a managing director and eventually rolled into the CEO role.
Matt: What’s fascinating to me about how you just referred to what you saw internationally is that it didn’t sound any different from what a lot of marginalized communities here locally will tell you. There are far too often interventions are solutions looking for a problem, and they may not be applied to the right problem, or they might be applied in a way that’s very disempowering or disrespectful to the people they’re not only trying to help, and so…
Wilma: And that just doesn’t meet the real need.
Matt: Yeah. I love that the work internationally has made apparent what we should’ve already been seeing right here in front of our face, and it’s great that you’ve found a way to apply those lessons back into our local communities.
Kila: Yeah, and I will say with Ashoka I actually focused domestically. I was with the United States program there and it was somewhat following hurricane Katrina, and I think that really woke me up to this idea of – I was looking internationally, but to your point, Matt, it applied here in our own country. And that became pretty important to me, to say, ‘What are we doing in our own backyards and how can we catalyze this movement for the people who are in need here?’
Wilma: Absolutely. If people have an understanding about social enterprise what would surprise them about the industry in general? As I was coming to understand it, the whole idea that oh, it doesn’t have to be a non profit social enterprise, or that a for profit company can also be a social enterprise – I found that surprising in my learning process. But what other things might surprise people?
Kila: Great question. So, I bet it would surprise people that Social Enterprise Alliance exists. So you guys should all check us out.
Matt: Unfortunately true, unfortunately true.
Wilma: And what’s that website, while you’re saying…?
Kila: Yeah, thank you, it’s socialenterprise.us – so I think what would surprise people is there is a really big community around this and that people can engage and find supporters and find enthusiasts and find people who want to really participate and see them be successful. So yeah, it’s not as nascent as it might seem at times, it really is something that’s vibrant and alive and really active.
Matt: Yeah. What I love to do with an audience when I talk about social enterprise is ask how many of them have ever purchased girl scout cookies.
Matt: And of course, every hand goes up.
Matt: Then you tell them okay, you’ve supported a social enterprise, you’re already in our family.
Kila: Yes, yeah, right. Exactly. So I think that might be surprising for some folks. Yeah, I see the staying power of this work, so I would hope – I don’t know if it’s surprising – but I would hope that people would know that it’s not a trend, that this is in fact I think our future, that we will have businesses thinking about their contribution to society in a different way, in a way that’s simply more powerful. So yeah, I think people really taking time to understand what this movement is all about and where they show up for it is important to note, yeah. I don’t know if that’s surprising, but I would hope that they’re paying attention, because we’ll get left behind otherwise.
Matt: Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s interesting to note how much of… from our perspective at the Community Foundation, the nonprofit community that we work alongside, they really are building towards a deeper understanding that the traditional model of the charity, of the nonprofit, is not going to look the same in ten years, that depending on government grants or individual philanthropy. We obviously love individual philanthropy, it’s what we exist to support, but that’s not enough to sustain all of the work, the really critical foundational work that’s done in the nonprofit world. And even that term, nonprofit – internally we try to move away from that and talk about exempt organizations, because it really is not that different from a for-profit other than the IRS designation.
Wilma: Because your outcome may not have to do with the bottom line monetarily, but it has to do with the bottom line for society, and that…
Matt: And that’s a really critical concept.
Wilma: It’s a concept that…
Matt: Social return on investment may be some of the newer vocabulary. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that concept of social return on investment and what that means to somebody looking at the work that we are all engaged in.
Kila: So, one I would say – at Ashoka we would use the term ‘citizen sector organization’, it was in the same frame of what you were saying Matt, of we shouldn’t define something by what it’s not, like a nonprofit is not a helpful designation. So we should define it by what it is, which is an organization that’s seeking to improve the citizen sector, right? – the experiences in the lives of people around us. So social return on investment, it is newer I think because this impact investing space is emerging and people are trying to understand how to talk about returns in the same way that they would talk about returns financially, but it’s not new in that every citizen sector organization or any social organization should’ve been held accountable to standards of social impact. And so I guess in my mind I see it as really just marrying that idea of what is our social impact, how are we measuring that, what are the outcomes that we’re seeking to model of how we talk about it when we talk about finances, right? And how do we develop that marriage between those two things?
Matt: Yeah, I think first we probably need to come up with a glossary that supports this podcast, but also…
Kila: Yeah, sorry. [laughing]
Matt: I do think that the idea of social return on investment is just an evolution of the concept of outcome measurement in the charitable or nonprofit space, the exempt organization world or the citizen service sector, however we are going to define it. And that’s really been a challenge for a long time, because even in the last 15 to 20 years shifting a thought process from outputs to outcomes has been a process, has been something people have really been engaged in and its social return on investment alongside financial return. Now you’re looking at outcomes over multiple domains and that can be pretty challenging.
Wilma: I was wondering how long it was gonna take you to get to outcomes versus outputs.
Kila: What time is it? What…?
Matt: Definitely. My role as a grant maker is that I am required contractually to put that into every conversation at one point or another.
Kila: And I will say, to your point on the glossary and where this discussion has gone – it’s a hard thing to make all these things work together. It’s hard enough to think about how do I get a business to be profitable, let alone how do I have significant social impact and have the outcomes and outputs? And so I would again, encourage people to not try to do it on your own. There have been a lot of great thinkers, a lot of people who have blazed paths and trails before this who want to help along that journey, because I think we are all committed to this idea that the world should look different. And so again, in social enterprise lines it could be helpful in that, but there are people like the two of you in Tampa and many others across the US who are really trying to advance this sector.
Matt: Yeah, I think as the Community Foundation has navigated this space over the last couple of years, that’s been a really encouraging thing for me is to have discovered the Social Enterprise Alliance, to have discovered that there is a really large body of work around best practices in how to help people who have barriers to employment in all of these different fields where social enterprise can have a significant impact. And just like almost anything else, innovation is more often massaging a good idea you stole from somewhere else than creating something from scratch.
Wilma: And seeing those a-ha! moments for people has been exciting I think for us when you say social enterprise and you see that oh, here’s another term people are throwing out, look. But then when you explain what it is and how it can be applicable to our community and have a real impact in our community then that’s part of what I think gets us excited…
Wilma: …and inspired.
Kila: That’s great.
Matt: Yeah, absolutely. So Kila, you’ve had a couple of days in St. Petersburg now, I’d love to hear big picture thoughts on our community and from an outsider’s perspective what you have seen in your time here.
Kila: I’ve been really impressed and really grateful for just being here during this time, during Startup Week and during the social enterprise track that you organized. I think there’s a really interesting moment that the US is facing, which is the renaissance of cities and the urbanization that’s happening, and I think what’s exciting about that is it’s aligning in this time where people are becoming more aware of how social enterprise fits into the fabric or the DNA of our communities. And so it felt very much like that is the truth here, that in St. Pete – which is where I’ve spent the time, so I haven’t’ been up in Tampa or other parts, but at least in St. Pete, what I’ve seen is there is a real energy around… yeah, around these concepts and around living and breathing these ideals, and that’s an encouraging and really exciting to think about what the future of St. Pete is, because there are people who are present who are really moving this field forward and making this city look different as a result.
Matt: I’m excited because this is a city… I grew up in the area and it is a completely different city than it was 20 years ago, and to have the social sector come alongside and grow in the same way and evolve and innovate in the same way is very exciting as a local, as somebody who is now raising my own kids here. It’s really great to have a community that truly embraces the full potential of all our residents in a way that’s very different from what may have been the case previously.
Kila: That’s fantastic.
Wilma: So you’ve been here for a couple of days and we’ve had a great conversation. Do you have any final thoughts for the leadership of our community about social enterprise or what should we be thinking about doing, looking forward to?
Kila: Yeah, I love that question. I think I know that Matt, the Community Foundation have given energy and time to the chapter here and I think there’s real potential for more engagement and more people to come on board with that effort.
Matt: I did not pay her to say that.
Kila: [laughing] No, but I am paid to say that, actually. [laughing]
Kila: But I really truly believe that and mean it, because I think to the earlier comments we were sharing around the future of St. Pete and just how it’s changing, there’s something to be engaged with here and I think there are incredibly talented, smart, active people that I’ve met just in the last 24 hours who can really bring a lot of excitement, energy and power to this movement locally, and we need all of you to be showing up for that. So we invite you to sit at the table and really hope you will.
Matt: That’s right, all hands on deck and we’re happy to welcome you into the Tampa Bay chapter in the Social Enterprise Alliance
Kila: Yes, yes.
Matt: Thus ends our commercial.
Matt: Well Kila, thank you so much for your time. I think it really does say a lot that the CEO of the Alliance was going to come and spend time and speak to our community and take a few extra moments here and indulge our podcast. So we hope to see you back in our community supporting the new and existing and growing social enterprise community, and maybe even hosting a summit here.
Kila: Well, I just really appreciate this platform, I think it’s great to be sharing more about social enterprise and getting people excited about it and thrilled that you guys are partners in that endeavor, so thank you for all you’ve done.
Wilma: Thanks very much.
Your podcast hosts are Matt Spence and Wilma Norton.
Wilma Norton joined the Foundation in 2014. She was a journalist at the St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times) for more than 20 years. Most recently, she was assistant director of public information at St. Petersburg College. Wilma has a BA in journalism and political science from Western Kentucky University and an MBA from Florida International University.
Matt Spence was the Vice President, Community Impact for the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, where he oversaw the Foundation’s grantmaking & community initiatives, which have provided nearly $200 million in funding to nonprofits since the organization’s founding in 1990. Matt Spence is now Chief Programs Officer at Feeding Tampa Bay.