Showing posts from May, 2011

California Association of Nonprofits Needs to Advocate for Social Enterprise Corporate Structures

I find it frustrating when business and non-profit leaders cling to the misconception that the American economy is a zero-sum game. For each winner in the economy there must be a corresponding loser according to this line of thinking. Unfortunately, this view misses that a growing economy with expanding efficiencies arising from new innovations allows for a growing pie of opportunity. One reason I've been such a fan of social enterprise over the last 12 years is because this sector disproves each day the idea of a zero-sum economy with its innovative activities. But then interest group politics trots out the tired argument of the zero-sum pie once again. This time, the California Association of Nonprofits worries about legislative efforts to create new hybrid corporate structures that combine what social enterprise has always been about: social good with profitable enterprise. The nonprofit and for-profit sectors are already blending and a new corporate form would help governme

New Ideas for the Economy: Christ-Followers Broadening the Purpose of Business

Traditional economic theory argues that the chief aim of business is to maximize value for its investors. A capitalist economy achieves the best use of its resources when businesses increase their economic value. In the era of Wal Mart and the outsourcing of jobs it’s easy to see this idea at work in our economy. But I believe there is a quiet revolution occurring in the background that is challenging how we think of economic value and providing tremendous ministry opportunities for innovative followers-of-Christ. On the one hand, non-profit organizations are discovering the value of earned-income ventures to support mission. Instead of relying totally on financial donations, these non-profits are entering the world of income earning businesses discovering that in many ways these ventures increase the effectiveness of their mission activity. Some non-profits are exploring purchasing franchises and others are developing new ways to access capital through their own investment securit

Colorado Needs to Emphasize Tracking Recidivism Rates as Argued in Pew Charitable Trust Report

The Pew Charitable Trust released an interesting report on prison recidivism in the United States. State of Recidivism: The Revolving Door of America's Prisons explores how more than 4 of 10 ex-offenders return to prison in 3 years even though states have dramatically increased the budget for prisons. For some reason, Colorado was one of 9 states that didn't provide recidivism rates for the study. This is disappointing because I believe, as the report argues, that defining and measuring recidivism success is extremely important for measuring prison performance and saving tax dollars. 200 years ago when prisons were started in the United States rehabilitation was the primary aim. In recent years, it has changed from rehabilitation to "command and control" where "setting up inmates for success when they leave has not been part of the job description." ( State of Recidivism , page 27) Tracking recidivism rates is the first step towards government performan

Seattle’s Street Bean Espresso Employs Young People Leaving Homelessness

Homelessness and joblessness are synonymous. It is very difficult for a homeless person to find employment without an address, phone number, email address, and identification. But employment becomes even more challenging for young people living on the streets, which sadly is becoming a bigger problem throughout the United States. Creating employment opportunities for homeless youth is a challenge ripe for the attention of Christ-following business people. There is a big need for urban faith ventures to employ young people seeking to leave the streets. In Seattle, Washington, New Horizons Ministries runs Street Bean Espresso , a coffee shop that provides employment and job training for young adults working to exit the street life. As the Street Bean's web site explains on its story page : One of the keys to getting off the street is steady employment. We had always dreamed of opening a business that would provide supportive employment for the young adults we serve—a plac

Hiring the "Best" Person in a Faithventure

How odd is it to lead an organization where we often don’t hire the “best” person for the job but people with potential in the eyes of Jesus. That is definitely not what a human resource 101 class would teach. But it’s the whole point of what we are attempting in a faith venture. We seek to run a business as mission that employs individuals rebuilding lives from situations like addiction, homelessness, and prison that would normally make such persons unemployable in society’s eyes. Inevitably, every faith venture organization attempting such a mission is going to wrestle with the hiring decision. The tricky part comes down to walking the fine line between achieving the redemptive employment goals with the need to have employees capable of serving the customer. As a result, hiring is not a science, but an art with an eye firmly on Jesus seeking his guidance every step of the way. To navigate the hiring decision, we look for the following four items when choosing program

Out of Prison and Out of Employment Options

I’ve shared before about how some of our biggest “failures” have become some of our biggest successes at Bud’s Warehouse over the years. And often, these disappointments involve one of our program participants being sent back to prison. Last week, two former program employees returned to Bud’s after two years away in prison. Both were valued members of our team who ran into difficulties escaping the past while attempting to satisfy the requirements of the parole system. And both were finding it impossible to find the employment they needed in order to avoid being sent back to prison. I laughed with them about how they had picked a great two years to take a vacation because of the recession. But then I shared their discouragement about the catch 22 of needing to find a job to stay out of prison when few employers want to hire ex-offenders in this economy . This reality points to the continuing Faithventure Forum argument about the need for Christ-following business people to use