Flanked by leaders in Rhode Island's social enterprise community, U.S. Congressman David N. Cicilline (D-RI) today announced the introduction of his SEEED Commission Act -- the first federal proposal that would seek to directly support the social enterprise community.
"Right now, Rhode Island is uniquely positioned to utilize social entrepreneurship as a means to both grow jobs and provide public benefits for cities and towns across our state," said Cicilline. "I am pleased to be joined by so many local leaders in this effort and grateful for their support. As we work to get our economy back on the right track, the federal government should actively support the efforts of social entrepreneurs, and this bill would be a first step towards that goal."
The Social Enterprise Ecosystem and Economic Development (SEEED) Act would establish a Commission on the Advancement of Social Enterprise to examine ways for the federal government to support the goals of non-profits and corporations that primarily seek to provide a benefit to society. The Commission would last for two years and conclude by making a series of formal policy recommendations. Already, Cicilline's legislation has been endorsed by Social Enterprise Greenhouse, Social Enterprise Alliance, and the American Sustainable Business Council.
"This federal legislation is a major win for the social enterprise community and complements our work with policymakers at the local and state level," said Kevin Lynch, CEO of Social Enterprise Alliance. "It will help raise awareness of social enterprise as not only a force for positive social change, but also a driver of the economy."
In sum, a social enterprise is a business or non-profit organization that seeks to catalyze significant, long-term positive social change by utilizing the marketplace -- after identifying a challenge, a social enterprise will offer a product, service, or program that delivers value to the whole of society.
"The important social issues social enterprises address, and the communities in which they work are diverse. It is time their significant impact on the broader economy be recognized," added Richard Eidlin, policy director for the American Sustainable Business Council. "The establishment of the Commission on the Advancement of Social Enterprise is a needed step in bringing well deserved attention to this sector and helping it grow."
The social enterprise movement has gathered momentum in recent years as more and more non-profits and businesses have focused on providing a public benefit through their operations. Since 2010, 12 states have updated their corporate statutes to recognize this new form of corporation, but so far there has been no direct action at the federal level.
"Social Enterprise Greenhouse is thrilled that Congressman Cicilline has taken the leadership to introduce this important bill. The legislation is timely as the number of social enterprises is growing exponentially and supporting them through a more enabling environment will result in increased economic and social impact," added Kelly Ramirez, CEO of Social Enterprise Greenhouse, and co-organizer of last month's SEEED Summit at Brown University.
Cicilline was joined at Monday's press conference by leaders in Rhode Island's social enterprise community, including Mike Ritz of Save Chocolateville, which donates the proceeds from its sale of chocolate bars to the City of Central Falls and Andy Posner of the Capital Good Fund, which provides financial services to underserved families.
"There are far too many problems in the world today, and far too few people following their dreams. If more people followed their dreams, there would be far fewer problems," said Andy Posner, co-founder of the Capital Good Fund. "The problem, historically, has been how to marry your passion for justice with the need to earn a living. Social entrepreneurship serves as that bridge; it can be the most powerful force for good and personal fulfillment in the world."
Cicilline's legislation has been referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform where it awaits further consideration.