05 Jul Meet Social Enterprise Alliance Los Angeles
Psst: I am teaching how to market your organization by tapping into or creating a movement, don’t miss my July 11th meetup – RSVP here!
Today, I have the pleasure of speaking with Zoe Bollinger, Vice-Chair of the Board of Social Enterprise Alliance – Los Angeles.
Social Enterprise Alliance (SEA) is a nationwide organization that brings together social entrepreneurs and non profit leaders. I joined the Marketing Committee to help spread the word about SEA’s National Summit which will take place in Los Angeles September 18 through September 20 this year. This is a big deal, as the Summit takes place in a difference city every year. You can find out more about the schedule and get your ticket here.
Aurora Meneghello: What drew you to Social Enterprise Alliance?
Zoe Bollinger: My background is in international relations and economics and I have always been interested in sustainable economic development. I was originally drawn to Social Enterprise as a field because I felt it was a creative and effective way to bridge differences and address drawbacks to public sector and non profit models. Government tends to have difficulty responding rapidly to innovation and policy is impacted heavily by swings in the political cycle. Non-profits are able to focus on core issues, but are continually dependent on grants and donors, and maintaining that support requires extensive time and resources. Social enterprises on the other hand, can bring the agility of a startup to respond innovatively, and are sheltered from the political swings of government. Additionally, because they bring their own revenue stream they are also less dependent on external funding than non-profits.
When I moved from Washington, DC to Los Angeles I wanted to find a community interested in creating social impact and economic development, and was lucky to find the Social Enterprise Alliance. SEA-LA allowed me to meet a wonderful, creative, innovative, and compassionate community in Los Angeles dedicated to making positive change. The education and event component of SEA-LA has also helped me deepen my personal knowledge of and passion for the social enterprise field.
Aurora: What is your role within the organization?
Zoe: I started out as a volunteer helping with SEA-LA’s social media and then joined the board in 2016 as the Communications Chair. I currently serve as Vice-Chair of the board.
Aurora: What do you think are some misconceptions about social enterprises?
Zoe: There are a few big misconceptions about social enterprise. A lot of them come from the fact that there are still a variety of definitions for social enterprise, so what types of organizations are or are not considered a social enterprise can vary depending on who is doing the evaluating. For example some social enterprises are for profit companies, but many are a branch of a non-profit, or a B Corp.
There are also some misconceptions about they types of business models used by social enterprises. The one that often comes to mind is the “buy one give one” model used by Tom’s Shoes, but there are many different models. Some social enterprises are otherwise standard businesses that place an emphasis on workforce development and hiring from certain populations, or providing services to underserved areas or communities. There are many different models, and new ones being invented all the time.
Aurora: How can someone who doesn’t know much about social impact learn more about it?
Zoe: The Social Enterprise Alliance offers a Knowledge Center with a wide variety of articles and materials to get you on your way, and SEA-LA has regular events you can attend. +Acumen also offers a Social Entrepreneurship 101 course for free that is a great place to get started. If you are in LA, we also have the SEA National Summit coming this September which will be a really unique opportunity to network, meet leaders in the field, and attend educational sessions
Aurora: I am so excited that this year’s SEA Summit will take place in LA! Can you share some of what we can expect to experience in September?
Zoe: We are really excited about the Summit coming up in September! It’s going to be an awesome opportunity to learn and connect with the social enterprise community and leaders from LA and around the US as well. The Summit will kick off with social enterprise tours showcasing local social enterprises in Los Angeles and giving attendees an opportunity to learn more about different models and sectors. Then we will have educational breakout sessions allowing attendees to explore different topics and trends in social enterprise and to connect with other enthusiasts. The Summit will wrap up with our Social Good Fest: a festival taking place in Grand Park with music, food, and a social enterprise marketplace. Check out the schedule and we hope to see you there!